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Haifa-Ottawa Exchange: Evidence of Discrimination against Palestinian Students

March 1, 2011

Date: March 1, 2011
Subject: Motion on Haifa-Ottawa Exchange — Evidence of Discrimination against Arab and Palestinian Students at U. of Haifa

Dear Members of Senate,

As I have informed you before, I have submitted a motion regarding the masters in laws exchange program between the University of Ottawa and the University of Haifa, in Israel.  The motion was submitted on February 19, and can be read here:

https://studentseyeview.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/march-7-motion-on-ottawa-haifa-exchange-program/

One part of the March 7 motion calls for a delay on the program until a guarantee can be made both by the University of Ottawa and by the University of Haifa that there will be no racial discrimination in the application process for the program.

In relation to this point, please see the following evidence (below) of discrimination of Arab and Palestinian students by the University of Haifa.  The paragraphs below are from the report of a legal rights centre, a letter from Palestinian students to a Norwegian university describing the discrimination that they have suffered, and a report by a media outlet.  Links to the sources are included.

I believe this issue is of great importance to the university community and to the reputation of the University of Ottawa and its academic programs.  As I informed you in a previous e-mail, I have invited concerned parties to make presentations on the motion before we hold our vote.  The invited parties are the Hillel Ottawa student group, the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights student group, and Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, of the foundation that has provided the funding for the scholarship program of the new uOttawa-uHaifa program.

Please do not hesitate to contact me about this or other matters related to the motion on the University of Haifa exchange program, if you wish to receive more background information before the discussion at Senate next Monday.

Sincerely,

Joseph Hickey
Graduate student representative to Senate, Sciences section.

* * *

“On 17 August 2006, the Haifa District Court issued a precedent-setting judgment that the inclusion of military service (participation in military, national, or army reserve service and serving as student soldiers) as a criterion for determining the allocation of student housing at the University of Haifa is illegal, because affording this particular benefit to former soldiers is not enumerated in the “The Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law – 1994” and in addition it discriminates against Arab students on the basis of national belonging. The Court also decided that the use of the “military service criterion” in the allocation of student housing should be cancelled, and ordered the University of Haifa to pay legal expenses in the sum of NIS 10,000.”

[…]

The decision is precedent-setting as it represents the first incidence in which an Israeli Court has decided: that the military service criterion discriminates against Arab students; that Haifa University has discriminated against Arab students; and that the use of this criterion to afford benefits to former soldiers beyond those benefits included in The Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law is illegal. The petition was filed by Adalah on behalf of three Arab women students whose requests for housing were denied by the University and in Adalah’s own name. As Adalah stressed in the petition, the three students’ request were turned down in spite of their poor economic circumstances and the difficulties involved in reaching the University from their homes on public transport. Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher represented the petitioners in the case.

“Although some Israeli universities – such as the University of Haifa – pride themselves on promoting “co-existence”, yet nothing is further from the truth than this. We are prevented from forming our [i.e. Arab] students’ union, and racial discrimination against us – under the pretext of not serving in the army – is widely practiced in the granting of scholarships, as well as in the provision of housing at the universities’ residential halls . This is particularly grave as the universities are located in Jewish towns, and Arab students face many obstacles and hardships in finding appropriate housing due to prevailing prejudices and anti-Arab sentiments in Israeli society.”

“Haifa University, like other Israeli academic institutions and universities, both explicitly and implicitly supports the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. Haifa University, amongst other measures, sponsors scholarships for army veterans and those who took part in the 2008/9 military attack on the Gaza Strip; discriminated against Palestinian students in the allocation of student housing (a policy that was declared illegal by the High Court); and hosted a conference focusing on the “demographic threat” to Israel, amongst others”

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