OnSaturday, the 17th of December, a conference was held in Nazarethfocusing on higher education for Arab citizens in Israel. Participants called for strategic plans tobe put in place, and for renewed dialogue within Arab student movements.
Press Release: Tuesday, January 3, Nazareth, Israel
On Saturday, the 17th of December, a conference on highereducation took place in Nazareth. It was held under the auspices of the National Committee for theHeads of Local ArabCouncils and at theinvitation of Dirasat Ė The Arab Center for Law and Policy, The Follow-UpCommittee on Arab Education and Hirak - The Center for Advancement ofHigher Education in Arab Society.
Discussions were informed by a position paper submitted by Dirasatto the Council for Higher Education (CHE) in Israel meant to inform theirdiscussions on increasing Arab-Palestinian access to higher education. In light of Dirasatís recommendationsand fruitful discussions held at the conference, participants called for the formulationof visions and strategic plans on the issue of higher education inArab-Palestinian society in Israel, and for a return to constructive dialogue andunity within the Arab student movement.
Approximately 150 people, including Arab and Jewish experts in thefield of higher education, participated in the conference. Representatives of the sponsoringorganizations spoke at the opening plenum. They included Mr. Ramiz Jaraisy, Professor Fuad Fares, Dr. Mary Totary, Dr.Hala Espanioly and Mr. Sharaf Hassany. Jaraisyemphasized the role higher education plays in the advancement of the Arab people,not only in terms of scientific, professional and economic development, butalso in cultivating political and social leadership. He also addressed the right to establish auniversity in an Arab city and policies which would support this whileemphasizing that advocacy for such a move on the national level has been goingon for decades. Professor Fares pledgedto work to bring the voices and the concerns of the Arab public to forums ofdecision and policy-making at the Council for Higher Education and within itsplanning and funding committees.
The first panel dealt with the future of higher education in Arabsociety, the second session addressed challenges and obstacles faced by Arabstudents while the final session consisted of an open discussion about the Arabstudent movement.
Conference Resolutions and Recommendations:
Some of the most important resolutions and recommendations adoptedat the conference are as follows.
1. Higher education is an important and critical tool fordeveloping Arab-Palestinian society in Israel and for the communityíspolitical, cultural, social and economic advancement. Participants identified the need to reconcilethe community's economic needs and the requirements of the labor market, on theone hand, with its research, cultural and educational needs, on the other.
2. As an indigenous minority, Arab-Palestiniansin Israelhave the right to establish academic institutions in Arab cities andtowns. This should not detract fromcomplete and unconditional national and civil equality for all Arab students,professors and employees in institutions of higher education in Israel. Accordingly, participants condemned the Ministryof Education and the Council of Higher Education for evading theirresponsibility to fund the Nazareth Academic Institute, the only instituteof higher education in an Arab town, even though the government financiallysupports six other academic institutes in Jewish towns in the Galilee.
3. Participants emphasized the need to promotehigher education and scientific research, and to expand the scope of Arabresearchers and the quality of their research. This requires fostering an openness to scientific achievements andresearch methodologies accepted throughout the world, and in the Arab andIslamic world in particular.
4. Sciences, scientific development and thetransfer of scientific knowledge are not neutral, therefore it is important todeal with scientific knowledge and the modes of its production anddissemination critically and in accordance with the values of freedom,equality, justice and progress, on the one hand, and with the concerns of ourpeople and society, on the other.
7. Some academics and researchers are reluctantto play a constructive and effective role in social, political and culturalchange. Participants emphasized the needto encourage and motivate them. To thisend, they recommended creating frameworks and processes which will facilitatetheir playing an influential role in desired changes while also striving to balanceindividual interests and collective communal interests.
8. Participants called on the Council for HigherEducation to respond to documents and recommendations put forth by Dirasat, Hirak,the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education, and the Student Union in Israel inrelation to their multi-year plan for higher education, and, in particular, interms of affirmative action for Arab students.
9. In light of major and widespread changes inthe structure of higher education in Israel nationally and within Arabcommunities in particular, it is important to develop strategic plans intendedto improve the Arab education system. Inparticular, special emphasis must be placed on vocational and academiccounseling, the tendency of many Arab young adults to pursue studies abroad,employment opportunities following studies, the promotion of women Ė especiallywomen from the Negev Ė in higher education, databases and statisticalcollection regarding Arab students and the need to encourage university studiesin the social science and the humanities.
10. There is a need for all political actors whowork with students to promote a sense of unity in the face of discriminatoryand marginalizing policies that restrict democratic freedoms in universitiesand colleges. Under the auspices of the NationalCommittee and the Higher Follow-Up Committee, they must to return to dialogue inorder to build mutual trust; to revive and reinvigorate elected student bodies andto pull the Arab student movement out of its current crisis. In their work, they should draw inspirationfrom youth in various Arab countries and throughout the world who are playing aprolific role in popular democratic movements.
9. Participants condemned repeated incidents of racial incitementand racist attacks on Arab students, particularly in the city of Safed and at itscollege. They also castigated thegovernment and judiciary for their inaction in prosecuting perpetrators andaccused the state of fomenting an atmosphere where racism and racist attacksare perceived as acceptable and even normative.
10. Participants condemned Israeli military harassment ofPalestinian universities and restrictions placed on the basic and academicfreedoms of students and lecturers in Palestinian areas occupied in 1967. They also called for strengtheningcommunication with such academic institutions and student bodies.
Attached you will find a couple of pictures fromthe event. You may read more about theevent in Arabic at the following link: http://www.dirasat-aclp.org/arabic/index.asp?i=745