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Reuven Kaminer | Alef List | 29 April 2005
From: Reuven Kaminer
Sent: Fri, April 29, 2005 7:34 PM
Subject: Bar Ilan University and Academic Freedom
Letter from Jerusalem
Bar Ilan University in the Defense of Academic Freedom
Bar Ilan University and the College of Judea and Samaria (CJS) are in the news. So here is some additional information for those interested in the subject. The CJS has recently submitted a request to have its research Master of Arts degree recognized by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) in Israel. Such a step is necessary if a student who completes his MA at the CJS plans to go on to doctoral studies in an Israeli university.
The relationship between the CJS and the Council of Higher Education in Israel is a bit complicated. If you check out the accreditation situation, it becomes clear that the CJS is not accredited by the CHE. However, the CHE does note on its website that the CJS is accredited by a separate body which is called the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria CHE-JS). This Council is situated at Bar Ilan University. The CHE-JS does not have a website and does not reveal to the public its composition. So we do not know the identity of the people who work out of an Israeli institution and consider themselves qualified to confer accreditation for BA studies and MA studies (non-research trend up to this point).
On the other hand, the CHE-JS is quite candid about the source of its jurisdiction and states that it operates on the basis of a decree issued by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In my translation, the decree is for the 'Administration of Local Authorities (Judea and Samaria) [tsav b'dvar nihul moatsot mikomiut] Number 892 from the year 1981, article 3 (h), addendum 4 - Orders regarding Education.'
Thus, the relevant IDF commander created a council for higher education in the West Bank. Some hard questions:
Can an army officer create either directly or indirectly a council for higher education?
Who defined the function and the goals of this CHE-JS? The IDF? The Council itself?
Who are the members of the CHE-JS and who appointed them.
Who in Israel decided and when was it decided to recognize the degrees granted by the CHE-JS?
What is the past, present and future relationship between Bar Ilan and CJS?
It would be stretching the concept of academic freedom a bit to include the right to set up and sponsor an 'institution of higher learning' in occupied territory.
Yours Reuven Kaminer
Jerusalem, Israel 91090
Tel 972 2 6414632
Fx 972 2 6421979
Here is a response received on the palmem list a day later (from Nick):
In response to the question in Reuven Kaminer's mail on whether an IDF commander can create a council for higher education in the West Bank, I can volunteer the following concerning the overall powers of the IDF. This may be of general interest to the list, since the implications (inevitably) lead back to apartheid-type issues and issues of the application of international law - both being the point of the boycott.
Since the inception of the military occupation in 1967, the IDF Area Commander has effectively governed the oPt by decree - using the instrument of the 'military order' - and assumed executive, legislative and judicial authority. As far as I know (not an expert on the finer details), the only checks on the exercise of these powers are the Area Commander's superiors in the military chain of command and the army's compliance with Israeli law.
The Civil Administration - established by military orders 783, 892, 947 (1979-81) - has been modelled on its Israeli local administration counterparts but remains accountable and subsidiary to the IDF military Commander - i.e. the Administration's powers are delegated by the Commander. Raja Shehadeh, citing Meron Benvenisti,* states: "The power and responsibility of the local councils as defined in the Military Order  are identical with those of ordinary Israeli municipalities."
The rules governing the scope for such a council of higher education in judea and samaria (che-js) would, then, be set down in the Military Order 892 of 1981 article 3 (h), addendum 4 - 'Orders regarding Education', but it is unlikely that any meaningful criteria for a modus operandi would be contained in it. If ordinary Israeli municipalities do not handle accreditation matters, then che-js would seem to be a private Bar Ilan affair.
At least, that's what it seemed like until reading this morning's Ha'aretz article [02/05/2005 - Cabinet may okay declaring West Bank college a university, ,]http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/571290.html],
which would seem to implicate Israeli education policy in the government's attempts at annexation of parts of the oPt. If there were doubts about the case for a sector-wide boycott before, then they are seriously undermined now.
There is also (amongst other things) the more general issue of the legal status of long-running military governance. It was during this period that Israeli civil and criminal law was extended to the Jewish settlements in the oPt, but excluded Palestinian communities, which are subject to evolving martial jurisdiction for civil and criminal matters. Firstly, it is illegal under international law to tamper with the legislative structure of an occupied territory. Secondly, it limits the application of civil rights provisions in domestic legislation obligatory under international conventions to which Israel is a signatory - for example, the International Covenants on Civil & Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Thirdly, it 'legitimises' a selective application of punitive emergency regulations under 'security' pretexts.
* p.40 of "The West Bank Data Base Project: A Survey of Israel's Policies", American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, (Washington and London 1984).