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In this morning’s (June 23 2010) Yediot, Uri Misgav reports on how the management of an academic college in northern Israel intervened in the student body elections in a successful effort to shut-out Palestinian-Israeli representatives. His conclusion:

The Emek Yezreel College is currently holding its end of year exams. Students are being tested on their academic achievements in the departments of political science, communications, behavioral sciences and education. I think they can be canceled.

The message the college management gave its Jewish and Arab students is much louder than any research question. Sixty-two years after its founding Israel is farther than ever from the ability to bravely confront the democratic challenge of integrating its Arab minority.

Misgav’s dose of contemporary Israeli academic reality is supplemented by Avirama Golan’s glimpse of the Knesset Education Committee’s slide into McCarthyism and, earlier in the week, Education Minister Gideon Saar’s vow to punish to punish Israeli professors who back academic boycott, which came hot on the heels of his endorsement of the Im Tirzu report urging a purge of ‘anti-Zionism’ in Israeli Universities.

Another dot for Boaz Okon, Yediot’s legal editor to connect in his picture of “the emergence of apartheid and fascism” in Israel.


A democratic failure

Op-ed, Uri Misgav, Yediot, June 23 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]


The Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel resides in a green lung next to the village of Tel Adashim. In the last two decades it has enjoyed substantial growth and development. The college calls itself “the Academy of the North,” and 5000 students study there for BA and MA degrees.

Among other things the college has a popular political science department. At the beginning of the month the campus was supposed to hold a small celebration of democracy: elections for the student association. From my personal experience I know those elections are not really important.

Israeli student councils don’t have a real effect on the academy or the country. But what happened at the Emek Yezreel College within a few days is an amazing and very sad political parable.

At the beginning of the election campaign two lists were competing for control of the council. One represented the incumbent association and the other a vocal opposition that wanted to unseat it.

The latter ran a vigorous and aggressive campaign against the incumbent representatives. As students do, they promised a “revolution” and talked about a “cleanup.” Many of the students got interested in the elections..

At some point the Arab students got into the picture. There are about 1000 of them at the college, which serves the areas of Nazareth and the valleys. They may be a minority but have high political awareness and high voting rates.

At first the Arab students negotiated with both existing lists to join one of them. They were rejected and set out to establish a separate list. Even after the deadline for submitting the lists the negotiations continued. Samir Baranseh, chairman of the Arab list, held simultaneous negotiations with the two competing lists in order to create a coalition bloc that would decide the close elections.

One day before the elections members of the two Jewish lists were summoned to urgent talks with the college CEO, Yoram Raz, and with a senior lecturer. At the end of the meeting their members, who until that moment were quarreling loudly, announced they were running together on a single list.

 The Arab students claimed that in a conversation they had with Raz he admitted that the initiative for the urgent union came from the college management. “Imagine if you had won all of the seats in the association or most of them,” he told them.

“The news would have reached not only the Israeli press but also the world press, even the Turkish press. It is inconceivable for the Arabs, who constitute 20% of the students, to represent all of the students of the college.”

The head of the Arab list understood the situation and went to the joint Jewish list with a last offer: combining forces in one list, based on a formula of one in every five representatives. That offer too was rejected. At that point Baranseh and his friends announced they were boycotting the elections and establishing a separate Arab students’ committee.

On election day, which was supposed to be a face-off between three competing and ambitious lists, only one list ultimately stood for election. Just like in Syria. The students responded accordingly. Only 15% of them bothered to go vote. One, who happens to be a Jew, voted with a blank ballot, on which he wrote: “A dark day for democracy.”


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