Israel's thriving academic establishment is being ripped apart by the Israeli government's apparent drive to use academics for political ends.
To bolster its agenda of developing settlements in the West Bank occupied territories, the Israeli military's Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria has upgraded a small college there, formerly known as Ariel College, to university status. Millions of dollars are to be poured into the university's budget to attract researchers, circumventing Israel's usual channels for academic funding.
In response, more than 1,100 senior faculty members from all over Israel — over one-quarter of the country's total — have signed a petition rejecting the upgrade (see go.nature.com/dqte9c). The planned upgrade is also opposed by the presidents of all seven research universities in Israel and by the influential planning and budgeting committee of the state's Council for Higher Education.
The legitimacy of building settlements on occupied land is disputed in Israel and deplored worldwide. Ever since the occupation of the West Bank 45 years ago, Israeli academia has largely remained outside the political struggle. But Ariel University, which is closed to Palestinians, creates a dilemma for academics there: participate and thereby endorse the settlements, or boycott and be branded as the enemy. Such political meddling can only ruin Israel's academic structure in the long run.