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On Academia, Politics and Survival in the Middle East


Ariel University

Ariel University
Photo Credit: Michael Jacobson

The first university that was established in Israel, Hebrew University, was also, at first, in 1925, a political act that was intended – this time under the British Mandate – to show the whole world that the people of Israel is returning to its land and intends to live a full life here. But the academic act with the clearest and most political message was the establishment of the University of Tel Aviv in 1956, during the period of the fedayeen and the terror that they perpetrated. This university was deliberately established upon the ruins of the Arab village Sheikh Munis, an act which stated in a clear and lucid manner, that the people of Israel has returned to its land in order to build it and to be built up in it, and it will not yield or bend to its enemies or detractors, who fled in the defensive war of 1948.

The Weizman Institute is named for the noted Zionist political leader, who was also the first president of the state of Israel, and Ben Gurion University in the Negev until today, proudly carries the name of “the” politician par excellence who arose to lead the people of Israel in the modern era, and with his strength of spirit, established the state despite all odds. The University of Haifa was also established by a man from the boiling cauldron of Israeli politics, Aba Hushi, and the academic tower that rises almost 100 meters above the Carmel Mountain Ridge, and is clearly visible from a distance of dozens of kilometers, clearly states the nationalistic and political message that “We are here.”

Only Bar Ilan University carries the name of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, a religious, rather than political figure, who was one of the heads of the national-religious “Mizrachi” movement, and its establishment in 1955 was also a political and public message of religious Judaism.

The inescapable conclusion from all of the above is that all of the academic institutions in Israel are a political and nationalistic expression of the return of the people of Israel to its land and its revival after 1900 years of exile. Israeli academia is not separate from the overall Israeli experience, which is entirely a nationalistic, political deed. The return to Zion was not and is still not a natural development, but rather it is a phenomenon that is outside of nature, and involves an ongoing struggle against the natural environment. Any endeavor of this sort requires activity in the national arena, just as all of the activities connected with it, from the establishment of universities to the planting of trees, are activities that are conducted in the political arena as well. Therefore the names of institutions honor the political leaders who promoted the great achievement of the “return to Zion” in every sense of the phrase.

The fact that the world accepted Israeli academia as an equal member in the global academic community, stemmed from the consensus that included all of the Jewish people, in Israel as well as in the Diaspora, regarding the legitimacy of the state of Israel and its institutions, including the academic ones. This is no simple matter, since there are many countries in the world who do not see Israel as a legitimate state, which is why they boycott the academic institutions. The academic boycott of Israel by these states began in 1948, not in 1967, because the “occupation,” in their eyes, includes Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and Ramat Gan, not only Ariel and Hebron.

On the agenda these days is the question of the academic institution in Ariel, a city in Israel, that was established on territory that was conquered in 1948 by the Arab Legion and until 1967 was occupied by Jordan, although Jordan’s rule over this territory was never recognized by the world as legitimate. The world also does not recognize the legitimacy of Israeli rule there, and because no state has universally accepted sovereignty, this is not “occupied territory” but rather “disputed territory” according to international law. This fact has been known since 1967, and the report of Judge emeritus Edmond Levi again confirms this important legal fact. Just a reminder: the Technion and Hebrew University were not originally established under Israeli sovereignty because when they were established when the state of Israel did not yet exist. One could say that the state of Israel won sovereignty over the land of Israel partly because of the existence of these institutions, which arose in the land of Israel together with other institutions. Is it not so, that the presence on Mount Scopus of the Hebrew University together with the Hadassah University Hospital, is the reason that this mountain remained under Israeli sovereignty even between 1948 and 1967, even though it was surrounded by the illegitimate Jordanian occupation?

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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One Response to “On Academia, Politics and Survival in the Middle East”

  1. Toby Stupp says:

    A different way to look at the recognition of Ariel as a Unviersity. Definetly not mainstream.

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