Few developments shout stability and permanence quite as loudly as the establishment of a university.
There is something about those green-covered campus lawns growing in a water-starved desert land interspersed with eager young students hurrying to class, that stirs pride in the hearts of citizens of an expanding city.
That pride was turned up another notch this week after ABC news reported an Associated Press story which began:
"A settler body voted Tuesday to grant university status to Israel's only West Bank settlement college, overruling objections by Israel's Council on Higher Education and potentially stirring a new round of international condemnation against Israeli policies in the West Bank.
"Upgrading the college in the Ariel settlement has touched off a debate inside Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has been driving a string of pro-settler measures -- including a state panel's recent conclusion that Israeli settlement of the West Bank is legal."
Let the international condemnations rain down. And pay no heed to that debate inside Israel.
What matters to Ariel and the politically potent settler movement, is that Israel has firmly planted its first "Samaria" University on Palestinian soil.
The New York Times treated the story with great caution, offering this brief explanation of what happened :
"Most of the world views the areas that Israel conquered from Jordan in the 1967 war, and where the Palestinians want to establish a future state, as occupied territory, and the Israeli settlements there as a violation of international law."
To those who do not ascribe to the Zionist narrative as the only true version of history, "the areas that Israel conquered from Jordan" is, in fact, not the biblical land of Samaria. It is called the Palestinian West Bank of the River Jordan.
The Times, reluctant to acknowledge that a distorted biblical interpretation is being used by the modern state of Israel, shifts its reportorial focus to politics, international and academic:
"Critics denounced the decision as a political move aimed at bolstering the settlement project. The presidents of Israel's seven other universities and other state bodies opposed the upgrade, saying that the competition for limited budgets and resources was already severe."
Reuters was more specific on the funding and political dimensions of Ariel's elevation:
"The Ariel University of Samaria's new status will entitle it to more state funding, and some see the move as designed to strengthen Israel's stake in the West Bank, territory it captured along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967.
"'This decision is not a decision to promote the education system in Israel,' said Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Israeli anti-settlement organisation Peace Now. '(It is intended) to gain the support of the settlers.'"
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