University charged with racism for backing Zionist settlement recruiters

June 23, 2011
Sarah Benton

Ben Gurion University Invites NGO to Enter Classrooms, Promote Jewish-Only Settlement in Galilee, Negev
22.06.11 Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Ben Gurion University gave permission to Ayalim, a Zionist and Jewish-only association, to appear before classes in order to encourage Jewish students to settle in the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee, areas with substantial Palestinian and Bedouin-Palestinian populations. University lecturers protest racism.

The central committee of Ben Gurion University of the Negev gave permission to staff from Ayalim, a Zionist association that works to encourage Jewish student settlement in the Naqab (Negev) and Galilee, to appear in the first minutes of each lesson until conclusion of the academic year. According to the Israeli online news site Ynet, a letter distributed by the committee to the faculty deans noted that “representatives of Ayalim are to identify themselves to staff members before receiving permission to speak.”

Ayalim has to date established 14 student villages in the Naqab and Galilee. Through its partnership with Ben Gurion University, Ayalim aspired to mobilize additional students for its settlement project and social involvement, through realization of “Ben Gurion’s vision,” as it defines this.

This decision of the university management, however, angered numerous lecturers as the association targets only Jewish students. Dr. Hamutal Tsamir, a lecturer in the Department of Hebrew Literature, wrote in internal university correspondence that “in my opinion this is most racist, but even if there is no violation of the law or university regulations – it should be conditioned that its staff declare ahead of time, upon their entrance, “we turn to Jews only.”

Dr. Nahum Karlinsky, a lecturer in the Department of History of the Jewish People, explained his opposition in that the association is political and excludes non-Jews from it. “Its primary goal is Jewish settlement in the urban spaces throughout the country,” he wrote to staff members, “through an emphasis on the urban spaces of mixed cities such as Acco and Beer Sheva.” Karlinsky argued that the decision of the committee comes as an attempt to “placate the Ministry of Education, various donors and an aspiration to quell a bit the attacks on our university by Im Tirzu.”

Ynet quotes another lecturer as noting that Ayalim itself as a Zionist association that targets only Jewish students only, conflicts with the values of equality “precisely in a period in which the lands of the Bedouins are taken from them again and again with the contention that “there is no land”. Perhaps the association itself is legitimate, but the important question is if it is appropriate that the university encourage it?”

President of Ben Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi, said “I have nothing to say about internal correspondence, but only about the great and pioneering activity of theAyalim association.”

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