ASU students protest study abroad in Israel program

The following article was written by Arizona State University student Oday Shahin, and published in the State Press, ASU’s student newspaper.

Study abroad program sends wrong message

By Oday Shahin October 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

ASU’s Study Abroad Office announced an Israel study abroad program in conjunction with Ben-Gurion University last month.

However, a partnership with BGU also means inadvertently cooperating with its controversial apartheid policies.

Perhaps the administrators didn’t know of BGU’s reputation of discriminatory procedures, or they simply brushed it off. Regardless, the name of ASU does not need to be mixed with a university that supports prejudice and racist policies.

Ben-Gurion was the first Israeli Prime Minister and the person who read the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. He was once quoted as saying, “Zionism is a transfer of the Jews.”

The concept of “transferring” European Jews to Palestine and then “transferring” Palestinians out is central to Zionism. The “Law of Return” helps grant a right of immigration to Jews born anywhere in the world. This is coupled with “Absentee Property Law” that classifies the personal property of Palestinians as “absentee property” and places it under control of the government.

There was always historic, strong solidarity between South Africans and Palestinians because of the similarities of racist laws that legalized stealing of land in South African and Palestinian territories during Apartheid.

More attention came to this issue when a delegation of South African Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle was sent to the West Bank in 2008. They agreeably concluded that restrictions endured by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories were worse than those imposed on the black majority under white rule in South Africa.

A South African campaign initiated at the prestigious University of Johannesburg to cut off academic links with Ben-Gurion University is currently gaining momentum.

The apartheid Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had disastrous effects on access to education for Palestinians, which leads to more immobilization, poverty, gendered violence, harassment and humiliation. The racist divide put between “white” and “black” Jews officially exist in state decisions. Several months ago, a religious school in the illegal Israeli settlement of Immanuel was approved funding by the Israeli Education Ministry for segregating white Jewish students from non-white Jewish students in classes.

Israel has also explicitly mounted direct attacks on Palestinian educational institutions, with complete closures of Hebron University and the targeting and bombing of more than 60 schools during the attacks on Gaza in 2009. Meanwhile, BGU maintained structural support for the Israeli occupation by offering scholarships and extra tuition to students who served in active combat units during those attacks.

The assault on Gaza in 2009 resulted in the death of 1,400 Palestinians in acts described by Judge Richard Goldstone as war crimes. The majority of those killed were children and women that died because of indiscriminate Israeli shooting.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report detailing how Palestinian applicants are three times more likely to be rejected by Israeli academic institutions, including BGU, than Jewish applicants. While Palestinian citizens of Israel constitute more than 20 percent of the country’s population, only a mere 1 percent of the academic staff in Israeli academic institutions are Palestinian.

In regards to academic freedom, BGU has been condemned for disciplining academic staff, such as Professor Neve Gordon, for supporting the non-violent demonstrations. It also went to the extent of maintaining obstacles that prevent students from mounting legal political demonstrations on campus.

At ASU we don’t criminalize political dissent, nor do we support racist and discriminatory policies against Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, non-Jews or anyone. But our cooperation with such a university sends the wrong message about policies that go against our values.

I call for a review of this decision and urge administrators to disband academic connections with Ben-Gurion University for its lack of respect for human rights and dignity.

Send Oday comments at oshahin@asu.edu

Posted in Boycott, Boycott News, Student Organizing, Study Abroad, U.S. Academica, U.S. Organizing
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