Minister Marco Bussetti
Ministry of Education, University and Research
Catania, March 14, 2019
SUBJECT: Ariel University
I am writing as the President of the Society for Middle Eastern Studies (SeSaMO) regarding the inclusion of Ariel University among institutions accredited by Israel’s Council for Higher Education. The Society for Middle Eastern Studies, a network of scholars of North African and Middle Eastern studies active in Italy since 1995, expresses serious concern over the so-called Ariel University Law enacted in 2018 by the Israeli parliament (Knesset), which extends legal authority of the State of Israel to higher education institutions built beyond the Green Line.
The University of Ariel, like the settlement in which it is located, is situated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in open violation of international law. In fact, the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of civilian populations and the construction of settlements within militarily occupied territories. In 1998 the International Criminal Court defined such acts as “war crimes” in its statute. Two hundred Israeli academics expressed their dissent in a letter published in the newspaper Haaretz as early as December 2017.
In light of the above, SeSaMO invites you to evaluate the possibility of not accrediting – through the acceptance of degrees, framework agreements or inter-university collaborations – Ariel University and other Israeli academic institutions illegally located in the Palestinian Territories. Such a decision, which is not equivalent to a position in favor of boycott campaigns against Israel and Israeli universities, would be consistent with the policy of the Italian government and the European Union not to recognize Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories.
The transfer of Ariel University under the aegis of the Council for Higher Education also raises some critical issues regarding the relations the Ministry has with its Israeli counterpart. Any form of inter-state cooperation, essential in the field of training and research, cannot be separated from compliance with international law.
Confident that you will give your attention to the issues raised by our scientific community, I send you my most cordial greetings.
Prof. Daniela Melfa
Published by the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies (SeSaMO)