Survey: Half of Arabs in Israeli Universities Suffer Racism

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Students in Tel Aviv University
Students in Tel Aviv UniversityCredit: Nir Kafri

About half of all Arab university students reported experiencing racism and discrimination in the academic setting, and some 40 percent say racist comments come from the faculty, according to a new survey presented Tuesday at the Knesset.

The survey, which polled more than 1,300 Arab students at various institutions, revealed the difficulties Arab students have in integrating into academic studies and in receiving scholarships, and a sense of being unrepresented on campus in terms of language and culture.

According to the survey, which was conducted by New Wave Research and commissioned by the National Student Union and the Abraham Fund, universities do not make it easier for Arab students to integrate, for example, by taking holidays and fast days into consideration. In addition, 30 percent said they were unable to apply for scholarships because they had not served in the army. About 60 percent said they were the first person in their family to attend university.

The figures, presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Knesset caucus for higher education, headed by MKs Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) and Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), also show that many of the respondents believed that their studies were not accessible to Arabic speakers. The students called on schools to translate their websites and campus signs into Arabic and provide computer keyboards with Arabic letters.

Nevertheless, respondents also reported that some campus services are available in Arabic, including counseling, a student union representative responsible for issues relating to Arab students, and a prayer room.

About half the students polled said meetings were held between Arab and Jewish students, which were mainly social rather than political. A similar number said that the level of political expression possible on campus was low, in terms of forming groups and holding demonstrations.

Sixty percent of the students surveyed said they had forged ties with Jewish students unconnected to their studies, and 75 percent said they were satisfied with the study program they had chosen.

A report published in 2014 showed that universities are not meeting the goals that have been set for them in terms of making studies accessible to Arab students, and that Arabic language and culture were almost absent from academic settings. And in March, Haaretz reported that funding academic institutions had received to help Arab students advance was not being used efficiently. The National Student Union found at the time that some of the institutions were not using the funding at all, and others were using it for purposes unconnected with Arab students.

The chairman of the National Student Union, Ram Shefa, said in response: “It’s regrettable that at institutions of higher learning of all places there is discrimination against those who are unable to break the glass ceiling.” The Abraham Fund said that the survey reflected a worrisome picture on the campuses and that this was an opportunity to formulate a better response for Arab students.”

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