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Israel’s Education Council backs ‘annexation’ of West Bank universities

Ariel University Center in Israel on 4th July 2005 [User:kippi70/Wikipedia]
Ariel University, built on the illegal Israel settlement of Ariel, taken on July 4, 2005 [kippi70/Wikipedia]

Israel’s Council for Higher Education has backed the proposed application of Israeli law to colleges and universities in West Bank settlements, Haaretz has reported.

A member of the council spoke at the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee on Wednesday, where a panel approved a bill that would see responsibility for Israeli academic institutions in the occupied West Bank move to the council.

Such institutions are currently overseen by a body specifically created for the purpose, the Council of Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which is responsible for Ariel University, Orot Israel Academic College of Education in Elkana settlement, and Herzog College in Alon Shvut settlement.

According to Haaretz, “the bill is one of a series of bills from right-wing Habayit Hayehudi [Jewish Home] and other parties in the governing coalition designed to apply Israeli law to Jews living in the West Bank”, in a process described by critics as ‘creeping annexation’.

“Alongside the academic importance of the bill, there is an element of imposing sovereignty, and I’m proud of the two things together”, bill sponsor MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli told the committee.

Read: Israel looks to ‘apply Israeli law’ to West Bank settlement university

Attorney Nadav Shamir, representing the Council for Higher Education, said that “from a professional regulatory standpoint we’re in favour of the law”.

Haaretz reported that while “Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid was the only opposition party that supported the bill”, other “opposition MKs arranged for a revote to take place; only then will the bill go to the full Knesset. No date has yet been set for the revote”.

Former Zionist Camp MK Manuel Trajtenberg, a former head of the council’s planning and budgeting committee, told Haaretz “the bill would violate the agreements with the European Union on preserving a separation between academic institutions in Israel and the West Bank”.

Haaretz said that Education Minister Naftali Bennett “has been pushing for the bill’s approval in recent weeks – and has even clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the matter. Bennett even threatened to block other coalition-sponsored bills until the council bill advanced”.

Read: Israel raids Birzeit University at dawn

Meanwhile, +972 Magazine reported, a group of Israeli academics is preparing to publish a new database called ‘Complicit Academy’, which will “shed light on Israeli academic institutions’ repression of dissent, institutionalized discrimination against Palestinian-Israeli students and faculty, collusion with the settlement enterprise, military R&D, and hasbara”.

The purpose of the research, the article says, is to challenge the misconception that Israeli academia is “an independent, progressive bulwark against extremist and reactionary thought”.

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