Labor MK calls on students to boycott Obama speech
Nachman Shai says president deliberately excluding students at Ariel
University in the West Bank from his main public event
By Adiv Sterman and JTAMarch 17, 2013, 11:55 pm
Labor MK Nachman Shai called on students to skip US President Barack Obama’s
planned speech to the Israeli public, scheduled for Thursday night, citing
the White House’s exclusion of Ariel University from a program to allow
students to attend the Jerusalem address.
Shai said the Student Union should protest the president’s decision to
exclude the university by not attending the highly touted speech, to take
place at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.
“Following the decision not to invite students from Ariel to the US
President’s speech in Israel, I demand that the Student Union inform
President Obama that they will not attend his lecture on Thursday,” Shai
wrote on his Facebook wall.
The US Embassy said it was not boycotting Ariel University, located in the
eponymous settlement deep inside the West Bank, but rather was only offering
tickets to the speech to schools with which it has a partnership.
Ariel became a university last year after a highly contested political
But Shai said the US was boycotting Ariel students because of where they
“It is shocking to think that you can disqualify students just because they
learn in the West Bank. I do not understand how President Obama wants to
conduct a dialogue with the Israeli public when he is consciously excluding
part of it,” he said.
Ariel, a settlement with 20,000 residents in the northern West Bank, has
historically been a sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Israel hopes to keep the settlement in the event of a final-status
agreement, while the Palestinian Authority would like to see it evacuated.
The decision to grant Ariel University full university status last year was
Last week, Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun berated Obama on Israel Radio for
choosing to address the Israeli public at Jerusalem’s Convention Center
rather than the Knesset, and for inviting students from all universities
except the West Bank-based Ariel to attend.
Students at Ariel have also expressed dismay at their exclusion from the
“We were pretty shocked about the discrimination and the way in which they
are giving up on a university in Israel,” said Ariel University Student
Union head Shay Shahaf, according to Ynet News.
Shahaf and other Ariel students plan to protest outside the convention
center during Obama’s speech.