Sunday, January 31, 2010

Giving accreditation where it's due

Amiel Ungar
31 January '10

Defense Minister Ehud Barak's announcement of his intention to implement a five-year-old government decision to recognize Ariel College as a university unfortunately elicited the usual "Judea and Samaria delenda est" (the settlements must be destroyed) invective from the left. Such polemics unfortunately only divert us from addressing the need to reevaluate higher education priorities and policies.

It is difficult to respect the intellectual honesty of critics such as Hebrew University Prof. Yaron Ezrahi (quoted in a report by Or Kashti in Haaretz, Jan. 24), who called Barak's move "a dangerous precedent in which a general is establishing a university," adding that "such a thing only exists in totalitarian countries."

Ezrahi and others who resort to such cheap shots know full well that the army's status as legislator is a byproduct of the unresolved status of Judea and Samaria. If the settlement of Ariel were to be annexed today, Barak would be out of the picture in terms of both higher education and housing freezes there. And if Israel had not legally reunified Jerusalem, the roads to Ezrahi's campus would also be governed by a general.

Ezrahi charges that Ariel College was established to promote the ideology of right-wing settlers. In all the years I taught there, I encountered colleagues from all colors of the political spectrum. However, even the most ideological rightist would never have dared to present a right-wing equivalent to an M.A. thesis branding Israeli soldiers as racist because they don't rape Arab women - a thesis sponsored by the former head of the Hebrew University's Truman Peace Center.

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