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Christian Zionists Plan to Open University in Nazareth

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | October 27, 2013

Christian Zionists are apparently planning to bring “enlightenment” to the poor, benighted indigenous inhabitants of Occupied Palestine. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, with help and assistance from John Haggee of Christians United for Israel, has struck a deal whereby Texas A&M University will open a branch campus in Israel.

The campus is to be located in Nazareth—populated largely by Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim. In fact, the area contains one of the largest concentrations of Palestinians inside Israel’s 1967 borders.

Nazareth presently has an institution of higher learning—called the Nazareth Academic Institute or NAI. It was founded in 2010 by local academics, and while it has applied for funding from the Israeli government, it has never received any. What is more, the NAI is the only college of higher education in Israel that receives no state funding. This means it has been financially strapped from day one. Texas A&M plans to take it over with a cash infusion of $70 million and rename it “Peace University.” Once the deal goes into effect, classes will be taught in English only—and there are concerns that the school’s Arab culture and character will diminish as a result.

The takeover has been written about by Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein and by Jonathan Cook, who lives in Nazareth. Both are deeply cynical about the motives behind the scheme. Writes Silverstein:

Who participated in this consortium? Pride of place goes to John Hagee, the international Christian Zionist apocalyptic firebrand who blamed the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own martyrdom. Hagee, an avid proselytizer of the heathen, also is known as an avowed Islamophobe.  Presumably he’s delighted to plop a U.S. Christian Zionist university in the middle of tens of thousands of Israeli Palestinian Muslims. One wonders whether Hagee and his followers would play some role in the institution and use it as a base for preaching to the “heathen.”

Another participant was former Texas governor, Rick Perry, a Christian Zionist perennial presidential candidate. He used a recent political pilgrimage to Israel to announce the deal with a flourish together with Israel’s nonagenarian president, Shimon Peres. It’s no accident that Texas A&M’s chancellor was a college roommate of Rick Perry. Though not an evangelical (he’s Catholic), he uses the Christian Zionist lingo when he boasts of his “kinship” with Israel…

The new campus for this mongrel educational institution will sit on land donated by the Israeli Lands Authority. No one mysteriously has identified where the site is located (if anyone in Nazareth knows, please contact me). The ILA is the same institution that is working to expel Israel’s 40,000 Bedouin from their native Negev communities and move them to government-sponsored “reservations.” This is also known as the infamous Prawer Plan. This land transfer would enable the Judaization of the Negev, just as settlers are gradually expelling East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes in neighborhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

Perhaps the crowning glory in all this is the identity of the Sugar Daddy who’s going to finance the construction of this munificent educational palace. He is none other than Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest Palestinian in the world. Numerous media profiles of him invariably feature his weirdly out-of-place Italian palazzo in the middle of the West Bank. Al-Masri has a far-flung empire that includes a construction company that will likely undertake building the campus. He is a key power player in the PA and Fatah and undoubtedly seeks to curry favor with Israel, which could lead to further business opportunities.

Given that the Israeli government has never seen fit to offer funding to NAI, one must ask the question: why would the Israeli Lands Authority suddenly think it a wonderful idea to donate land for this new school?

Apparently the Palestinian administrators presently running the institute are feeling somewhat like the proverbial drowning victim suddenly tossed a life preserver. Cook supplies a quote from Dean of Students Suher Bisharat:

We hoped and wanted to be an Israeli academic institution in every respect, not a branch [of a foreign university]. But when we didn’t find a budgeting solution, and ran into many problems, we saw that cooperation with Texas, which is a respected university, was a solution.

Cook goes on to comment:

There are good reasons to be worried about this development.

The chancellor of Texas A&M, John Sharp, has this to say: “I wanted a presence in Israel. I have felt a kinship with Israel.”

Also behind this initiative stands the very unpleasant figure of Pastor John C. Hagee, a notorious Christian Zionist who has no love of Palestinians in Israel. He apparently sold the idea to Shimon Peres, who wants to get Arabs better integrated into the workforce to help Israel’s poor OECD rankings.

Lessons will be taught in English, not Arabic – and therefore will do nothing to stop the gradual erosion of Arabic language and culture in Israel. It also seems that the staff will be from Texas A&M, therefore doing nothing to help local Arab academics who are massively under-represented in Israeli academia (currently they’re about 1% of higher education staff).

It will be called the Texas A&M Peace University, reiterating the idea commonly expressed by Israeli Jews that “Arabs” need western education and values to curb their inherent terrorist impulses.

Doubtless, economically this move will be good for Nazareth. But there are reasons for great concern. It will destroy for another generation any hope of a real Arab university in Israel. The foreign staff, with their dubious agenda, risk subtly reinforcing racist colonial stereotypes among the local population. And with Hagee involved, there are good grounds for fearing that the campus could ultimately contribute to increased tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Galilee, one of Israel’s long-standing goals.

Cook has previously written about efforts to divide Muslims and Christians by enticing Palestinian Christian youths to join the Israeli military. Will the new facility, despite being named “Peace University,” endeavor to facilitate this drive? Will it also seek to inculcate a Christian Zionist ideology among the Palestinian Christians who enroll? Silverstein thinks there is a possibility that Palestinians will boycott the new school, but this, he says, will in reality further the Judaization process already under way. In other words, even if Palestinians don’t enroll at the university, Jews will.

This is a significant statement because Israeli ultra-nationalists have set their sights on “Judaizing” all of the territory within Israel with significant Arab populations including the Negev, Galilee, and East Jerusalem. This is part of a covert attempt to expel Palestinians through attrition. Trajtenberg is tacitly putting Nazareth further into play in this battle by suggesting that Israeli Jews from around the country may find attractive the opportunity to pursue English-language studies at a low-cost American university. In such a way, Texas A&M could become an advertent or inadvertent participant in this far-right campaign toward a Jewish majority in the Galilee.

See also:

Israel Seeks to Pit Christian Arabs Against Muslims in Cruel Clash

Israel Stokes Religious Tensions Between Palestinian Christians and Muslims

For more on Governor Rick Perry and his Christian Zionist leanings see my article The Hypocrite’s Masquerade.

October 28, 2013 - Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , ,

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