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University accreditation for W. Bank college - a step towards one state

Blithely ignoring a bitter academic and political controversy, the Committee for Higher Education (CHE) in Judea and Samaria voted Tuesday evening to grant the Ariel University Center of Samaria (also referred to as Ariel College) the status of a fully accredited university. After a few more formalities, the West Bank institute, established in 1982, is expected to be accredited beginning this autumn.

Along with the Ariel Cultural Center, this decision drives home Israel’s permanence in the West Bank. It also represents the bizarre military takeover of academia – since formally the IDF commander of the Central Command, the highest authority in the West Bank, has to approve the accreditation. For those who have never lived under occupation, there has rarely been a policy move that looked and felt so much like the actions of a military regime. Further, the new University will surely cater exclusively to Israeli citizens, as it does today. In other words, within the West Bank, it serves the minority and dismisses the majority – call that what you will.

As the school celebrated – animated fireworks burst cheerily on its website – a wide range of outraged public figures lashed out on both political and professional grounds. Earlier this year one thousand professors signed a letter opposing the move, concerned about the inability to fund Israel’s seven existing, cash-starved universities.  Remarkably, the head of the Weizmann Institute of Science said that he would boycott the college should recognition be approved, Haaretz reported. To face down this opposition, Finance Minister announced that he had personally earmarked NIS 100 million for the college so that the money would not come from the education budget. “He set that money aside some time ago,” said Beni Reuven Levy, Dean of the School of Architecture, proudly, in a phone interview Tuesday evening. It’s hard to imagine where that money did come from.

Manuel Trajtenberg, the erstwhile government emissary to the J14 protest, is the chairman of the government’s Budget and Planning Committee. He was so incensed at what he viewed as a purely political move devoid of all pretenses of professionalism, that he sent an angry memo to the head of CHE-Judea/Samaria, attacking its legitimacy and writing that the move would “fatally harm academia,” according to Haaretz.

Even the regular Committee for Higher Education opposed recognition. Luckily for the college, CHE’s authority does not extend to the West Bank. The Committee for Higher Education of Judea and Samaria was established in 1997 and stepped in handily. Education Minister Gidon Saar of Likud also gave the CHE-J/S full and public support.

Reporters from state-run media outlets could barely contain their excitement, treating the news as a sweeping national drama. “The Center has been waiting for this for years,” crowed the announcer on Reshet B radio, explaining without a trace of irony that the drive for recognition goes all the way back to 2005.

Dean Levy of the School of Architecture was in a very magnanimous mood Tuesday evening. He brushed aside accusations that the school is an exclusive institution for the ruling minority in the area: “It is 100 percent incorrect to say that.” He described the vast diversity of the student body, noting that the college has the highest percentage of Arabs of all Israeli schools, including some from East Jerusalem and surrounding villages. They all have blue Israeli ID cards. Palestinians? “The university is open to people from other places, but none of them ever applied. We assume that it’s because they are afraid of their neighbors, or for ideological reasons, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s open.”

Member of Knesset Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz party, scoffed at that. Ariel, she told me by phone, is off limits for Palestinians very simply because it is an Israeli-controlled settlement. Just as a West Bank Palestinian can’t go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv easily, they are equally unwelcome in Ariel. For her, the move reeked of hypocrisy. “It’s a higher education committee approved by people in uniform, so what is the substantive meaning? It’s unbelievable.” She called it a sign of the government’s true program of “creeping annexation,” and remarked that it would legitimize the global movements calling for the academic boycott of Israel.


Personally, I’m biting back my anger. I have spent years working towards my doctorate at Tel Aviv University. It’s dragged on because I’ve worked full time as a consultant to pay tuition and support myself, suspending myself during semesters when work was too intense. Despite my tuition payments, the university can’t afford enough security guards, so the gate near my faculty closes at midday. If I arrive after 12:31pm, I walk an extra leg uphill in the burning sun to the next gate, then walk all the way back to my building, which invariably makes me five minutes late.

As a freelance consultant, I also pay National Insurance. That’s the agency that drove Moshe Silman to self-immolate after tormenting him for a 15,000 debt. I avoid such debt by meeting steep monthly payments. Yet were I to have a slow year (say, because I was working on my thesis), there’s no unemployment insurance and therefore no quarter for me – the glitch of being a freelancer.

So now that I’m entering the last year of my program, I planned to immerse myself in research. For the first time, I looked for funding, but the departmental doctoral adviser said sympathetically, “it’s our weak link.” I pored over academic grants; most of them were for security-related studies. Finally, I applied for a “subsistence grant,” which covers tuition (about NIS 7000) and a maximum of NIS 4000/month – just over $1000.

Yesterday I was told there’s a good chance I won’t get it, because there just isn’t enough to go around. Today I know why – 100 million shekels are going to a new university as part of the permanent Israeli takeover of the West Bank. Now I know what I’ve been working for, and paying for – I didn’t want that, and I’m not celebrating.

But when the University of Ariel throws open its doors to the Palestinian and Israeli people of the West Bank, and wields its apparently unlimited political power to demand the immediate removal of all movement restrictions preventing any such resident from reaching the school – when it becomes a beacon of equal opportunity and rights for all people in deeds and not in Orwellian rhetoric, when the city of Ariel is transformed into a vibrant university town bubbling and bustling with the cultural, ethnic, linguistic and national diversity of the Palestinian and Israeli students and faculty – a model for the equality of human life inherent in the single state that it is, de facto, establishing – then I will celebrate.

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    1. Sinjim

      It’s becoming more and more undeniable that there is no “conflict” between two peoples over land here that can be solved by (unequally) dividing the territory. It’s a civil rights and social justice struggle that can be solved by granting equal rights to all.
      If Palestinians are accepted and are able to attend this university, then full equality is that much closer. If they’re not, then the apartheid nature of the Zionist state will have been demonstrated, thus strengthening the pro-equality argument.
      Either way there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud. I personally can’t wait to see what the next bullet official Zionism discharges into its foot looks like.

      Reply to Comment
    2. NormanF

      This is funny… Dahlia Scheindlin is a leftist who lives in exclusively Jewish Tel Aviv and studies at Tel Aviv University which is devoid of Arabs. But her hypocrisy says more than her outrage about the accreditation of Ariel.

      She finds the time to lash out at the one university in the country that is truly a model for equal opportunity for Israeli citizens from all walks of life. A university that is among the most diverse in the entire country.

      When the Palestinian Arabs open THEIR towns and schools for Jews to live in and study with out fear for their life, then I will celebrate!

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    3. Kolumn9

      The outrage expressed in various forums is somewhat overstated. I honestly never realized that there were this many people in Israel that actually thought that Ariel was ever going to be handed over to the Arabs. I can only imagine this is the reason for the outrage since it is very difficult to imagine so much anger over the relatively banal upgrade of a college to a university. University center or university? Does it really matter considering that only the delusional ever thought Ariel is going to be handed over?

      Now… if Kiryat Arba were to get a university, then I would be able to understand the outrage, but in this case it is vastly overhyped.

      Dahlia, as for your problems with financing your studies. It kind of saddens me [without any sarcasm]. The whole topic of unrecognized states is fascinating and have been reading up on some of them myself. Armenia/Karabakh is a particularly interesting dynamic. Hopefully you find some funding soon, though honestly you may have to consider looking for it in the UK or somewhere else in the English speaking world. Israeli universities have very little funding for things that are not directly related to security-related studies, though I wonder if your research might be made relevant even there – “Comparative models of conflicts involving unrecognized states”, “Comparative studies of the military and diplomatic policies of unrecognized states” or something like that. Sounds pretty damn relevant to Israeli security to me.

      Reply to Comment
    4. XYZ

      I attended the graduation of my daughter from the Ariel University a couple of years ago and I saw a large number of Arab graduates present at the ceremonies.
      The other universities are whining because they have the typical MAPAI-Labor Party socialist mentality that they are entitled to a monopoly. It is odd that opening a new university that will provide jobs more more professors and other academics is viewed as a “catastrophe” for Israeli education. I guess they view it as better if they left the country as has happened too many times in the past due to the stranglehold the old-line Universities have on the system.

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    5. I think K9 right that the State of Israel should find your topic of interest, but should is not will, and you have made your opinions known so publically that, well….you have great courage.
      The outrage expressed is over the doublespeak leading to this event. Partly, this is a product of changing political administrations. One government goes out, another comes in, shrugs, says “well, they are there…” and more growth occurs, all the time not declaring Ariel is here to stay, unitil it is here to stay.
      All you can do now is document the creation of Greater Israel. I am beginning to understand the anger of the military expressed on 972 even when military actions are not involved. The Bank is controlled by the military, which thereby controls what should be a civilian budget process given the residents of Ariel are Israeli citizens. More, the IDF and Knesset government are beginning to effect constitutional change on the sly through administrative acts, but you’ve known this for years. The IDF has become a constitutional partner; I cannot think of another western democracy where this is the case.
      I believe K9 wishes you success, as do I, and we are not on the same side most things. This speaks to the quality of writing you do on this site. Do not let your PhD pass by for political wars which will take decades to play out. Gain entry with that credential for the future.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron

      I believe what Dean Levy said about the school being truly open to all. For one thing, it’s consistent with the “settler” ideology of the Whole Land of Israel. And his main point is right, despite what Gal-On said. If non-citizens can’t easily get into Ariel, then that’s for security or other reasons unconnected with the school. You can’t blame the school for that.
      Regarding “another step towards a single state,” wasn’t Ariel considered likely to be part of Israel in a two-state agreement? If so, then this is just as much another step towards a two-state arrangement. I’ve never been to Ariel, though, and I’m kind of embarrassed that I don’t even know how close it is to the Green Line.
      Regarding the author’s personal resentment, which she describes at length, wouldn’t the budget problems be the same if the students were to go to other universities instead of this one? Or if the same university had been located on the other side of the Green Line? The students would still need buildings, equipment, teachers, and all that, no matter where they were.

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    7. Nir

      Well said, Dahlia.
      After a decade of draining funds, turning away young scholars and scientists, amalgamating (or simply canceling) departments and hindering research, the Israeli academia has just now started on a halting and hesitant course of recovery. Until this fiasco, that is.
      I am one step ahead of you, so to speak, having recently earned my PhD, and I’m currently teaching as an adjunct in several universities in order to make ends meet, while waiting, like many of my colleagues, for a position to finally open up. I am very worried that Bibi, Saar and Shtenits’ little ploy to appease their Likud base and the settler movement will mean that our academic generation is in for another “lost decade.” There’s simply not enough money to go around. The 50 millions that Shteinits promised are peanuts. Turning that substandard institution into a research university will eat up much more.

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    8. the other joe

      I think the headline would be more accurate if it referred to Ariel as a Settlement University.

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    9. Philos

      Firstly, Normanf, as a researcher and program administrator at Tel Aviv I can tell you that there are many Palestinian-Israeli students here. Your accusation is as baseless as your claims are that Ariel “university” is open to all. What the hell is a “university center” anyway?
      Frankly, this decision has done me in. I can’t bear to live in this country anymore. I have to work full-time in two jobs (see above), which leaves no time to work on my OWN research paper. I am not entitled to any funding because I am not bread & water poor (as the grant lady put it to me), and there is no funding to go around. Never mind, the feckless and shoddy level of graduate thesis supervision. Indeed, Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities positions in the world rankings (180 & 179) respectively based on their terrible ratings for student instruction are well deserved. I am done. I am going overseas. I don’t want to fund the occupation with my taxes and I don’t want to set myself on fire in my 50s. To hell with this f*****g country.

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    10. XSouthAfricanGal

      How far is Ariel from the center?
      How many universities are there in the center?

      Why not incourage devevopment in the peripheral areas? ie the upper Galelee (Tel hai college or Tzfat where bar Ilan opened a new Medical school) or The Negev Sapir College?

      The center does not need another university in my opinion

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    11. Indeed, NormanF your comment is close to totally useless since you didn’t even bother reading my bio before writing. Yes, there are plenty of Pal/Arab students at TAU (how do you think they hold all those pesky Naqba commemorations). Further, i taught 2 semesters at Ben Gurion U – reminder that Beersheva is really not inside Tel Aviv and oh yes there are a few Pal/Arabs there too. Never mind that one of my closer Arab friends is right here in TA and a whole bunch of Arabs, actually. So you really have no idea of what you’re talking about and your comment wd be funny if it wasn’t just embarrassing.
      To the other academics who have commented here, I can agree with Philos that this sort of “did me in.” Not exactly planning to move but it is a turning point that indicates a real slap in the face and I feel betrayed.
      Kolumn9 – theoretically I can agree. But the point is no longer really about the Clinton/Geneva framework and the maps. It’s the statement of purpose of this govt. It’s the theft of gov’t support and resources from other existing institutions, for cynical political purposes, while people are literally burning.

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    12. Doreen Said

      Even though I know the objections are not mainly political, I do not believe that Palestinians will apply to this school; neither Israeli Arabs or East Jerusalemites.
      The reason is because this institution is based in an Israeli settlement which is exclusively for the members of that settlement. So basically if a Palestinian applies they will be helping and encouraging the settlement facilities and economy which are part of the racist and illegal occupation.

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    13. Doreen – I’ll have to correct you there. There are Pal Arab citizens of Israel who study there, I’ve read up to 600 – it’s well-documented and Levy discussed this too. Also E. Jerusalemites. You are entitled to your opinion but this is the reality – the situation just isn’t so black and white.

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    14. rose

      the are not “arabs”, they are Palestinians.
      Be kind enough, try to hide the racism that pervade most of your posts a bit better

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    15. Doreen Said

      @Dahlia thanks for the correction. I actually misread that sentence and understood it stated the opposite. But as an East Jerusalemite, that is my personal opinion.

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    16. 31st Airborn

      Actually, they are Arabs. Palestinian Arabs, if you like. Like Palestinian Druze and Palestinian Jews.

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    17. XYZ

      Not clear how referring to Palestinians as “Arabs” is racism. Here is the Palestinian Constitution:

      Note the first article:
      ARTICLE 1

      Palestine is part of the large Arab World, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab Nation. Arab Unity is an objective which the Palestinian People shall work to achieve.

      So there you have it….Palestinians are Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    18. rose

      Many Israelis like a lot to play this game, so that you can imply that they could move in whatsoever country in the Arab world. They are 100% Palestinians. This does not mean that they are not part of the Arab world. There are Palestinians that live in Israel and others that live in the OPT or in the diaspora. You would not call Syrians or Egyptians “Arabs”. You would address them 99% of the times as Syrians or Egyptians.
      Many Israelis use the term “Arabs” just as a form of racism (mainly out of ignorance), and all of you know this quite well.

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    19. Kolumn9

      Rose, Your righteous indignation is pretty silly. They are Arabs. Whether they are Palestinians or not is a matter of their self-definition and there is a significant number of people that you would call Palestinians that do not define themselves as such. So, if there is someone being judgemental here, it is you, not me.

      Dahlia, government spending priorities is a valid topic for criticism, but the outrage is exaggerated given sums of 50m-100m NIS that are being discussed as suppemental funding for the University at Ariel, especially as it is my understanding that it isn’t coming out of the budgets of the other universities. I do understand that the outrage is based on feelings of helplessness in opposing the government’s policy in the territories, but even here it is exaggerated. Bibi’s policy is hardly different than the policy of the last 20 years of Israeli prime ministers, especially in reference to Ariel. Feel free to correct me on any of these points…

      Reply to Comment
    20. Nir

      University budgets in Israel typically exceed the 1 billion shekel mark. The supplemental budget that Shteinits promised (if it ever materializes) is not going to cut it. The heads of the universities are furious because they know that in a year, or two, or three, because of this or that contingency (war with Iran/HIzballah/Hamas) that budget will be cut and Ariel will take its share out of the collective pie of higher education funding in Israel. Academia in Israel has been in dire financial straits for a very long time, and now, when there is finally a glimmer of hope for some investment in the academic fitire of this country, this irresponsible government flushes it down the toilet. That makes for a big part of the “exaggerated” outrage.
      The other part is that there is simply no academic justification for yet another university in the central part of the country. We already have both Bar Ilan and TA. The whole move reeks of politicking in the narrowest, most harmful sense of the word.
      And I haven’t said a word yet about the fact that Ariel is not legally part of Israel. Hell, maybe that’s the answer: Let the IDF fund it.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Kolumn9

      Nir, you are right that the position of the heads of the universities is probably mostly driven by an opposition to any additional universities being created even were there to be a need for them (and the massive growth in both population and college enrollment since the last of the green universities was established would suggest there is).

      Much opposition to this move came from outside academia though, so would it be fair to describe that as exaggerated?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Dahlia,
      An American poet, Carl Sandburg, said “you must be prepared to be in several lost causes before you die.” In Israel, perhaps the equivalent is “you must be in lost causes until you forget what winning is.” Give to your mind the opportunity to create, even if in the end it needs be outside of Israel. The love you show for your land will do you well in the future. These fights never end; choose when to enter them, and when to withdraw, for a time. You betray nothing in this, for what you gain in respite will be put to good effect later.

      Reply to Comment
    23. rose

      by chance yesterday evening i was reading a little masterpiece by basem ra’ad. the title is “hidden histories”: if only you would read a book like that you would stop or think twice before to write the posts that you always publish

      the following passage of ra’ad is for sure not the heart of the book, but is really incredible to find out that there is another human being in the world that has had the same impression:
      “One of the most common myths is that Palestinians are “Arabs” (“Arab” being often equated with Muslim), and so are to be associated with the seventh-century Muslim conquest. […] it has thus become useful for Israelis to insist on calling Palestinians “Arabs” in order to diminish their native legitimacy, imply they have a nomadic nature (i.e. naturally landless), and to associate them with “Arab” countries elsewhere, where they can always go”. p. 35.

      They are PALESTINIANS – if you really want Palestinians-Arabs – as the EGYPTIANS are egyptians and the SYRIANS are syrians. Change game Kolumn, this is offensive and not very smart

      Reply to Comment
    24. XYZ

      Rose, you are really trying to rewrite history and failing miserably. I will repeat what I posted above , quoting the first article of the Palestinian Constitution:
      ARTICLE 1

      Palestine is part of the large Arab World, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab Nation. Arab Unity is an objective which the Palestinian People shall work to achieve.


      Have you heard of the “Arab League” which all the Arab countries belong to?
      Are you aware that most people know that the words “Arab” and “Muslim” are NOT synonomous and that there are Christian Arabs and Druze Arabs?
      Are you aware that the official name of Egypt is “The Arab Republic of Egypt” and that the official name of Syria is “The Syrian Arab Republic”?
      Are you aware that Nasser’s Egypt which merged for a while with Syria was called “The United Arab Republic”?
      Are you aware of the movement called “Pan Arabism” of which Nasser was a major, but not the only proponent?
      Are you aware that your claim that Israelis use the word “Arab” to mean “nomad” is preposterous?

      Reply to Comment
    25. rose

      I guess that you need a “Western example” in order to understand. If you are Italian and you are part of Europe you remain Italian, although you are part of Europe. There are few deeper aspects to consider when we speak about Palestinians but I hope that providing a very simple example you can understand. Palestinians are Palestinians, and they are part of the Arab world. This does not make them “less Palestinians”. They are Palestinians and they come from the land of Palestine. Ask to Herodotus (V cent before Christ) for further explanations.
      Your “are you aware of” are so basic that I don’t think that you really expect an answer.
      Once again, learn to respect the other if you want to be respected. Stop this game: call them PALESTINIANS

      Reply to Comment
    26. Kolumn9

      Rose, they are Arabs. Palestinian is a proposed nationality for them on the basis of questionable narratives to which many people, including many Arabs subscribe. Arab is an ethnicity or an ethnolinguistic group. All the Arabs between the river and the sea are most certainly Arabs, but whether they are Palestinians or not is entirely questionable. If you were going to define the Arabs in Israel as Palestinians based on their pre-existing nationality as citizens of the Mandate of Palestine you would have to extend that to the Jews that were citizens of the Mandate of Palestine. I doubt that when you refer to Palestinians in capital letters you are actually doing that. Additionally you would have to define Arabs that don’t define themselves as Palestinians as such, for example most of the Israeli Arab Druze and a minority of the non-Druze Israeli Arabs do not define themselves as Palestinians, so you are trying to force that upon them. Let me point out again that you are demanding on absolutes that allow no alternative identities or narratives, not me. Additionally, even your absolute narrative makes little sense unless you go far beyond what you are trying to argue. So, let’s play a little game and see how many holes we can put in your narrative. How many Palestinians are there in Israel? On the basis of what do you define a person as a Palestinian? Can a Jew be a Palestinian according to your definition? How many Jews did you include in your number of Palestinians in the answer to the previous question? Are any Arabs allowed to define themselves as Israelis and not Palestinians? On the basis of what do you insist on defining them as Palestinians? etc. etc. etc.

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    27. the other joe

      Kolumn9, your point is moot – Palestinians certainly regard Jews with family roots in Mandate Palestine as Palestinians.
      It is reasonable to call ethnic groups what they want to be called. Whether or not Druze want to call themselves Palestinians is up to them, most Israeli Arabs consider themselves Palestinians.
      This whole effort to denigrate a whole nation of people and to refuse them even the name they give themselves is plain stupid. There are several million people who have long-established roots in a particular geographical area and who consider themselves to be a nation. They do not consider themselves to be Jordanian or Iraqi or Syrian or Lebanese. What is so hard about that to accept?

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    28. XYZ

      The Other Joe-
      Please explain to me the first article in the Palestinian Constitution. I will once again repeat it:
      ARTICLE 1

      Palestine is part of the large Arab World, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab Nation. Arab Unity is an objective which the Palestinian People shall work to achieve.


      What is the “Arab Unity” they are speaking of?

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    29. the other joe

      @xyz, let us replace a few words:

      “The United Kingdom is a part of European Union and the British people are a part of Europe. European Unity is an objective which the British people shall work to achieve.”
      Do you need an explanation of what European Unity means? Is the notion of Arab Unity so different to European Unity?
      Palestinian Arabs do not consider themselves to be the same as other Arabs. Fact. End of discussion.

      Reply to Comment
    30. rose

      Thank you the other joe. You answered to both of them.
      Btw Kolums: “Israeli is a proposed nationality for them on the basis of questionable narratives to which many people, including many Israelis subscribe”.
      Do you mind if I change the subject?

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    31. dickerson3870

      RE: “Further, the new University will surely cater exclusively to Israeli citizens, as it does today. In other words, within the West Bank, it serves the minority and dismisses the majority – call that what you will.” ~ Dahlia Scheindlin

      Give me an ‘A’!
      Gimme a ‘P’!
      Gimme another ‘A’!
      Gimme a ‘R’!
      Gimme a ‘T’!
      Gimme a ‘H’!
      Gimme a ‘E’!
      Gimme a ‘I’!
      Gimme a ‘D’!
      Now, what have you got? [Hint: It’s not “constructive engagement”!]

      Reply to Comment
    32. zayzafuna

      As an illegitimate country, the zionist entity is incapable of having universities. Both the so called universities in Tel Aivv and Ariel are not universities and should not be accredited. SO normally, I am sympathethic to Dahlia as a fellow opponent of zionism, but in this case, her attending of university in Tel Aivv supports the occupation

      Reply to Comment
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