An open letter from a student at LSE
Open letter from a student at LSE, written in 2005 against the
My name is Amir Kneifiss and I am an Israeli Druze currently studying
towards an MSc. in Governance at the LSE. I am writing as a former student at Haifa University, the institute you decided
to boycott a few weeks ago and the place where I spent the best years of my life studying history and politics.
Haifa is a university in which one of every five students is Arab;
in which loud but civilised political debates take place regularly; and one in which nobody was ever denied his/her freedom
of expression. In my opinion, it is a hotbed of peace and dialogue that should be studied as a model for coexistence and not
the opposite. Nevertheless, misled by a frustrated lecturer, you decided to boycott this amazing and diverse institute.
Israel is much more complicated than a newspaper headline. As
with many ethnic or national minorities around the world, there are difficulties in integrating Israeli-Arabs and other minorities
into the mainstream society. Much more needs to be done in these aspects. Yet, I am a firm believer that change can be made
through engagement in the many facets of Israeli democracy and I reject the false allegations portraying Israel as an apartheid
and racist state. Not only it is wrong and deceptive, but it will do little to help us in the Middle East confront the real
problems and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The misleading arguments about Haifa University are only one example.
More disturbing is the one-sided depiction of Israel, portrayed by some extremists who have never really intended to understand
the complexities. Nobody, for instance, mentioned that in Ariel College there are currently 300 Arab students and that only
last week, three Israeli-Arab Mayors publicly supported the College for its contribution to reducing inequalities. Yes, the
occupied territories should be used to establish a viable Palestinian State. Nevertheless, instead of boycotting Israeli institutions,
it is much more helpful to explore the various mechanisms capable of satisfying the interests of both sides (e.g. land swap).
An end to the occupation will not come from a blunt boycott, but
from pragmatic solutions accommodating both sides ' desires. Only political negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians
- and not the imposition of sanctions from the outside - will help to create a better future for us all. Therefore, although
I am only in my twenties, I believe spreading hatred is the most ineffective way of promoting these goals. We need to bridge
the gap, not extend it.
If you oppose discrimination and believe in peace, open dialogue
and constructive debate, you should see why this boycott must be overturned. It helps none of us and shows one-sided hostility
to Israel more than a love of peace.
Please do write to me if you are interested in hearing more about
my point of view, and please defend dialogue, for the benefit of all of us.
Amir Kniefiss Government Department London School of Economics
An article about a Jewish college on the West Bank
Extracts from an article By Shira Philosof - Haaretz June 22,
2005 about a Jewish college on the West Bank
When Ala Fakhory told his parents that he intended to study at
the College of Judea & Samaria in Ariel, they were deeply opposed. It was not ideology that caused them to question his
decision - it was fear that he would be surrounded by settlers who roam the college armed with pistols. Fakhory, who is one
of 250 Arab students who attend the college, insisted. Near the end of his third year of study for a degree in electronic
engineering, Fakhory says he experienced no racism on the part of students or faculty. In fact, he says, "Everyone treated
Tall, slender, 24-year-old Fakhory was born and lives in the Arab
community of Issawiyeh in East Jerusalem. Before beginning his studies at Ariel, he completed two years toward his degree
in electronic engineering at the Ort College and he has worked for four years in the East Jerusalem Electric Company.
Despite that, even Fakhory was pleasantly surprised. "There is
undisclosed racism everywhere. I don't even feel that kind of hidden racism here. Until now, I haven't felt that anyone treated
me poorly. Not the faculty or the students."
In order to lend weight to these statements, Fakhory says that
about two weeks after he began his studies, he entered a class expecting to see, "a lecturer with a skullcap and a personal
weapon. But the professor was really nice. The first month of study was difficult, but there were professors who helped me
until I was integrated. One of them is Eliyahu Farber."
Other Arab students also feel comfortable at the college. When
Mahmoud Amash, 22, from Jisr al-Zarqa, wants to describe his satisfaction with the college, he says he often stays here on
weekends. When asked if he had a problem settling into an academic institution located in the territories, with a majority
of Jewish students, he says no. He had Jewish friends, from Binyamina and Hadera, when he was a high school student in the
village, he says. Moreover, he has more Jewish friends than Arab friends in the college.
Amash is an outgoing, smiling second-year student seeking a degree
in criminology. He learned of the college through ads published in the media and lives in the dormitories. In his opinion,
one of the reasons Arab students study here is because, "criminology is not taught at every university. It is easier to be
accepted here, despite the fact that the courses are difficult. Assistance and tutoring is available, which makes it easier
to be integrated."
The College is certainly a melting pot for Israel. We have religious
students and secular students, and 1,000 new immigrants - Russians, Ethiopians and from a few other countries. We also have
the second highest number of Ethiopian students (in total numbers) among all other universities and colleges.
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