No Room for Arab Students at Israeli Universities

New Rules Favour Former Soldiers

Measures designed to benefit Jewish school-leavers applying for places in Israeli higher education at the cost of their Arab counterparts have been criticised by lawyers and human rights groups.  

The new initiatives are viewed as part of an ongoing drive by right-wing politicians in Israel to demand “loyalty” from the country’s large minority population of Arab citizens.  

Critics have termed the measures, including a programme to provide financial aid exclusively to students who have served in the Israeli army, a form of “covert discrimination”.  

While most Jews are conscripted into the military, Israel’s Arab citizens are generally barred from serving.

The issue came to a head last week over reports that Tel Aviv University had reserved a large number of dormitory places for discharged soldiers, leaving Arab students facing a severe shortage of university accommodation in the coming academic year.  

In addition, only former soldiers will be eligible in future for large subsidies on tuition fees under an amended law passed last month.  

Arab students already face many obstacles to pursuing higher education, according to the Dirasat policy research centre in Nazareth. These include psychometric exams — a combined aptitude and personality test that has been criticised as culturally biased — and minimum age restrictions for courses, typically at age 21, when soldiers finish their three-year service.  

But Tel Aviv university’s decision has come under fire because it will put further pressure on Arab students to forgo higher education.  

Most Arab families live far from Tel Aviv, with limited public transport connections. High poverty rates also mean few are able to afford private rooms for their children, and Arab students already complain that private landlords refuse to rent to them.  

Although comprising only five per cent of the student body at Tel Aviv university, Arabs won about 40 per cent of dorm places last year, when rooms were awarded using social and economic criteria, said Mohammed Awadi, a Tel Aviv student leader.  

“Now the university management has told us that most Arab students will be rejected because preference will be given to military service,” he said. “The message is that they would rather have a university without any Arabs at all.”  

Yousef Jabareen, Dirasat’s director, said the university’s decision represented an increasingly hardline attitude from its officials. “What is so worrying is that a supposedly liberal academic institution — not the right-wing government — is promoting discrimination,” he said.  

Yesterday, Joseph Klafter, the university’s president, was reported to be inspecting course reading lists for signs of what officials called “post-Zionist bias”, or criticism of Israel’s founding ideology.  

Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal centre in Haifa, said the new rules on subsidised tuition and student housing were part of the government’s “loyalty drive”, a programme of reforms that has been decried for creating an overtly hostile political climate towards the Arab minority.  

The campaign has been spearheaded by the Yisrael Beitenu party of the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose election slogan was “No loyalty, no citizenship”.  

The use of military service as a criterion for awarding student housing was ruled discriminatory two years ago by Haifa district court. The government, however, quickly amended the law, allowing universities to change their rules, as Tel Aviv University has now done.  

Haifa University, which has the largest Arab student population, also reserves dorm rooms for former soldiers.  

Far-right leaders have suggested in the past that the Arab minority can be encouraged to emigrate by restricting access to higher education. Benny Elon, a former cabinet minister, notoriously summed up the policy as: “I will close the universities to you, I will make your lives difficult, until you want to leave.”  

Last month the parliament approved a package of additional financial benefits to encourage former soldiers to study in “peripheral areas”, including three colleges in West Bank settlements.  

Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace group, warned that the law would push Israel’s academic system “deeper into complicity with the occupation” and bolster the movement for an academic boycott of Israel.  

Ms Zaher said the government appeared determined to push farther along the same path.

Last month a ministerial committee approved a draft bill that would allow private businesses to award extra benefits to former soldiers.  

Although Arabs are a quarter of the college-age population, they comprise only eight per cent of the students attending Israeli universities.  

A Dirasat survey last year showed that half of Arab students — about 5,400 — chose to study abroad, mainly in neighbouring Jordan, because of the difficulties they faced in Israel.  

Ms Zaher said that introducing discriminatory measures at universities would exacerbate already stark socio-economic disparities in Israel. Poverty rates among Arab families are three times those of the Jewish population.

“Rather than trying to remedy the discrimination by investing extra budgets to help the Arab community, public and private institutions are being encouraged to widen the gaps,” she said.  

Ms Zaher was due this week to send a letter to the Yehuda Weinstein, the attorney-general, calling for the government to stop tying basic rights to military service.  

At Tel Aviv University, Arab students expressed concern about the new rules.  

Rula Abu Hussein, a film studies student from Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, said she had been told to vacate her dorm by October, when her second year begins.  

“It’s really hard to find affordable private rooms in Tel Aviv for anyone but if you’re an Arab it’s especially difficult,” she said. “A lot of the landlords are racist and don’t want an Arab in their properties.”  

Tel Aviv university was unavailable for comment.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on August 17th, 2010 at 8:18am #

    Nazism is a blending of fascism and racial prejudice. Israel is a blending of fascism and racial prejudice.

  2. teafoe2 said on August 17th, 2010 at 9:42am #

    Correct. Hope this not totally redundant, but the above posted 8:18am is absolutely correct.

  3. Ismail Zayid said on August 17th, 2010 at 10:27am #

    “Covert Discrimination” as well as “Overt Discrimination” are standard Israeli practice against Arab citizens of Israel. Evidently, Arab students will not be spared this discrimination. It is planned to play a role in the ethnic cleansing of the young Arab generation, as programmed by Lieberman and his followers.

  4. mary said on August 17th, 2010 at 10:59am #

    This young female IDF reservist will remind you of the photos of Abu Ghraib featuring Lynndie England but without the actual physical atrocities, just the blindfolding. We are all as unteruntermenschen to these cruel people.

  5. hayate said on August 17th, 2010 at 11:29am #

    Unrelated to this particular article, except it just happened in israel:

    Man shot after rushing Turkish embassy
    Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:01pm GMT

    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – A man who entered the Turkish embassy’s compound in Tel Aviv was shot and wounded, an Israeli official who declined to be identified said on Tuesday.

    Israeli media identified the man as an armed Palestinian who briefly held two embassy staff hostage. Israel Radio said the man demanded that Turkey grant him political asylum because he was wanted by Palestinian and Israeli security services.

    Israeli media said Israeli police snipers fired shots at the man after they spotted him by a window at the embassy.

    Police blocked a major seaside road outside the embassy and several ambulances were at the scene.

    Relations between Israel and its once close Muslim ally Turkey have soured in recent months after a deadly Israeli commando raid at the end of May to stop a Turkish-led flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza Strip.

    Nine Turkish citizens were killed by Israelis in the raid.

    Looked, but didn’t find anything about this listed in the Turkish English language media.

  6. mebosa.ritchie said on August 17th, 2010 at 12:13pm #

    how many jews go to university in muslim arab countries?
    please tell us jonathan.

  7. teafoe2 said on August 17th, 2010 at 12:46pm #

    mebusa retchie: who cares.

  8. Rehmat said on August 17th, 2010 at 1:25pm #

    mebosa.ritchie tell us how many Jews do live in Muslim Arab countries and I will tell you how many of them still hold government postions.

    I give you a hint – Bahrain’s Ambassador to USA, Houda Nonoo is a bona fide Jew!!

  9. teafoe2 said on August 17th, 2010 at 1:47pm #

    25,000 Jews Live In Iran

    By Mike Whitney

    17 August, 2010
    Information Clearing House

    25,000 Jews live in Iran. It’s the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside of Israel. Iranian Jews are not persecuted or abused by the state, in fact, they are protected under Iran’s constitution. They are free to practice their religion and to vote in elections. They are not stopped and searched at checkpoints, they are not brutalized by an occupying army, and they are not herded into a densely-populated penal colony (Gaza) where they are deprived of the basic means of survival. Iranian Jews live in dignity and enjoy the benefits of citizenship.

    ///article snipt for brevity. do chk out the URL, it’s excellent.

  10. boatdoll said on August 17th, 2010 at 3:08pm #

    Now this is what I call Anti-Semitism.
    I see the Zionists have now hijacked the wikipedia definition to narrowly define it for themselves. Probably updated on the hour by the ADL to reflect their preferred slant. Here’s a qualifier: “While the term’s etymology might suggest that antisemitism is directed against all Semitic peoples…”
    Uh, yeah until you changed the meaning to suit your agenda, that’s what it means!

    These zionists will stop at nothing to advance their agenda of hate and domination, discrimination and ruthless behaviour.

  11. mebosa.ritchie said on August 17th, 2010 at 3:13pm #

    the real story of the jews in iran

    The Council of the Jewish Community, which was established after World War II, is the representative body of the community, which also has in parliament a representative who is obligated by law to support Iranian foreign policy and its anti-Zionist position.

    Despite the official distinction between “Jews,” “Zionists,” and “Israel,” the most common accusation the Jews encounter is that of maintaining contacts with Zionists. The Jewish community does enjoy a measure of religious freedom but is faced with constant suspicion of cooperating with the Zionist state and with “imperialistic America”-both such activities being punishable by death. Jews who apply for a passport to travel abroad must do so in a special bureau and are immediately put under surveillance. The Jews again live under

    read more »the status of dhimmi, with the restrictions imposed on religious minorities.

    The Islamization of the country has brought about strict control over Jewish educational institutions. Before the revolution, there were some 20 schools functioning throughout the country. In recent years, most of these have been closed down. In the remaining schools, Jewish principals have been replaced by Muslims. In Teheran there are still three schools in which Jewish pupils constitute a majority. The curriculum is Islamic, and the Bible is taught in Persian, not Hebrew. Special Hebrew lessons are conducted on Fridays by the Orthodox Otzar ha-Torah organization, which is responsible for Jewish religious education. Saturday is no longer officially recognized as the Jewish sabbath, and Jewish pupils are compelled to attend school on that day.

  12. mebosa.ritchie said on August 17th, 2010 at 3:17pm #

    rehmat,how many jews hold government positions in syria,libya,iraq,lebanon,egypt,jordan,saudi arabia,kuwait,etc etc
    everyone a racist,vicious,homophobic,anti-women state.
    just what a progressive left wing person like yourself loves

  13. teafoe2 said on August 17th, 2010 at 3:37pm #

    “Hebrew” as spoken in the Zionist Cesspool is not the ancient language spoken in the period when the original Israel existed as a state. It is a recent invention, compounded by some of the early hustlers of the “land without a people” scam, a blend of Torah Hebrew and Yiddish with a little Arabic thrown in.

    Jewish natives of Iran continue to speak what they’ve spoken for centuries: Farsi.

  14. hayate said on August 17th, 2010 at 7:02pm #


    Made that up all by yourself, did you.


    Israeli hires Internet soldiers

    Saturday, July 18th, 2009

    That’s all one needs to know.

    BTW, thanks for showing the slimy side of zionism. If you sayanim/hasbarats didn’t spam every website, then many wouldn’t realise what complete nazi lookalikes you people are.

  15. mary said on August 17th, 2010 at 11:06pm #

    British schoolchildren are not allowed to look at these pictures the children of Gaza have painted according to some Northern UK Jews in case they find out about:
    Operation Cast Lead
    the attack on the flotilla
    the attack on the Dignity
    the piracy of previous aid boats and the kidnapping of passengers, Operation Summer Rains
    Operation Autumn Clouds
    and the countless other separate bombings, shellings and incursions, not forgetting the actual siege and blockade.
    Gilad Atzmon considers the attempts by British Zionists stop an
    exhibition of paintings by children from Gaza from being shown in UK schools in order to minimize the impact of Israeli war crimes on the British public.

    Ritchie who has been summoned to attempt to counter the outrage over the Panorama programme (we are asking if we can pay our nTV licence fee direct to the Israeli government by the way) will pop up shortly with the old canards of Shalit, Sderot and the rrrrrrrrrrockets.

  16. Deadbeat said on August 18th, 2010 at 10:22pm #

    The great Noam is against boycotting Israeli universities. What a “role model” of the “Left” he’s turned out to be.

  17. hayate said on August 18th, 2010 at 11:12pm #

    This relates to Mary’s post:

    Gilad Atzmon: British Jews Support Israeli War Crimes

    Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 10:41PM

    The Jewish community in Britain seems to be over the moon. A survey that was published a few days ago suggests that British Jews are nothing but ‘peace lovers’. The Guardian was also quick to report that 77% of “British Jews favour a ‘two-state solution’ in Israel”.

    In practice, this actually means that at least 77% of British Jews believe that millions of dispossessed Palestinians should continue to dwell in refugee camps and never be allowed to their homes, cities, and villages. I am actually far from impressed with British Jewry’s inclination towards peace.

    Professor Dan McGowan pointed out recently that Israel and Palestine are in fact “one country with one water system, one electrical grid, one monetary system, one telephone system and one postal system. It is already one state, although half the population has lesser rights or none at all.” Bearing McGowan’s insight, I wonder what drives 77% of British Jews? Why don’t they really welcome Palestinian people to return to their land and enjoy exactly the same civil rights British Jews celebrate in the UK?

    But a further question must be raised here. What is it that qualifies British Jews or any other Diaspora Jews to interfere or engage so closely with the fate of millions of Palestinians?

    As it happens the Survey provides us with more devastating news. At the time we were devastated to find out that 94% of the Israelis supported the IDF’s murderous tactics at the time of Operation Cast Lead. As this new survey clearly reveals, the lack of ethics in British Jewry is far more concerning. Eighteen months after the massacre in Gaza and a year after the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict found Israel guilty of numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, nearly three quarters (72%) of British Jews agreed that Israel’s action in Gaza in 2008 and 2009 was “a legitimate act of self-defence”. I believe that in practice this means that 7 out of 10 British Jews support Israeli war crimes and somehow dismiss the finding of a UN Fact Finding Mission. This is pretty scary.

    The study, which was carried out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, (JPR) found that Jews in Britain strongly identify with Israel, with nine out of 10 having visited the country. JPR’s executive director, Jonathan Boyd, said: “Fundamentally, we found that most Jews feel a strong sense of connection to Israel, and for many it forms an important, and even central part of their Jewish identity.”

    For many years I have argued that within the Jewish secular discourse there is no ideological or spiritual dichotomy between the Israeli, the Jew and the Zionist. It is probably impossible to determine where the Zionist ends and the Jew starts. And yet, the notion that in Britain there is a minority community, the overwhelming majority of whom, support war crimes is pretty shocking, especially considering the devastating fact that every political party in this country is bankrolled by different shades of the ‘Friends of Israel.’

    In comparison I wonder how the British public would react if they find out that 72% of the Muslim community supported the killings in Mumbai, 7/7 or 9/11. I guess that we all know the answer.