Will Upgrading West Bank College Boost Boycott Movement?

Analysis

Boycott Boost? Israel’s government was hoping to toss a bone to the right wing by upgrading a college in the West Bank settlement of Ariel to university status. It could just end up helping the movement to boycott Israel.
nathan Jeffay
Boycott Boost? Israel’s government was hoping to toss a bone to the right wing by upgrading a college in the West Bank settlement of Ariel to university status. It could just end up helping the movement to boycott Israel.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published October 27, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “strengthen higher education in the State of Israel,” as he put it, may hand the international academic boycott lobby a gift on a silver platter, Israeli analysts say.

In September, Israel’s Cabinet approved a controversial plan that will give the West Bank’s Jewish settlements their first university. To the dismay of more than 1,000 academics who have signed a petition against the move, it will transform Ariel University Center, a college, into a fully credentialed university. Unless the high court accepts objections to the upgrade filed by all except one of Israel’s universities, Ariel is expected to have university status by next September.

When Netanyahu announced the approval, he cast it as a decision of political as well as educational importance. “Ariel is an inseparable part of the State of Israel, and it will remain an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement, just like the other settlement blocs,” he said.

The upgrade, along with Netanyahu’s statenent, has dismayed some veteran activists against the academic boycott campaign, such as Bar-Ilan University political scientist Jonathan Rynhold. He told the Forward that he considers the

decision an “own goal” for Israel that “makes it seem like Israeli academia is politicized, which it isn’t.

“You’ve basically given a victory to those who present Israel as an outcast society where the government is running academia.”

The reaction of one of the key groups supporting the boycott seems to back this notion. Jewish Voices for Peace, a Jewish organization based in the United States and actively promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, said it would stand behind any Israeli-based drive to boycott Ariel. In the past, the group has supported artists who refused to perform in Ariel’s cultural center. “For us it is not so much a matter of whether it is a cultural or academic boycott, but of whether the effort targets the Occupied Territories specifically,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director. “If it does, then it is something that we could support, as in this case.” She added that Ariel University is “quite literally profiting from being a settlement enterprise.”

The main concern of Israel advocates is that the Ariel upgrade will allow the boycott movement to recruit beyond its traditional pool of staunchly anti-Israel academics to include those who take issue with only the occupation. “It makes life for the BDS movement easier, and the reason is that it enables them to garner the support of those who are critical of Israeli policy,” said Eran Shayshon, senior analyst at the Reut Institute, a think tank based in Tel Aviv.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.