The U of R won’t partner with an Israeli University

by Gregory Beatty

city-tagFor six weeks now, the world has watched with horror as the latest chapter in the long history of violence in Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip unfolds. Palestinian casualties have topped 2,000, with thousands more injured.

While those events are taking place half a world away, Regina was the scene recently of a skirmish where civil rights activists and organizations pressured the University of Regina to abandon plans to pursue a partnership with Hebrew University in Jerusalem on an MBA in public safety.

According to spokesperson Valerie Zink, Israel has made a concerted effort in recent years to foster academic partnerships in North America and Europe.

“For the University of Regina, their goal in pursuing international partnerships is primarily educational,” she says. “But in Israel these partnerships serve specific political ends.

“It’s hard for us to see in Canada because we’re outliers in providing unconditional support to Israel. But in the rest of the world, as a consequence of its ongoing violation of international law, U.N. resolutions and universal human rights, Israel faces a serious crisis of legitimacy. Pursuing these partnerships is a way to counter that.”

Through a Freedom of Information request, Zink and fellow activists learned Andrew Gaudes, the dean of the university’s Faculty of Business Administration, had conducted extensive negotiations with the Policing and Homeland Security Studies department of Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law about the MBA program — which would provide graduate training for police and other security officials in Canada.

These negotiations included a November 2013 trip to Jerusalem where Gaudes met with Hebrew University faculty and developed proposals for a course syllabus and fee schedule.

Universities in North America are sometimes derided, in anti-intellectual circles anyway, as ivory towers divorced from the reality of everyday life. That’s not the case in Israel though, says Zink.

“Desmond Tutu, the renowned South African anti-apartheid activist, has said ‘Israeli universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime by active choice.’ They play a crucial role in the planning, implementing and justifying of racism and violence in Israel’s apartheid regime.

“They provide military technology, strategic advice, ideological arguments, you name it,” she says”.

Recent events in Gaza certainly highlight the dangers U of R students would face were they to travel to Israel as part of their MBA program. That made the university’s decision to end negotiations with Hebrew University an easy one. But Zink still questions the wisdom of university administrators in pursuing the partnership in the first place.

“For anyone who is paying attention, this recent invasion was not in any way unpredictable. They happen with regularity, and we can expect them to continue until the fundamental problems and injustices in Gaza are addressed in a meaningful way.”

A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign was established in 2005 to apply similar grassroots financial and moral pressure on Israel. It’s modeled after the actions taken against South Africa in the 1980s to pressure that country to end its apartheid regime.

“There’s been active BDS campaigns on campuses across Canada against these types of partnerships,” says Zink. “To the best of my knowledge this is the first one that’s actually been cancelled.

“But the victories, especially in the last year or so, are rolling in, and BDS is really gathering momentum.”

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