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The University of Regina is considering a controversial partnership that critics say could damage the reputation of the school.
The University of Regina faculty of business administration is considering a controversial partnership in Israel with Hebrew University that raised public concerns about the ethics of such a partnership.


Although the finalization of any academic exchange has yet to be made, the university has seen much opposition for any sort of relationship with Israeli universities internally, municipally as well as nationally.

 

The proposed partnership with Hebrew University, specifically its Policing and Homeland Security Studies program, could be part of an MBA in public safety management developed for police service professionals here in Saskatchewan.


 “Under current circumstances, can Israeli state-supported institutions teach humane yet ‘effective homeland security approaches’ without introducing ideology and attitudes? How will local Palestinians be portrayed: terrorists or an occupied people, " Peter Gehl of the Regina Peace Council wrote in a letter to U of R President Vianne Timmons. "How will graduate of the proposed indigenous Exchange Program view their own people’s indigenous rights.”

 

Although the university is looking at several universities in Israel, the partnership with Hebrew University has raised the most concerns because of the university's affiliation with the Israeli security establishment, including Shin Bet and the Israeli Defense Force. Classes offered at the university include policing terrorism, political violence and protesting violence, minorities and law and enforcement terrorism.


In an interview, the dean of business, Andrew Gaudes, stated that although those courses are offered at Hebrew University, those are not necessarily the courses U of R students would be taking.

 

The university has also received letters from the Regina Public Interest Research Group, Independent Jewish Voices of Canada, as well as several internal letters from faculty expressing concern over the partnership.

 

A concern in partnering with a school that works with the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, is that they have been accused of several crimes including the torture of Palestinians, imprisoning civilians (including children) without a fair trial, as well as willfully causing great suffering to a specific ethnic group. Israeli peace group, B’Tselem even published a report in 2013 criticizing the use of crowd control weapons in the West Bank.

 

Business professor, Andrew Stevens, said the partnership could do more harm than good for this university.


“I think with any partnership that the University of Regina, regardless of faculty, it should be a question of academics, ethics, and how it reflects upon individual faculty members as a whole. I think that for a number of reasons a partnership with Hebrew University could do damage to our reputation and at this point I’m not really confident that it advances any kind of scholarly or academic mission or interests amongst faculty or the institution,” said Stevens.



In the letter written by the Regina Public Interest Research Group, a concern brought up was the legality of the land Hebrew University was built on. Under international law, Hebrew University resides on a portion of land that belongs to Palestine.

 

 “If I start responding to a question like that, I get into something that is beyond the academic inquiry. It is taken into consideration, but my understanding is different on that," Gaudes said. "I do believe that since about 1945 Hebrew University’s location is within territory that has been recognized as part of Israel.”


The US Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel has noted that although the original infrastructure of Hebrew University may have been on land legally given to Israel, the university has expanded on land that is illegally occupied by Israel under the Fourth Geneva Convention.


“Internationally there is a growing movement amongst scholarly associations and within academic institutions and civil society organizations to consider the human rights question when partnering with companies and post-secondary institutions in Israel, specifically those that do business in the Occupied Territories," said Stevens. "I think we should pause and consider why academic societies in North America and Europe are questioning these affiliations.”