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A Leftist Academic Responds to Calls to Stop Teaching at a West Bank University

Ariel University's existence depends only on the science it creates. In 10-15 years it will be one of Israel's top three universities

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Ariel University in the West Bank, in 2013.
Ariel University in the West Bank.Credit: Moti Milrod

Hello there, Uri Misgav. We met a few months ago, in Ariel. You were on stage. I tried explaining to you the point of having a university in Ariel. Before laying out your thesis regarding why there should be none, similar to the one explained in your Haaretz article (“Leftists, stop teaching in Ariel,” July 5), you asked me if I was the Yossi Goldstein who had written the biography of Levi Eshkol. I think you were astonished when I answered in the affirmative. “What are you doing here?” you asked me. The association is clear. Indeed, I am a fervent leftist. I am reminding you of this because your article contains some basic errors.

You are correct in stating that the university, being in occupied territory, was erected on the basis of a military order. But you forgot that in order for the general to sign the order giving the college the status of a university, it needed to meet the stringent criteria laid down by the Council for Higher Education and its Planning and Budgeting Committee, which it did.

These criteria included meeting minimal quantitative and qualitative scientific yardsticks such as publications and research projects conducted by faculty members, research laboratories, appropriate physical conditions, etc. I invite you to examine the academic-scientific criteria on which the conversion of the college to a university was based on – they are open and accessible. I would say that these were more stringent than the ones required at the time of Tel Aviv and Bar-Ilan universities when they were approved in the 1950s, or the standards required of Ben-Gurion and Haifa universities in the early 1970s.

I am not ignoring the political context or the physical location of Ariel University. Nor am I oblivious to the unequivocal statement made by its operating in a disputed geographical area. I wasn’t born yesterday. I will simply say that this is a matter that is important to politicians. I am a scientist. The existence of Ariel University depends, as far as I’m concerned, only on the science created within its walls. And it does. I may surprise you with my estimate that within 10-15 years Ariel University will be among the three leading universities in this country, or among the top 200 in the world. Mark my words.

You find it deplorable that Sheldon Adelson contributed to the establishment of a faculty of medicine in Ariel. I can point out to you the hundreds of donors to other Israeli universities. Please check who they were and where they came from. I really don’t care (other than totally rejecting any donations deriving from “blood money,” which is not the case with Adelson’s donation). What is important is that this science-producing faculty is built, and for that I thank Adelson.

Finally, one can forgive the way politicians exploited the occasion for their political benefits. For me, the result is of paramount importance. I don’t think it’s so bad that following their speeches a faculty of medicine will be built. On the contrary, they should be blessed for this.

I can only say to them, through you, that the existence or non-existence of Ariel University will not assist their political vision. I wish with all my heart for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and it shall happen. I hope that Ariel remains within Israel when this happens. If it doesn’t we’ll move to Rosh Ha’ayin. That’s not so bad. The main thing is that Ariel produces science, whether from the Shomron or from the coastal plain. And it will continue doing so.