Wednesday, October 11, 2006

College of Judea and Samaria - Academic Annexation and Expropriation

Two Councils of Higher Education

The College of Judea and Samaria (CJS) in the town of Ariel is a flourishing institution by any criterion. The College was established by an edict of the regional military governor of the occupying forces who also appointed an academic committee to supervise academic development. At a recent counting, there were more than five thousand students in a rich variety of disciplines.

There is, however, a small problem. The college is a settlement in occupied Palestinian territories, as is the town in which it is situated.
Its existence is clearly illegal by any norm. The first element of all binding international laws and conventions is the impermissibility of establishing any fixed, permanent, civilian institutions in occupied land.

Whatever its positive achievements as a vehicle of learning – all of which could of course be pursued 10 miles to the west, on the Israeli side of the green line – it is first of all a blatant example of brutal expropriation, national oppression, denial of human rights and outright thievery.

The college may parade itself as a lofty site of learning, but its very roots are rotten through and through.

Over the years, Israel has two councils of higher educations: the official and recognized Council of Higher Education (CHE), which draws its authority from Israeli law and another council, the Council of Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHE-JS) which draws its authority from the IDF. The relations between these two councils are cloaked in secrecy. The College of Judea and Samaria has received funding and academic recognition by way of CHE approval and endorsement. The CJS had all the cooperation that it needed to grow and develop, even if it lacked the formal recognition as an Israeli institution of higher learning.

The Israeli CHE, which is presently in a serous clash with the CHE-JS, will need to explain, earlier than later, by what right and authority it countenanced this convenient arrangement. The whole set up may yet turn out to be a serious mistake for the Israeli educational establishment, which is justly under severe scrutiny regarding accusations of its complicity in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian occupied territories.

What Happened Now?

The CJS enjoys serious political clout (the entire right) and enthusiastic support from prestigious academicians on the right. It is some sort of diamond in the crown of the settlement project. It wants to translate that support into an official and authoritative act of recognition as a university by the CHE. It seems that colonels can establish a college, but a university launched and sponsored by the Israel Defense Forces would seem to be a bit too much and cause some academic brows to furrow up a bit. The Sharon government tried to declare the CJS a university, back in 2005, but was reminded by the CHE that this was the sole province of the Council.
For reasons totally unconnected to the Judea – Samaria complications, the Israel CHE has decided to reject a number of requests from regional colleges in the country to become full-fledged research universities. But while, the all powerful Budget Committee of the CHE was keeping its finger in the dike, the CHE-JS passed a resolution in August setting out a number of steps to be taken by the CJS, and which, upon completion, would automatically convey on it full university status.

The CHE Gets Angry

The Israeli academic establishment slept quite well, over the years, while the CJS grew and developed the local form of academic annexation. But when the “bastard” offspring came to it with a number of Israeli professors as their academic sponsors for opening the path to university status, the CHE was, to say the least, very angry. Angry, but not too wise. The CHE decided that all of its members, and not only the select few serving on the CHE-JS were, ipso facto, now members of the CHE-JS. This seemed to be necessary to nullify the decision about opening the way to university status for the CJS. At this point everyone is calling their lawyers, in order to figure out who has the authority to do what.

Possible Ramifications

Given Israel’s justifiably questionable status in intellectual and academic circles abroad, there are at least two important questions that will inevitably demand attention.

1) What were the relations over the years between the CHE education in Israel and the IDF-created CHE-JS? Did the CHE in Israel aid, abet or assist in any form or manner the development of the CJS?
2) Even if an institution answers the standard requirements for recognition as an institution of learning, can the international academic community ignore the illegal foundations of the institution and its role in the annexation of the land of a dispossessed nation?