In an open statement published by several Israeli newspapers, hundreds of Israeli university professors expressed strong opposition to the new bill, which provides for extending powers of the Council for Higher Education in Israel to “academic institutions” in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The statement was signed by almost 220 university professors, including laureates of the Israel Prize and various international awards.
University professors sharply criticised the two academic institutions, which were involved in proposing the new bill, either by keeping silent or by effectively voting for it. These are the Council for Higher Education and Committee of University Heads in Israel. Some professors considered this silence and support as “scandalous and disgraceful betrayal of academic values and the immediate responsibilities of these heads.”
At a session of the Knesset’s Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, representative of the High Council for Education in Israel said he supported the bill and that he was “in favour of enforcing the Israeli law to academic institutions in the territories.”
With regard to the new bill, Israeli university professors are mainly worried about two major concerns: (1) the status of the academia and future of academic research in Israel; and (2) the international boycott of Israel, particularly academic boycott of Israeli universities.
In reference of European funding, the new bill involves a grave breach of the pledges signed by Israel within the framework of many association agreements with the European Union. These provide the main sources for funding academic and research activities in Israel, mostly notably the EU Research and Innovation programme (Horizon 2020). According to this association agreement, Israel has pledged to keep a clear and complete separation between academic institutions inside Israel and those located within the occupied Palestinian territory (i.e. Israeli settlements). Israel has also undertaken to avoid transferring any support funding to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, either directly or indirectly.
The same conditions are set by the US-Israel Binational Fund, one of the largest funds that support and finance Israeli academic research. Furthermore, this fund does not accept any research proposals from settlements.