Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Is Education a Threat to Peace?

by Elliott Abrams
December 28, 2012


The newest threat to peace in the Middle East is a college–at least according to the government of the United Kingdom.

The educational institution in question is Ariel College, now Ariel University, in the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. Ariel was founded in 1978 and now has about 20,000 residents. Ariel College was founded in 1982 as a branch of Bar Ilan University, became independent in 2005, and now has a remarkable 14,000 students from all over Israel and even a branch in Tel Aviv. It also has the largest group of Ethiopian-born immigrant students of any university in Israel, and hundreds of Israeli Arab students. The university has five faculties as of now: architecture, natural science, engineering, health sciences, and humanities and social sciences, and plans to add more. In 2008 Ariel College applied for upgrading from college to university, and despite strong opposition in some parts of Israel’s educational establishment, that change was just approved.

Here is a comment on the college from last summer:

Speaking to the BBC, the Israeli Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann stated that there was “a really strong need” for an upgraded institution in Ariel. He was a member of a committee that evaluated the performance of the Ariel University Centre. “I was very impressed by the quality of the place as an academic institution and I think Israel needs another university,” said Mr Aumann, a mathematician. “The last time when an additional university was added to the roster of Israeli universities was in 1972. At the time the population was three and a quarter million. The population of Israel today is almost eight million.”

In the social science faculty they teach “political behavior” and “international relations,” which ought to be useful this week as students try to figure out what just happened in London. Here is what The Guardian of London reported:

The British government has warned that the official authorisation of Israel’s first settlement university will create another hurdle in the peace process….In a statement released on Thursday, the British foreign office minister Alistair Burt said the UK was deeply disappointed by the decision.” Ariel is beyond the Green Line in a settlement that is illegal according to international law. This decision will deepen the presence of the settlements in the Palestinian territories and will create another obstacle to peace,” the statement said.

Now, British opposition to settlement activity is well known, and no one was surprised by British condemnation of recent Israeli announcements of more planned construction in West Bank settlements and in Jerusalem (for the British draw no distinction between building in West Bank settlements and building in Israel’s capital). But is it not stretching things more than a bit to call an upgrade from “college” to “university” an “obstacle to peace?” If education is an obstacle to peace, how about ignorance, and prejudice?

When the British reach out to criticize not just settlement activity but the change of status of a college to a university, when they insist on condemning improvements in what has been Israel’s largest public college, when they ignore that institutions’s role in educating students who are immigrants, they betray a hostility that itself is an “obstacle to peace.”


Post a Comment 7 Comments

  • Posted by John Robertson

    The problem, Mr. Abrams, is that Ariel is not located in Israel. It is therefore not an Israeli university. Nor ought it ever to be.

  • Posted by nir

    John, the institution exists whether one likes it or not. Will naming it a “university” instead of a “university center” really matters ? will it change the chances for peace:

    1. As for now all countries next to Israel are collapsing. 45,000 People died during the last year in Syria, Jordan is about to have its own trouble. About 300 people were killed in Egypt and Shariaa laws are adopted in Egypt. A quite civil war is waging also in Lebanon.
    2. In all these places Salafies (extreme Sunni islamists) or extreme Shiats (Al-qaida) are taking over. For example take Cunetra village in Syria which is located near the Israeli border.
    3. Hamas political COVENANT (article 7) states that “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’ And the phatah (the ruling party in the west bank) is getting weaker by the day. Both hamas and phatah won’t talk to each other (they pretend they are but everybody knows it’s a lie).
    4. Iran and Hizbulla in lebanon clearly says that they want to “erase” Israel of the map.

    And you think that naming Ariel a “university” actually matters ?!


  • Posted by Elliott

    John, all of Judea-Samaria or, as you might say, “west bank,” were not only parts of the ancient Jewish homeland, Judea to the Romans, but were recognized as the Jewish national home by the San Remo Conference [1920] and the League of Nations [1922]. That is Judea-Samaria were recognized as Jewish not only in history but by international law. No act of international law has changed that status since 1922.

  • Posted by Tamir

    If I may add to Elliott’s (and Nir’s) response, the ‘Green Line’ which the British Guardian and many others love to mention as Israel’s border, is not a recognized International border, and never was. The ‘Green Line’ is the result of the 1949 armistice talk between the newly formed State of Israel and the Arab states that started a war in an attempt to wipe out Israel. That war (Israel’s ‘War of Independence’) was initiated by the surrounding Arab states after the UNSCOP – United Nations Special Committee on Palestine – proposed the ‘Partition Plan’ (dividing Palestine between Arabs and Jews) and the UN voted in 1947 with great majority in favor of the plan. The leadership of the Jewish people in “Palestine” accepted the plan while the Arabs rejected it. Consequently, the plan never became a decision and had no valid status. As Elliott stated, the last International decision on Palestine was that of the League of Nations in 1922. That decision allotted the area called Palestine, including what became later Jordan, to form a homeland for the Jew, and gave the British a Mandate to carry out the decision. Britain, out of internal interests parcelled out Jordan, and now believing apparently that they still hold a Mandate over the area, want to further parcel the area to create another Arab country ‘ex-‘nihilum.

  • Posted by Raymond in DC

    Ariel’s student body includes not just Arabs from Israel but from the PA (“West Bank”) as well.

    As it happens, this isn’t the first time the heads of Israel’s established universities have opposed creation of a new institution. This happened as well when Tel Aviv U and Haifa U were being developed. They’re just especially ticked off that this one is thriving beyond the Green Line.

    By the way, the UK’s Burt can claim the settlement is “illegal according to international law”, but that just suggests a weak understanding of what international law is. A number of very prominent international law specialists have argued that Israel has a greater legal claim to the territory than any competing claimants.

  • Posted by Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

    John needs to read the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, the 1924 Anglo-American Convention, and Article 80 of the U.N. Charter. All of these are easily findable on the Internet. Inasmuch as the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan (Resolution 181, only a non-binding General Assembly recommendation) failed because the Arabs rejected it and attacked Palestinian Jews instead, the four previous legal instruments I have mentioned are still in force and the legal borders of Israel are the Jordan River to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. When the Ottoman Empire was dismantled at the end of World War I, the Turks got Turkey, the Arabs got 99% of what was left (via the Mandate for Mesopotamia and the Mandate for Syria), and the Jews got 1%. That 1% was Palestine, which included Gaza, all of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria (which Jordan renamed the West Bank). Transjordan (later Jordan) and the Golan were also included in the territory originally designated for the Jewish homeland but were lopped off by Britain so that what was given to the Jews was less than 25% of what they had originally been promised.. If you look at the Map of the Middle East at the Masada 2000 Web site, clicking on the Geography button, you will see a tiny red strip (present-day Israel within 1949 green armistice lines) in a vast sea of green (Arab/Muslim countries). There are 22 Arab states in the world. There are 56 Muslim states in the world. There is one tiny Jewish state. Those green armistice lines drawn where the defending Israeli army was, as opposed to where the attacking Arab armies were, when the 1948 war ended were not supposed to be borders. In fact, the Arabs themselves objected then to calling them borders. Do the research yourself, John, and learn.

  • Posted by Roslyn Pine

    Exactly so, Ms. Rosenfeld. For readers information, the best account of the history of the conflict, Britain’s role in it and the actual legal status of the territories today is to be found in a book by Howard Grief…”The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law”. It is an outstanding work of scholarship by a lawyer who spent some 25 years researching original papers and documents, and who became legal advisor to Yuval Ne’eman on these questions whan the latter was minister of science and communications in Shamir’s government.
    Ne’eman, by the way, was an outstanding physicist who put into place Isreal’s space programme and who discovered the quark independently of others. Thet he chose Grief to advise him on matters of interntional law says it all.

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