This year’s valedictorian at the Technion University, known as “the MIT of Israel,” would likely displease those intent on framing Israel in the most unflattering of terms, writes Diana Bletter for The Huffington Post.
That’s because the Valedictorian is an Islamic woman named Mais Ali-Saleh who grew up in a small Arab village outside of Nazareth, in Israel’s Galilee.
Ali-Selah not only disproves claims made by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movements, that Israel is an apartheid state and that its academic institutions should be boycotted, but she put it best when she said, “An academic boycott of Israel is a passive move, and it doesn’t achieve any of its purported objectives.”
Ali-Selah’s success almost didn’t happen. After her first class at the Technion, in Haifa, northern Israel, she was ready to call it quits. Though she had studied Hebrew from elementary school through high school, her grasp of the language was tenuous at best, having spoken mostly Arabic while growing up.
However, she decided to persevere, and is currently doing an Obstetrics/Gynecology residency at Carmel Hospital in Haifa. She decided to take on the field, despite its demanding hours, because she knew that many Arab women are more comfortable going to a female doctor rather than a male.
On trips to Europe, Ali-Selah said that people she met were surprised to learn that Israeli Arabs studied engineering and medicine in Israel, and that they lived among Jews. She points to this lack of awareness as helping to perpetuate the falsehood—strengthened by BDS and Boycotters like Roger Waters — that Israel is an apartheid state –which denies a fundamental truth: Arabs, and in particular Arab women, have more freedom, liberties and academic opportunities in Israel than in any Arab country.
Rather than an academic boycott – which negatively impacts researchers who want to disseminate knowledge rather than restrict it – Ali-Selah suggests a more active stance: encouraging academic life within the Palestinian Authority, strengthening academic ties with Palestinian universities, and planning joint research projects with Palestinian scientists.
Furthermore, Ali-Selah says that those interested in advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East should focus their energies on supporting more of Israel’s success stories like her own, and pressuring Arab countries to emulate Israel’s academic freedoms and democracy.