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!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • 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.