Re: Minister of State John Halligan’s visit to Palestine-Israel and meeting with the Israeli Minister of Education Naftai Bennett
Dear Minister Halligan,
We write with regard to your trip to Palestine-Israel and, in particular, the disturbing report of your appointment to meet Israel’s Minister for Education Naftali Bennet. We call on you as a representative of the Irish people to honour our government’s commitment to human rights and international law by refraining from any co-operation or joint projects with Israel’s Ministry of Education for reasons we expound below.
As a group of academics and educators working in Irish institutions of higher education, north and south, we are committed to positively supporting Palestinian universities, staff and students who are enduring the systematic destruction of their educational endeavours under Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation and on-going colonisation of Palestinian lands in contravention of international law.
Israel’s educational institutes play a key role in its crimes, in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.”
- Israeli higher education institutions collaborate with the occupation
Israel’s security forces are heavily dependent on innovatory technological developments that facilitate the occupation. Academic institutions including the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, the Herzlia Interdisciplinary Centre, the Holon Institute and the Weizmann Institute conduct research and assist in manufacturing armaments and security equipment including drones, remote controlled D9 Bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, unmanned combat vehicles, electro-optics and robotic devises, all of which facilitate – through innovation and technology – the operation of the occupation and the exportation of armaments to the extent of $7 bn per annum (http://www.alternativenews.org/).
- Israeli universities support soldiers and discriminate against Palestinian academics and students
All Israeli universities support student-soldiers and give extra credits, grants and additional exam dates to serving reservists, and have special education programmes for serving soldiers, officers and veterans. Israeli academic institutions discriminate against Palestinians citizens who make 20.7% of the Israeli population: in 2011-12 only 1.4% of senior faculty in Israel’s academic institutions were Palestinians; Palestinian students make up 9.4% of BA students, 8% of MA students and 4% of PhD students. Israeli academic institutions have appointed several high-ranking former IDF and Security Agency (Shin Bet) officers to academic positions despite the conflict of interest (http://www.sikkuy.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/nohad_ali_hebrew1.pdf).
- Israel jeopardizes Palestinian education
According to National Students for Justice in Palestine (http://www.nationalsjp.org/education-under-occupation.html), Palestinian Universities have endured an acute degree of suffering under the Israeli occupation. The repression of academic life in the occupied Palestinian territories is part of a concentrated and systematic political effort of the Israeli government to attack the means of development of Palestinian society. Palestinian universities and schools are regularly closed by the Israeli military and students and academics have huge difficulties to reach their classes due to the separation wall and the many checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank. During the last Israeli attack of Gaza in 2014, the Islamic University was bombed as were many schools.
- Israel regularly detains Palestinian children
According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem: ‘By the end of September 2016 414 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 13 administrative detainees. Another 7 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. The IPS considers these minors – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders’ (www.btselem.org/statistics/minors_in_custody).
Academics for Palestine supports the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which has denounced the complicity of Israel’s academic institutions not only in developing weapon systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza, but also in justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, and in providing moral justification for occupation and siege as well as extra-judicial killings and indiscriminate attacks against Palestinian civilians (http://www.pacbi.org/). 217 Irish academics have signed the pledge to boycott Israeli academic institutions (https://academicsforpalestine.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-irish-academics-pledge-to-boycott-israel/) in response to the request by Palestinian civil society organizations.
Academics for Palestine believe that a meeting between the Irish Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation and the Israeli Minister for Education who heads an extreme right wing party and has expressed disturbing extremist and racist views, including statements against any possibility of a Palestinian state or a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, is at best ill advised. Treating Israel as a ‘normal’ state with whom Ireland can cooperate on innovation and education is anathema to our country’s avowed commitment to human rights and justice.
Enclosed is a pamphlet produced by Academics for Palestine for your further information and consideration.
Dr. Ronit Lentin
On Behalf of Academics for Palestine