Ignored by the Brits
By Amir Hanifes, June 6, 2007
Source: Ynet, Opinion
Druze PhD student defends Israel, but British academicians uninterested
As a holder of two degrees from the University of Haifa and a PhD student at the University of London, I traveled to Bournemouth for the meeting of the British University and College Union (UCU) as an Israeli delegate on behalf of the Israeli Council for Academic Freedom.
The discussions at the meeting regarding the imposition of a boycott on Israeli academia took place in a hostile environment while ignoring all the facts we presented regarding freedom of expression and academic freedom at Israeli institutions of higher learning.
Evidence that Israeli lecturers who hold pro-Palestinian views are able to express their positions uninterrupted both in their research work and lectures, as well as in the media, had no effect whatsoever on the discussions.
Even when we presented a list of organizations and research centers that operate in the framework of Israeli universities and boast Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab cooperation, with the promotion of ties between the peoples their top agenda, it did not make a difference.
The same was true when it came to calls by Palestinian lecturers and figures, including al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibah and Minister Raleb Majadele urging the UCU to refrain from boycotting their Israeli colleagues.
Boycott leaders in Bournemouth ignored the figures I presented to them regarding the University of Haifa and the fact that close to 20 percent of students there are members of minority groups in Israel – apparently, we will also be subjected to the boycott.
They were uninterested in the fact that Arab students, who view themselves as a national minority in the State of Israel, are represented by a separate student committee and enjoy the freedom to act politically and on the public relations front. They were also uninterested in the fact that Professor Majid al-Haj is the deputy president of the research university, or that the Jewish-Arab center headed by Dr. Faisal Azaiza is considered one of the university's most prestigious bodies.
The truth is that it is clear to this group of lecturers that Israeli academia is least at fault for what is happening in our region, certainly when compared to the freedom of expression at our neighbors' academic institutions. After all, the English know full well that the technological, academic, and cultural achievements in the State of Israel stem first and foremost from the freedom of expression and research in every field in Israel.
Therefore, the figures we presented were futile, because all they cared about was their one and only objective: De-legitimizing the State of Israel with no relation to its academia; presenting it as an apartheid state that deprives its minorities of elementary rights such as education and the freedom of expression.
They were particularly bothered by the fact that a student like me, a member of the Druze community, appeared in the meeting and defended Israeli academia. They protested the fact that I even agreed to study at institutions that are associated with the country's majority population group and teach in its native tongue, Hebrew. I wonder how they would have reacted had I protested the fact that her majesty Queen Elizabeth is the patron of the University of London, and now I am studying in their native tongue, English.
The writer, a member of the Druze community in Israel, is a graduate of the University of Haifa and a PhD student in the University of London. His grandfather, Salah Hanifas, served as a member of the second and third Knesset
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