The Hypocrisy of the University Cartel

The fuel that is igniting the campaign against Ariel University is purely political and ideological

The new medical school under construction at Ariel University, January 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

For years, the cartel of the universities fought against the establishment of a university in Samaria. The arguments presented were “professional” but the main reason was political. And Haaretz also brought all of its influence to bear in support of the cartel. Yet the battle failed. The university is thriving with an enrollment of 15,000 students (10 percent of them Arabs) in four faculties and two professional schools. The medical school, whose establishment received (apparently final) approval a few days ago, will be the third. Now all the fury is being directed here.

Three years ago, when the founding of the medical school in Ariel was announced, another stage of the battle began, one that continues to this day. Again, for “professional” reasons, of course. The severe shortage of doctors in this country and the necessity for so many medical students to study abroad, often at inferior medical schools in Eastern Europe, were of no concern to the opponents.

Fifty-eight percent of the doctors in Israel had to study abroad. Tuition and living expenses at the best schools in Italy, the Czech Republic and Hungary ranges from 750,000 to a million shekels ($205,000 to $274,000) per student. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how much hardship could be relieved by having another medical school in Israel. The fight against the new medical school is also being fueled by the fact that Netanyahu supporters Miriam and Sheldon Adelson are the main patrons and financiers of this school.

>> A new medical school that will benefit Israelis and Palestinians alike | Opinion

“Everything is motivated today by one thing, an extremely strong political agenda,” said Professor Joseph Klafter, the outgoing chair of the Committee of University Heads. No question, politics played a part, perhaps a substantial one, in the decision by Naftali Bennett and the Adelson family about where to place another medical school in Israel.

However, contrary to the hypocrites who oppose it for “professional reasons only,” the dominant consideration was also a matter of national need: Israel is desperate for more doctors, yet for unacceptable, mostly political, reasons the universities’ cartel is blocking the attempt to reduce this shortage. Those who are truly motivated by “an extremely strong political agenda” are actually Klafter and company, who are weaving together ideological politics and academic politics.

Klafter is the president of Tel Aviv University. While waging war on Ariel, he has completely forgotten the all-out war that was once waged – only for “professional” reasons, of course – by the Hebrew University against the university of which he is now president. If not for political action by Palmach veterans in the cabinet and the Knesset (recruited for the cause by another Palmach veteran, Zvi Yavetz, one of the university’s founders), who knows when this university would have come into being.

Klafter earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Bar-Ilan University. Opposition to that university’s founding was even greater. If not for the political support of the National Religious Party, it may well not have been established. “Professional” arguments were also made against the founding of Ben-Gurion University. And the same occurred when Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein pushed through a revolution in higher education with the opening of numerous colleges.

The fuel that is igniting the campaign against the university in Samaria is purely political and ideological. The university, which is flourishing together with the city of Ariel and the nearby settlements, will reinforce the Jewish hold on Samaria. A large mass of Jewish settlement in this area, with institutions of higher education and factories and businesses that continue to be built despite the boycott threats in the Ariel-Barkan industrial zone, put paid to the dearest wish of the dominant branch of academia: to expel the Jews from Judea and Samaria too.