FAQs about the appeal by authoritative Palestinian academic bodies to the world to deny recognition to and cut institutional links with Ariel University.
1. Are Palestinians asking us to withhold recognition of Ariel University?
Absolutely. Authoritative Palestinian academic and human rights bodies, including the Palestinian Ministry of Education, the Council of Palestinian Universities’ Presidents, the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), have called on states, academic institutions, multilateral research bodies and international academics not to recognize Ariel University and to refrain from any institutional relations with it.
2. How is Ariel University complicit in violations of international law?
It is built in Ariel, an illegal Israeli colony-settlement established in 1978 on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel in 1967 and are internationally considered as Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) by the UN and referred to as such by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
3. What makes Israeli colony-settlements illegal?
According to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.” Israel, in transferring parts of its own population into the OPT, is clearly in breach of the convention. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considers such settlement of occupied territory a war crime.
4. Do any countries regard the colony-settlements as legal?
Only Israel, and now the US, following the Trump administration’s reversal of decades of US policy. The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice and the High Contracting Parties to the Convention have all affirmed that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the OPT. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 reconfirmed in 2016 that Israel’s settlement activity “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
5. Why deny recognition to Ariel University?
Institutions that recognise Ariel University are complicit in a serious violation of international law.
Respecting international law, as a peaceful and universal means of conflict resolution, requires denying recognition to, and severing institutional relations with Ariel University as an illegal settlement institution, and ending Israel’s ongoing violations of the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people, particularly the right to self-determination.
Moreover, Ariel University is not only itself an illegal institution, it is, through its direct involvement with Israel’s arms and security industries, deeply and directly complicit in Israel’s system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law, including the right to education and academic freedom.
6. Are there other Israeli institutions of higher education located in illegal Israeli settlements, besides Ariel University?
Yes. This document focuses on Ariel University, the most prominent one. But recognising or having normal relations with any Israeli institutions that are illegal and/or complicit in serious violations of international law, especially those that are built in occupied Palestinian territory, is a violation of international law. Here is a partial list:
- Herzog College (Mikhlelet Herzog) – a teachers training college with campuses in Jerusalem, and in the Alon Shvut and Migdal Oz illegal settlements.
- Yehuda Regional College, located in Qiryat Arba, an illegal Israeli settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian town of Al Khalil – Hebron.
- Orot Israel College – a national-religious teachers training college located in the Elkana illegal settlement.
7. What is special about Ariel University?
Ariel University is the largest and most prominent of the Israeli academic institutions located in Israel’s illegal settlements. It is the only one that has been upgraded to a university. It is also the best connected internationally, and is a member of the International Association of Universities.
Ariel University was established by a decree of the Israeli Defence Forces in 1982 as the College of Judea and Samaria, originally under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University, and was accorded university status in 2012. In February 2018, it was brought under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Council for Higher Education, a measure celebrated by Jerusalem Affairs Israeli Minister Ze’ev Elkin as a step toward the application of Israeli sovereignty in ‘Judea and Samaria’ (the OPT).
In June 2018, far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced a plan for Ariel University to double its size in five years with the establishment of a medical school through a $20 million donation from the Jewish-American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Ariel University is involved in Israel’s highly lucrative arms and security industries. For instance, Ariel University has partnered with weapons manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in joint research and collaborates with Cyberbit, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons producer. In addition, Ariel University runs illegal archaeological digs in the occupied Palestinian territory.
8. Who supervises Ariel University?
The Israeli Council for Higher Education. However, as Ariel is not in Israel, under international law, Israel has no more right to exercise control over it than it has to control a university in Damascus or London.
9. Who else supports non-recognition of Ariel University?
There is widespread understanding, both inside and outside Israel, of the consequences of the complicity resulting from partnering with Ariel University and other institutions of higher education located in the OPT. For instance, the original decision to upgrade Ariel college to a university was opposed by the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities and by over 1,000 Israeli academics on the grounds that “involving Israeli academia in the ideology of conquest … threatens the ability of the Israeli academia to function.”
To give another example, in August 2018, the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) voted overwhelmingly (164-0, with 17 abstentions) to support the Israeli Anthropological Association in its refusal to cooperate with the illegal institutions of higher education (located in Israel’s illegal settlements in the OPT) and to “pledge its own non-cooperation with these institutions.” We should expand and activate this understanding in order to uphold international law and basic human rights for the Palestinians.
10. What can I do to hold Ariel University accountable?
You can help by urging international institutions and governments to avoid being complicit in illegality, by:
(1) Refraining from accrediting or recognising any diplomas or qualifications conferred by Ariel University;
(2) Conditioning agreements with the Israeli Council for Higher Education on non-recognition and non-accreditation of Ariel University.
In addition, international academics are called upon to:
(3) Decline to write or referee for journals published by Ariel or based in it;
(4) Refuse to participate in projects or attend conferences fully or partially sponsored by Ariel University or which include its representatives (dean, head of department or spokesperson) as participants;
(5) Urge universities, conferences and workshops not to host individual academics from Ariel University unless their affiliation is properly indicated as: “Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory” in conference material;
(6) Urge academic journals not to publish material identified with Ariel University unless it is properly indicated as: “Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory”;
(7) Advocate for academic societies to approve motions supporting the call from Palestinian academic bodies not to recognise/sever existing links with Ariel University;
(8) Reject any collaboration with Ariel University as an institution or with any of its bodies.
11. Who outside Israel decides whether or not Ariel University’s qualifications are recognised?
States usually make such decisions through their respective higher education councils or their equivalent. Individual EU governments, for instance, are free to apply their own rules, including whether or not to recognise academic qualifications obtained elsewhere. Practice may vary.
In the UK, for instance, a national body (NARIC) accredits international qualifications, but acknowledges that it has no authority to impose recognition on individual universities, which are free to recognise or reject qualifications.
12. Shouldn’t rejecting material for publication be made on purely academic grounds?
As academic values depend on factual evidence, if Ariel University is mentioned in a publication, it ought to be mentioned for what it is, an institution that is complicit in violations of international law. Concealing this information would be no less politically motivated than its acknowledgement. Submissions from academics affiliated with Ariel University can in our view be accepted for publication provided it is clearly indicated as: “Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
13. Does non-recognition of Ariel University contravene academic freedom?
No. The actions against Ariel University called for here constitute non-recognition of the university as an institution, not of the individuals who work in, unless those individuals are the university’s official representatives–president, dean, head of department or spokesperson. In the 1980s, complicit universities in apartheid South Africa were subjected to more strict measures of accountability by the international community, including universities.
Moreover, academic freedom must include the freedom to refuse collaboration with illegal activity, especially when that refusal has the wider aim of defending the freedom, including academic freedom, of people who are systematically deprived of it.
14. Will non-recognition of Ariel University adversely affect Palestinians, including Palestinian students at Ariel?
Unions and organisations representing all Palestinian students have endorsed the calls to hold Israel and its illegal and/or complicit institutions accountable for their human rights violations. They, like the rest of Palestinian society, are aware that this form of nonviolent resistance may come at a price for them. But they still fully support this peaceful resistance as it is a minimal price to achieve freedom, justice and equal rights.
Ariel has been trying to depict itself as a model of co-existence for some time. For instance, in 2011, the Ariel University Center of Samaria (not yet formally a university) held a conference entitled “Best Plans for a Peaceful Israel/Palestine.” Needless to say, the conference, like most such events, has done nothing whatsoever to slow the ongoing brutal and illegal Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land. It was pure propaganda. Of the circa 15,000 students at Ariel University, perhaps a few hundred are Palestinian citizens of Israel. As inhabitants of a state which systematically discriminates against them, they are unwilling parties to a “coercive relationship” with the Israeli state. Attending Ariel University does not mean they favour violating International law, or that they would not protest it if they could do so unpunished.
The geographic location of the university was chosen to promote Israel’s illegal settlements: the vast majority of Ariel students arrive there from Israel on the settler Trans-Samarian Highway linking Ariel to present-day Israel, a road that was built on huge tracts of land illegally confiscated from Palestinians. Palestinian residents living around Ariel are not allowed to use this road, or to enter the Ariel settlement, let alone the university.
15. Why is international law important?
Israel flagrantly violates international law and is, nevertheless, given unconditional support by western and other powers, which feeds its impunity in committing grave human rights violations.
This is dangerous beyond Israel as it gives other countries justification to break international law without accountability. This will result in weakening international law as a whole, and increase instability and violence.
16. Are signatories to the Geneva Conventions obliged to take action to ensure they are adhered to?
Yes. Common Article 1 to the four Geneva Conventions lays down an obligation to “respect and ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances [emphasis added].” Article 26 under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states that “every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.” The preface to the UN Charter says it aims “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained. See further https://www.icrc.org/en/international-review/article/common-article-1.
17. Aren’t you singling out Israel?
No. First, Ariel University is not in Israel. It is illegally built on occupied Palestinian land. Second, Israeli institutions that are illegal or complicit in illegality are subject to accountability measures not because they are Israeli but because of the following combination of factors:
(a) They are part and parcel of a system of Israeli colonisation and theft of Palestinian land;
(b) Western and other governments are doing nothing whatsoever to compel Israel to meet its obligations under international law by, at the very least, ending its occupation and removing all its illegal settlements, thereby singling out Israel for preferential treatment;
(c) Ending complicity with Ariel University will make a difference in bringing about a just and sustainable peace; and
(d) Most importantly, the vast majority of Palestinians are asking us to take this peaceful action, among tougher measures, because ending complicity in illegality is a moral and legal obligation, not a form of charity. Where similar conditions apply, we would be obliged to take the same kind of action there, too. We have done so before, when asked to do so, against complicit universities in apartheid South Africa. Why not now?
18. What about the Hebrew University of Jerusalem?
Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus Campus is partly built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem occupied by Israel after 1967. Its buildings and facilities were expanded as a result of Israel’s 1968 illegal confiscation of 3345 dunums of Palestinian land (Israeli Gazette, Hebrew edition, number 1425). Since then, Hebrew University has confiscated land and worked to evict Palestinian families to build car parks and student dormitories.
Inasmuch as these buildings are used to house the population of an occupying power in occupied territory, they are clearly illegal under international law, making the Hebrew University at the very least a complicit institution.
The university website does not even acknowledge Israel’s 1967 military occupation, and simply refers to Jerusalem as ‘re-united’. Moreover, as a large higher education institution with thousands of students and employees, its presence in this area stimulates settler activities in occupied East Jerusalem. It benefits from settlement infrastructure, transport lines and access roads in the occupied territory, some of them on privately-owned Palestinian land.