Why Israel's schools merit a U.S. boycott
At its annual convention this week, the Modern Language Assn., which represents 26,000 language and literature scholars, will become the latest academic body to consider the merits of adopting a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. This follows endorsements of such a boycott by the Assn. for Asian American Studies, the American Studies Assn. and, most recently, the American Anthropological Assn., which voted 1,040 to 136 to endorse a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions at its November annual meeting in Denver; the AAA's entire membership will soon vote on the resolution, which is expected to pass.
The justification for an academic boycott — which targets institutions, not individual scholars — stems from the peculiar relationship between Israel's educational system and its broader structures of racism.
The United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination points out with alarm that Israel maintains two separate educational systems for its citizens — one for Jewish children and another for the children of the Palestinian minority — a structure that reinforces the profound segregation of Israeli society in everything from matters of citizenship and marriage to housing rights.
Here's the first indication of falsehood. Israel teaches Arabic language, culture and history in Arab schools and Jewish culture and history in Jewish schools. If Arabs were forced to go to Jewish-majority schools, you can be sure that Makdisi would be saying that Israel must be boycotted for destroying Arab culture.
According to official Israeli data cited by the human rights organization Adalah, by the turn of the 21st century Israel was investing three times as much on a per capita basis in the education of a Jewish as opposed to that of a Palestinian citizen.
The consequences are obvious: Schools for Palestinians in Israel are overcrowded and poorly equipped, lacking in libraries, labs, arts facilities and recreational space in comparison with schools for Jewish students. Palestinian children often have to travel greater distances than their Jewish peers to get to school, thanks to a state ban on the construction of schools in certain Palestinian towns (for example, according to Adalah, there is not a single high school in the Palestinian communities of theNegev desert in southern Israel).
These naked forms of discrimination extend into the university system as well. "The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer holes," Human Rights Watch points out. "At each stage, the education system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab students than Jewish students."
Only one problem. This pseudo-academic is using statistics and quotes that are from one and a half decades ago.
He sort of admits it, by calling a 1999 study "the turn of the 21st century," a sly way to make it sound modern. But what has happened since then?
Haaretz notes that from 1999-2010, when science teachers in Jewish schools plummeted:
In Arab schools, however, the picture was different, with the number of computer science teachers rising by 50%. The Arab sector also saw a rise of 165% in instructors teaching technology classes and a 171% increase in the number teaching mathematics, the report found.
The number of physics teachers in Arab schools grew by 25%, those teaching chemistry by 44% and in biology by 81.7%.
There are still gaps but Israel has poured lots of money into the Arab school sector since the gaps were first reported. But Makdisi wants to boycott Israel first, and doesn't want the facts to get into the way. So he wants an academic boycott in 2016 based on statistics from 2000.
Even the Human Rights Watch article he quotes is from 2001!
But what about these damning figures that he quotes that are more recent?
About a quarter of Israeli schoolchildren are Palestinian. But as a recent study by the Assn. for the Advancement of Civic Equity points out, the higher you go in the system, the lower the number of Palestinian students. As of 2012, according to data published by the Israeli Council for Higher Education, Palestinians constituted only 11% of bachelor's degree students, 7% of master's students, and barely 3% of PhD students. A mere 2.7% of the faculty in Israeli universities are Palestinian, and the percentage of Palestinians in administration is even lower.
I went to the website of the Israeli Council for Higher Education, and discovered another way that this "academic" is willing to lie with statistics. Indeed, in the 2011-2 academic year, only 11.8% of all university students were Arab. Yet that number went up to 12.4% in 2013, 13.1% in 2014 and 14.1% in 2015 - indicating that the money that Israel put in Arab public schools has paid off. In fact, since 1999, the number of Arab university students has increased by 50%.
Clearly the problem was identified and is being addressed from way before anyone ever heard of BDS. Which shows that BDS advocates are first and foremost anti-Israel and only afterwards do they try to muster up facts to support their own racism.
Beyond that, the idea that Israel universities must be punished because the Arab education sector has been historically underfunded makes absolutely no sense. I am not aware of any studies showing that Israeli universities discriminate against Arabs. By boycotting the very institutions that Arabs need to attend to gain equality in the next generation, the BDSers are trying to perpetuate the problem, not solve it.
It is amazing that UCLA allows an academic with such sloppy and dishonest research methods to be employed.
And it is more than disappointing that the Los Angeles Times published this without doing the basic fact checks that took me about 15 minutes to complete.