Knesset Committee Slams Plan to Teach Law in English

MKs say English-language law degrees should only exist to attract foreign students and their tuition - not Israelis.

Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop
Yarden Skop

The Knesset Education Committee said Tuesday it vehemently opposes a recent push to establish English-language degree programs in law, saying such studies could undermine the place of Hebrew in Israeli society and facilitate emigration.

MKs said they would only allow English-language law programs that cater exclusively to foreign students.

“If you want to take tuition from foreign students, that’s fine,” said committee chairman Amram Mitzna (Labor). “But to open such a path to Israelis is not proper and as the Education Committee we will not allow it.”

Both the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and the College of Law and Business in Ramat Gan have applied to the Council for Higher Education for permission to introduce undergraduate law programs in English. The higher education body has appointed a committee headed by Prof. Amnon Rubinstein to examine the matter.

MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud), who initiated the committee debate, said that the panel must call on the Council not to approve the programs, in order to protect the status of Hebrew in Israeli society. Ohayon, who is chairman of the Knesset caucus for the advancement of the Hebrew language, said he would soon submit a bill that would limit undergraduate studies in English to foreign students.

Some academics also spoke out against the push for English-language programs in law. Prof. Sinai Deutch, dean of the law school at the Netanya Academic College, told the MKs that the study of law in English is particularly problematic.

“Law studies are totally different from medicine or science. While there is no such thing as a specifically Israeli catheter or German catheter, but there is such a thing as Hebrew law. There are more than a million court rulings in Hebrew and all the literature is in Hebrew,” Deutch said.

He added Israelis might prefer an English law program as a way to facilitate emigration to the United States. “One of the colleges asking for the program in English trains students to pass the New York bar exams – just get a green card and you’re set,” he said.

Prof. Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Shaarei Mishpat Law College, said, “There’s also a social aspect here. This will be an elitist program and a springboard for emigrating. From a public perspective it’s a crazy idea.”

Students attend a class at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.Credit: Ran Yitzchak

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