The outgoing chairman of Israel’s Association of University Heads (VERA), and President of Haifa University, Prof. Ron Theodore Robin, who resigned last week, said in a closed conversation that failing to accept Ariel University into VERA is begging for an explanation.
VERA is a voluntary body comprising of the presidents, rectors, and directors-general from Israel’s research universities excluding Ariel University aimed to “promote and to improve the management of aspects of common interest to all the universities.”
“We cannot, in my opinion, do this indefinitely without causing alienation among a fairly large segment of the public,” Prof. Robin said.
In 2012, VERA worked unsuccessfully to torpedo the recognition of Ariel University as a fully accredited university. Similarly in 2018, VERA unsuccessfully lobbied against the establishment of Ariel University’s School of Medicine.
One of the more outrageous reports, in November 2018, revealed that before the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) ratified a motion this month to boycott Israeli academic institutions in Judea and Samaria, the head of the Israeli Anthropological Association (IAA) and Ben-Gurion University professor, Nir Avieli, sent a letter on IAA stationery to the EASA president urging the group to boycott those Israeli institutions (Senior Israeli Academic Pleaded with European Anthropologists to Boycott Judea, Samaria Colleges).
On Sunday morning, Reshet Bet radio played a leaked recording of Prof. Robin’s conversation with faculty members and students from several academic institutions.
Prof. Robin admitted in the recording that his resignation was “in large part a media ploy” and hinted that it was because VERA feels threatened that the new Higher Education Minister would limit its autonomy.
“All of a sudden we have someone who wakes up in the morning and the first thing he thinks about is higher education. The thing that is supposed to advance him is his ability to shape higher education according to his worldview, and we never had this before,” he says on the recording.
Prof. Robin also stated that in his view the situation was worse under former Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who oversaw higher education.
“Previous ministers, for example Bennett, had very severe remarks. We have only been with this minister [Elkin] a short time.”
Ariel University President Dr. Yehuda Danon has accused VERA of boycotting the university due to its location in Samaria, over the Green Line.
Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirtzu, which pushed for the establishment of the Higher Education Ministry, called VERA “a politicized organization that has no right to exist.”
“VERA should be ashamed of working so blatantly against Ariel University, and the time has come to end the post-Zionist grip that this cartel has on Israeli academia,” Peleg said.