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3881Israeli academics fight 'racist' university test - Guardian, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    Dec 1, 2003
      Israeli academics fight 'racist' university test
      Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
      Monday December 1, 2003
      The Guardian


      Israeli academics are threatening to call for an
      international boycott of their own university heads if
      admission tests alleged to have curbed the number of
      Arab students are reintroduced.

      The heads of the country's five universities last week
      announced that they would bring back controversial
      psychometric testing that favours middle-class Jewish

      The boycott would include rejecting academic papers
      from individual heads.

      The psychometric assessments were dropped more than a
      year ago, resulting in a big increase in the admission
      of Arab students. A statement by university heads
      justifying the tests has reinforced the view that the
      move is racist. Arab lecturers at Israeli universities
      met at the weekend to decide how to respond.

      Nadim Rouhana, a psychology professor at Tel Aviv
      university and director of the association of Arab
      professors, said: "It's an openly racist policy, but
      what's more dangerous is that it's being conceived and
      conducted by what should be considered the centres of
      enlightenment, the centres of education. I will be one
      of those to call for a boycott in Europe and the

      The psychometric tests were dropped in the hope of
      benefiting poorer Jews whose families originate from
      the Middle East. They lost out in tests skewed in
      favour of wealthier Jews of European origin.

      But the main beneficiaries were Arab Israelis poorly
      versed in test subjects such as Jewish history and
      Hebrew literature. At Tel Aviv university the number
      of Arabs studying medicine rose sixfold.

      University heads did not refer to Arabs in their
      statement announcing the reintroduction of the tests
      but spoke instead of students from poor Jewish
      families. It said: "Admissions policies based on
      grades do not make studies more accessible to students
      from the periphery. Since the number of places
      available in university enrolment has not risen, the
      acceptance of one population nudges out another

      Arab lecturers say the wording refers to Arab students
      replacing Jews. But the universities deny any such

      "The psychometric tests are relevant to the whole
      population. They are held in six languages, including
      Arabic. The sections dealing with culture do not have
      an inclination toward Jewish culture," said the
      association of Israeli university heads. But the
      universities cannot explain why the number of Arab
      students increased when tests were dropped.

      Among those who question the claim is Hassan Jabareen,
      director of the Israeli Arab legal rights centre,

      "The whole system is sys tematically biased," he said.
      "Twenty years ago I sat one of these tests at Tel Aviv
      university. I was asked who Einstein was. I said he
      was the biggest scientist in the world. But they said
      no, we gave a different first name. We are speaking of
      a singer from Tel Aviv."

      The controversy has flared as Israel tries to head off
      a growing foreign boycott of its universities by
      accusing those behind it of anti-Semitism or holding
      Israel to a higher standard than other countries.

      "It's ironic," said Prof Rouhana. "They [university
      presidents] don't see the connection between the
      boycott and their actions."

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