To Professor Moshe Kaveh President Bar Ilan University

Dear Sir

In various media interviews today you expressed anger at the decision of British university lecturers to declare a boycott against the Bar-Ilan University, calling it ‘an unacceptable mixing of politics into academic life’. When asked about the ‘Judea and Samaria College’ which your university maintains at the settlement of Ariel, you stated that this was ‘an entirely non-political issue’ and that said college was nothing more than ‘the largest of five colleges which Bar Ilan maintains at different locations in Israel’. Indeed, you declared yourself and your colleagues to be proud of the decision to establish the Ariel college, and you felt no contradiction between continuing to maintain that college, at the investment of a considerable part of Bar Ilan’s total resources, and the maintenance of extensive ties with universities worldwide, including in Britain.

As an example you mentioned your own ties as a physicist with Cambridge University and your plans to spend some time at Cambridge this summer – plans which, as you stated, remain unchanged also in the wake of the British lecturers’ decision.

Surely, a person of your intelligence and experience can be expected to note the obvious contradictions in the above position. As you well know, Ariel is not ‘a location in Israel’. Rather, Ariel is a location in a territory under military occupation, a territory which is not and has never been part of the state of Israel. Moreover, Ariel is a special kind of location: it is an armed enclave, created by armed force and dependent for its continued existence on force, and force alone.

The creation of Ariel is a severe violation of international law, specifically of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifically forbids an occupying power from transferring and settling its own citizens in the occupied territory. On the ground, the creation and maintenance of Ariel entailed and continues to entail untold hardships to the Palestinians who happen to live in the nearby town of Salfit and in numerous villages a long distance all around. Palestinian inhabitants are exposed to ongoing confiscation of their land so as to feed the land hunger of the ever-expending Ariel settlement, and their daily life are subjected to increasingly stringent travel limitations in the name of ‘preserving the settlers’ security’.

The government-approved plans to extend the ‘Separation Fence’ so as to create a corridor linking Ariel to the Israeli border necessitate the confiscation of yet more vast tracts of Palestinian land, depriving thousands of villagers of their sole source of livelihood. Moreover, should the Ariel corridor be completed, it would cut deeply through the territory which the international community earmarked for creation of a Palestinian state, depriving that state of territorial continuity and viability. For that reason, the plan aroused widespread international opposition, not least from the United States, our main ally on the international arena.

In all of this the Bar Ilan University, of which you are president, made itself a major partner – indeed,since a violation of international law is involved, the term ‘accomplice’ may well be used. The ‘Judea and Samaria College’ which you and your colleagues established and nurtured has a central role in the settlement of Ariel, increasing its population and its economic clout. The college’s faculty and students are prime users of the ‘Trans-Samaria Road’, the four-lane highway which was created on confiscated Palestinian land in order to provide quick transportation to Ariel. The Palestinian villagers on whose land this highway was built are excluded from using it. They are relegated to a rugged, bumpy mountain trail.

It is you and your colleagues, Professor Kaveh, who started mixing academics with politics. A very heavy mixture, such as few universities anywhere ever engaged in. You cannot really complain when people in Britain, who have different standards for what is the proper moral behavior of academics (or for human beings in general) take action which you do not like. In fact, if you are truly proud of establishing and maintaining the ‘Judea and Samaria College’, you must have the courage of your convictions and take the consequences. Much better, of course, would be for you and your colleagues to sever your connection with the ill-conceived settlement project – and than you can quite rightly demand that the boycott be removed from your university.


Uri Avnery

Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc)