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Haaretz: “Israeli group urges sanctions on B.A. program for Shin Bet”

By Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz Correspondent

An Israeli group is planning to brief the British teachers’ association on a new Hebrew University program, approved last week, to grant undergraduate degrees to Shin Bet security services personnel. The Israeli initiative favors imposing sanctions on Israeli organizations that cooperate with the occupation in the territories.

The British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) is to discuss a proposal Monday for an academic boycott of Israel.

The program, which will award a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies, was modified after it was first reported in Haaretz, and was lengthened from 16 to 24 months. Sixty percent is to be conducted on campus. The humanities faculty council last week approved the program by a large majority, but must still be vetted by the Council for Higher Education. The members of the Israeli initiative to approach NATFHE, both Jews and Arabs, say they understand they will not garner great support in Israel but that they want to give moral support and information to organizations abroad regarding sanctions against supporters of the occupation in the territories.

Professor Moshe Zimmerman, a historian who was not present at the meeting, called his experience with such programs “very bitter.” He said that in another special program for the Israel Defense Forces command college, students missed one of his classes because they were serving at roadblocks. Zimmerman said at the time he would “prefer that if someone misses my class, it is because he is sitting in jail because he did not want to sit at a roadblock.”

The commander of the military college demanded that Zimmerman not continue to teach the course. When his demand was not met, the army pulled out of the course and the university offered another instead. “This shows that these are not purely academic programs,” Zimmerman said, but that the security institution can force the hand of the university, and by cooperating with the military, the university loses its academic freedom.

The Federation of Unions of Palestinian University Professors and Employees and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) have called on NATFHE to consider boycotting organizations and individuals in Israel who refuse to denounce the occupation.

In an open letter to NATFHE, the Palestinian professors association and PACBI said the initiative “comes at a time when the international community … is incapable of delivering justice to the Palestinian people,” adding, “no Israeli academic body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”