This weekend Queen’s University Belfast is holding a joint event with the Faculty of Law in Haifa University, an institution that, according to its website, has “a unique partnership with the Israel Defence Forces whereby the IDF’s future leadership and the decision-makers of tomorrow study in our prestigious Havatzalot project for select members of the Intelligence Corps, in our Naval Officers course, and in the University’s National Security Studies Centre. We are training senior IDF officers in modern social science and strategic thinking.”
Academics for Palestine (AFP) maintain that the event, entitled ‘The role of law schools in conducting research in divided societies’ serves the Israeli narrative that ‘both sides’ are to blame for the colonisation and occupation of Palestine, creating an illusion of parity while obscuring the realty for the Palestinians living under occupation and governed by Israel’s military laws in what is one of the longest-running occupations in the world.
Below is the letter we sent to the Head of the School of Law, Dr. Robin Hickey, protesting the collaboration.
TO: Dr Robin Hickey, Head of School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast.
Cc: Vice Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston; Professor Christopher McCrudden; Professor Sally Wheeler; Professor Hastings Donnan
11 November 2016
Dear Dr. Hickey
Academics for Palestine is a group of academics and educators working in Irish institutions of higher education, north and south, committed to positively supporting Palestinian universities, academics and students who are enduring the systematic destruction of their educational endeavours under Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation and on-going colonization of Palestinian lands in contravention of international law.
We are writing to protest the event hosted by you this weekend and the proposed partnership between the School of Law, QUB and that of Haifa University. We draw your attention to the international call for the academic boycott of Israel as a legal and non-violent means of ending Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid against the Palestinian people, a regime in which Haifa University plays a key, well-documented role.
Through this weekend’s event ‘The role of law schools in conducting research in divided societies’ you are giving a platform to academics who represent the views of the occupier and colonizer (where are the Palestinian voice and experience in this event?). The title alone is biased: the concept of ‘divided societies’ is fallacious in relation to Israel, a settler colonial state built on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population and maintained through apartheid laws. As a legal scholar you surely are aware of this and of the international law implications. In hosting this event you are complicit in facilitating propaganda that serves to promote Israel’s narrative of a ‘divided society’ where resistance to the regime is equated with terrorism. Your event obscures the realty for the Palestinians living under occupation and governed by Israel’s military laws in what is currently the longest occupation in the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross’s report The Judicial Arm of the Occupation: Israeli Military Courts in the Occupied Territories finds the Israeli military legal system invades civilian domains and states that ‘This domination by the army seems to be even more dangerous because it appears to be under the guise of the rule of law.”
While all Israeli Universities are involved in the military activities of the state – from developing weapons to devising techniques of ‘advanced interrogation’ i.e. torture, Haifa University stands out in a number of ways detailed below. Indeed, its Rector proudly describes it as an “academic home for the security forces”:
Military Intelligence and Security
On its website Haifa University boasts ‘We have a unique partnership with the Israel Defence Forces whereby the IDF’s future leadership and the decision-makers of tomorrow study in our prestigious Havatzalot project for select members of the Intelligence Corps, in our Naval Officers course, and in the University’s National Security Studies Centre. We are training senior IDF officers in modern social science and strategic thinking.’
Through the Havatzalot Programme of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Haifa University participates in the education of an elite group of Military Intelligence Officers. In 2014 the tactics used by intelligence services in the Palestinian Territories were exposed by whistle-blowers: ‘The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed.’ Appointee of Prime Minister Netanyahu, head of the infamous Shin Bet, Israel National Security Agency, Nadav Argaman, received his education at the National Security College of Haifa University. The Shin Bet is implicated in numerous abuses of human rights and international law including torture, and its work underpins Israel’s system of Administrative Detention criticized by the UN. In April 2016 Israel was holding 13 children under administrative detention. Approximately 700 Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted every year through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army.
Demography and Occupation
Haifa University is directly involved in determining Israel’s policies of occupation, and holds conferences and projects on the ‘demographic problem’ posed by its Palestinian citizens. One of Israel’s leading demographers, Haifa University professor of Geo-strategy Arnon Soffer, who conceived the separation (Apartheid) wall, was the head of the IDF College for National Security, taught at the Police Training College for many years, and has supported upholding Israel’s ‘demographic balance’ to ensure a Jewish majority through policies of ethnic cleansing, population transfer and the prevention of Palestinian refugee return. Though retired, Soffer continues to teach security officials at Haifa University, including students from the National Defence College, Tactical Command College, the Havatzalot Programme of the Intelligence Corps, and the Trainee Course of the Israel police.
In 2004 Soffer said about Gaza: ‘When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful… So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day’.
Another Haifa University academic, Prof David Bukay, investigated by the Attorney-General for racial incitement, was defended by the University’s rector for publications that promote theories about ‘the Arab character’.
Discrimination against Palestinians within the University
Haifa University privileges student-soldiers and gives extra credits, grants and additional exam dates to serving reservists, thereby discriminating against its Palestinian students who do not serve in the military. In contrast, Haifa University boasts the highest rate of ‘Arab’ students in Israeli Universities – 14.4% at BA level – well below the percentage of Palestinian citizens in Israel (20.7%). The low rate of participation cannot be explained by a lack of Palestinian commitment to education: in the occupied territory 25.8% of the population between 18-24 are enrolled in higher education – one of the highest in the Middle East.
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. 217 Irish academics have signed the pledge to boycott Israeli academic institutions in response to the request by Palestinian civil society organizations. We enclose our information booklet for further information and consideration.
We strongly urge you to not to participate in any partnership with Haifa University and to respect the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel.
Academics for Palestine