Wednesday, September 2, 2020

“Hebrew Year Abroad”? Bashing opportunities to study Hebrew in Israel - by Ethan Dayan

A university that succumbs to the pressure of students making a claim based on a proven lie to serve a greater motive is not a stable one.

Ethan Dayan..
01 September '20..

This month it was revealed that the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) moved its “Hebrew Year Abroad” scheme from Hebrew University in Jerusalem to Haifa University. The University of West London has also severed ties with Hebrew U and is yet to announce a replacement Hebrew program. If British universities continue to contribute to this wave of capitulation to anti-Israel activism, students may not have the opportunity to learn Hebrew abroad at all.

Many observers blame a recent open letter signed by more than 100 Students’ Union Officers that condemned all 11 universities in the United Kingdom partnered with Hebrew U. The letter claimed that its Mount Scopus campus trespassed Israel’s 1949 Armistice line with Jordan and was therefore “participating in the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem.” However, the European Union embassy in Israel has affirmed that the campus is in “Israel proper,” and consequently, “not located on occupied territory.”

SOAS’s divorce from Hebrew U following this letter was met with robust backlash from pro-Israel organizations such as Israel Academia Monitor, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Pinsker Centre, which reported on the decision before the official announcement. They suggested that the timidity of the Academic Board and the Hebrew professors reporting to it were responsible.

Anti-Israel activists remain conflicted about the outcome. Although Yara Derbas, a member of the pro-BDS campaign group “Apartheid Off-Campus” focused on the territorial issue specific to Hebrew U, another article from the same group framed Haifa as a lateral move. They claim that “both institutions are equally complicit in Israel’s occupation. … The fight must continue until SOAS is no longer affiliated with any complicit universities.” They used the guise of international law to intimidate the university into a separation yet only succeeded in moving the chessboard. It will be harder for them to do the same with Haifa.

In summary, the open letter was based on factually invalid premises attached to controversial international legal theories. The authors admit their objection is inconsequential to their goals because any other Israeli university is considered equally guilty of colonial occupation. They likely knew that such a sentiment would be regarded as too extreme to be effective. Judging by the result, their math checked out.

(Continue to Full Column)

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