A new bill extends powers of the Council for Higher Education in Israel to “academic institutions” in the West Bank settlements
Quietly, quietly, and without any resistance or opposition whatsoever, the Israeli ideological right wing, particularly the religious groups represented by the Jewish Home party, are proceeding both confidently and persistently with achieving their intellectual visions and implementing
their practical schemes and programmes. These are tailored to promote and tighten the right wing’s ideological and personal grip on key components of various government bodies of the state (especially in educational and judicial institutions). A flow of regulations are aimed at introducing a substantial, in-depth and far-reaching change to Israeli laws.
At an amazing pace, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett has not stopped making and consolidating a series of decisions and actions relating to the education system, including all relevant stages, levels, institutions and content. For now, the last episode in this series has surpassed the “scope of education” to serve directly the so-called “crown jewel” of this party’s political programmes and activity in particular: de facto (albeit “creeping”!) annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. This concerns the bill which provides for extending powers of the Council for Higher Education in Israel (chaired by Bennett himself) to “academic institutions” in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The bill is being approved and enacted amid the silence and support of accomplices, including members of the Council for Higher Education and Committee of University Heads in Israel. This silence and support were considered by some Israeli university professors as “scandalous and disgraceful betrayal of academic values and the immediate responsibilities of these heads.”
Last week, the Knesset’s Education, Culture, and Sports Committee approved and decided to refer the Bill on the Council for Higher Education in Israel to the Knesset Plenum for voting in the first reading. The bill provides for obliging the “Council for Higher Education in Israel” to immediately recognise three settlement-based “academic” institutions, namely the Ariel University in the Ariel settlement, Orut College of Education in the Elkana settlement, and Herzog College of Education in the Alon Shevut settlement. This provision has aroused criticism and provoked opposition by some Israeli academic circles. The three institutions do not fulfil academic conditions and parameters applicable in Israel, “causing severe damage to the status and reputation of the Israeli academia.” The professional and political status and independence of the Higher Council for Education in Israel will also be affected.