Israeli academics call for boycott of West Bank university

JERUSALEM (JTA) — More than 150 Israeli university and college lecturers have signed a petition calling for an academic boycott of a university in the Jewish West Bank city of Ariel.

The petition, released Sunday, says the signers refuse to participate “in any academic activity in the college in the settlement of Ariel.”

“Ariel is not under Israeli sovereignty, and therefore we cannot be forced to appear there,” the petition reads. “Our conscience and public responsibility obligate us to take a stand, particularly now, when there is an opportunity for peace and it is clearer than ever before that the settlements are meant to hinder it.”

Nir Gov of the Weizmann Institute initiated and organized the petition. There are about 7,000 university and college lecturers and academics in Israel.

The petition says that Ariel is built on occupied land and just miles away Palestinians live in villages where “Not only do they not have access to higher education, some do not even have running water,” which the petition calls “a policy of apartheid. ”

The Ariel University Center of Samaria, the petition says, “was established for the sole purpose of preventing the Palestinians from creating an independent state and thus preventing us, citizens of Israel, from having the chance to ever live in peace in this region.”

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar called the petition, according to Ynet, “a provocation without practical significance because the signatories do not take part in academic activity at the university in Ariel anyway, and it is doubtful they will be asked to do so.”

The Ariel University Center has more than 8,500 students. Ariel, with a population of about 20,000, is located southwest of the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Last November, education students from the Beit Berl College in central Israel refused to participate in their final project at an educational institution in Ariel, considered to be one of the leading facilities for informal education in Israel. The college said it gave students who refused to cross into the West Bank an alternate project in a different location.

The academic boycott follows a boycott initiated last summer by Israeli theater professionals who signed a petition saying that they would not perform in the new Ariel cultural center when it opened in August. The center, which cost more than $10 million, was built with public funds. At least 150 Israeli academics and authors also threw their support behind the boycott.