Three preeminent European academic institutions have ended agreements with Ariel University over its direct involvement in Israel’s violations of international law.
Ariel University is located in an illegal Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land. Israel’s settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime under international law, and the European Union and its member states do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
In early March, the University of Valencia confirmed it will not implement a collaboration agreement with Ariel University in line with the university’s commitment to human rights.
During a meeting of the University Senate on 11 March, Rector María Vicenta Mestre Escrivá stated that the agreement had never gone into effect and that the University of Valencia would not be signing the agreement with Ariel University.
The agreement between the two universities was first approved in May 2019. It was suspended and placed under review just months later following protests from the student union BEA over Ariel University’s direct role in Israel’s military occupation. The rector’s decision followed meetings with and mobilisations by student and teachers unions BEA, Acontracorrent, SEPC and STEPV – Intersindical as well as the BDS group in Valencia.
In December 2020, the Institute of Technological Research (IRT) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry confirmed it ended a collaboration agreement with Ariel University. Academics in France had written to the university and the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, stressing France’s obligations under international law.
The French ministry had assured academics in 2014 that there were no educational or research collaboration agreements with Israeli settlement institutions such as Ariel University.
The University of Florence has ended an international mobility agreement with Ariel University. Last year, the university responded to academics in Italy saying that “international mobility agreement with Ariel University has been suspended”. In a February 2021 email, the university confirmed that “Ariel University was not included in the Call for Extra-EU Mobility for 20/21”.
The No Ariel Ties campaign welcomed the news:
We commend the University of Valencia, IRT Saint-Exupéry and the University of Florence for taking steps to uphold their moral and legal obligations not to assist Israel’s grave violations of international law.
The University of Florence, however, maintains a cultural and scientific collaboration agreement between Ariel University and the faculties of Architecture (DIDA) and History, Archaeology, Geography, Fine and Performing Arts (SAGAS).
Consistent with the principled decision to end the mobility agreement with Ariel University, the University of Florence must now end all institutional ties with Ariel University in line with the European Union and Italy’s clear position on the illegality of Israeli settlements.
Etienne Balibar, Anniversary Chair of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, commented:
Facts on the ground can never be transformed into a right. The advances of the State of Israel, supported by a powerful regional and global coalition, to expropriate the Palestinians and annihilate them as a people, does not mean that all resistance is now futile. We, too, must resist. That’s why we should welcome the decision of European universities to end their cooperation with Ariel University, and hope that their example will be followed by many others.
In a legal opinion, renowned South African legal scholar John Dugard noted that Ariel University “is part of an illegal and criminal enterprise under international law”. He has described Ariel University as “an institutional creature of a system of apartheid established by Israel in occupied Palestine…designed to legitimize and bolster an illegal occupation”.
Authoritative Palestinian higher education bodies, supported by esteemed academics, are calling on all international institutions to end or refrain from establishing institutional ties with Ariel University, in the spirit of defending academic freedom and fundamental human rights for all.
More than 500 European, Israeli and other scholars recently signed a letter urging the European Union to stop legitimising Ariel University via its taxpayer-funded research programmes.