The Guardian, Ariel, Academic Boycotts … and Arab Students

A guest post by AKUS

About six weeks ago, on Sunday 29 August 2010, the ever-active Harriet Sherwood, always busy gleaning negative news from the West Bank and Gaza, wrote up the Guardian’s version of some Israeli actors’ decision to not to perform in the town of Ariel: Israeli actors to boycott new West Bank theatre.

“More than 60 have joined the protest over plans by Israel‘s national theatre, the Habima, and other leading companies to stage performances in Ariel, a settlement 12 miles inside the West Bank”.

This widely reported affair seemed to peter out when some of the eager signatories were reminded that their salaries came from the Israeli taxpayer, and as Sherwood herself repeated (she borrows liberally – so to speak – from other sources):

“The Habima, Cameri, Beit Lessin and Be’er Shiva (sic) theatre companies issued a joint defence of their plans, saying they “will perform in any place where there are theatre-loving Israelis, including the new cultural centre in Ariel. We respect the political views of our actors, but we’ll make sure that the best of Israeli theatre will get to Ariel”.

Of course, she could not resist just a little hyperbole regarding how “deep” Ariel is in the West Bank (12 miles, as she said). My 15 minute drive to work each morning is about the same distance. If anything, it shows what small amounts of territory are at the heart of this endless struggle:

“Ariel, home to almost 20,000 people, was founded in 1978 deep in the West Bank. Israel wants it to remain on its side of any border resulting from peace negotiations with the Palestinians. All settlements on occupied territory are illegal under international law.”

Sherwood now seems to spend most of her time gallivanting round the West Bank and Gaza, from whence she reports back whatever loksh the local Arabs feed her as an alternative to painstakingly copying out other peoples’ news about Israel to regurgitate at the Guardian. While writing about Ariel, she overlooked an article about the city from 2005 by none other than arch Israel-demonizer Chris McGreal: West Bank college benefits from backlash against British boycott of Israeli academia.

I suppose it will come as no surprise if I point out the attempted boycott was led by a “Finkler” ASHamed Jew, Israeli-British Professor Haim Bereshit . (He seems to prefer the spelling: Bresheeth for a rather obvious reason) as reported on January 22nd, 2010 by YNet :

“We in the British professors’ organization (you have to love the way he has appropriated his British credentials while ditching his Israeli past – except when it comes to condemning Israel – pure Finklerism) have not waited and have worked even before this happened to include the Ariel College in the ‘gray list’, which does not allow academic institutions to have any ties with this institution. This is in fact a boycott process, although it is not defined as such due to the complexity of this matter.”

Oddly enough, in 2002 Bereshit, whose work is largely in the area of Palestinian film, was teaching at Sapir College near Sderot (where Neve Gordon has been known to lecture) and was one of the movers behind the creation of the Sderot Cinematheque. Appropriately enough, the Cinematheque was hit by a kassam rocket on the day it opened in 2004, but that explosion was not sufficient, apparently, to shake the good professor’s belief in the evils of Israel’s educational efforts in Ariel. He is now at the University of East London (UK) where he appears on the staff roster of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences as Director of Research: Haim Bresheeth. He seems to spend a great deal of his time attacking Israel. Almost all references to him deal with his negative views about Israel, frequently together with disgraced lecturer Ilan Pappe who led a similar attempt to institute a boycott against Haifa University, also a university with a large Arab student body.

McGreal’s article not only demonstrated the law of unintended consequences – Ariel’s university actually benefitting from the attempts to boycott it – but pointed out that no less a beloved figure of those trying to delegitimize Israel than Shlomo Sand, a history lecturer at Tel Aviv university, said Israeli academics were “seething” over the boycott. “The university email network nearly collapsed from the force of the anger.”

Even worse for boycotters, McGreal’s article went on to point out:

“About 320 of the 7,000 students at the Ariel college are Arabs”

Oh, dear ….

As it happens, Ariel seems to be increasingly popular with Arab students as well as Jewish ones. Ynet reports: 500 Arabs begin studies in Ariel: ‘There’s no racism here’:

“Some 11,500 students, among them 500 Arab and Druze Israelis, began the academic year Sunday at the Ariel University Center of Samaria, which is located in the West Bank, beyond the Green Line.

“I scored high on my psychometric exam and could have enrolled in Tel Aviv University and other institutions, but here the enrollment process was quicker. This was the first place that accepted me, so I decided to go for it,” said 20-year-old Tayibe resident Manar Diuani, who is studying computer science….

Joana Moussa, a 20-year-old behavioral sciences student from Abu Snan, an Arab village in the Galilee region, said politics does play a role. “All of the students in Ariel fear the day will come when they’ll be told their diploma cannot be recognized because they studied in the territories. But as of today, our diploma is recognized everywhere.

“I am very pleased because the professors give us personal attention and there is no racism here. Perhaps in other places people would have commented on my name or ethnicity, but here I’m accepted for who I am,” she said.

Given that the Guardian found time and space to deal with the actors’ boycott of Ariel and the recent replacement of the chief scientist at Israel’s ministry of education for his ridiculous views on evolution and global warming and published McGreal’s earlier article about the Ariel University, I hope that Katherine Viner and Natalie Hanman  will ask Harriet to pen something new about the number and attitudes of Arabs studying at Ariel University. Something “fair and balanced”, with a call for Ariel’s diplomas to be recognized when peace comes, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. Something that points out the pure malice of British academics with axes to grind boycotting universities where Arabs and Jews study side by side.

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