Hebrew University has a history of land theft

Sue Blackwell | BRICUP Newsletter N 56 | 7 septembre 2012 |

Letter to the Editor of BRICUP Newsletter:

Dear Editor,

In « Argument for the Boycott of an Israeli University » (August edition of the Newsletter), you mentioned that the Hebrew University is partly built on land confiscated by Israel in 1968, in breach of the 4th Geneva Convention. In fact there are more recent examples of land theft by HUJI.

On Sunday, November 21 2004, armed security guards hired by Hebrew University Properties, Ltd. arrived at the home of the Al-Helou family to
announce that their land would be confiscated for the expansion of the university dormitories. The Al-Helou family is among seven families whose houses are trapped among the university dormitory buildings. They have lived in this area, called Ard Al-Samar, since 1948 when they were forced out of the Jerusalem village of Lifta with the establishment of the Jewish state. After the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem began in 1967, their land has been confiscated repeatedly by the university to build student dorms.

In the incident in November 2004, the Al-Helou family and their neighbours sat in the path of the bulldozers and called the police for help. However, the police joined the armed guards in attacking the families, who were all brutally beaten and suffocated by tear gas. Hasan Al-Helou (86 years old) was beaten unconscious, and Rami Taha (16 years old) was left with a fractured arm. This particular episode was meticulously documented and captured on camera by Shirabe Yamada, a human rights worker who witnessed it. A fuller account with photographs can be found on the « Electronic Intifada » website:

It was this appalling history of land theft which prompted the Birmingham branch of the Association of University Teachers to submit a motion to AUT Council in 2005 calling for AUT members to boycott the Hebrew University. The motion got
remitted to the Executive and never saw the light of day again, but members of AUT who were present heard my colleague Shereen Benjamin’s moving speech while she held up enlarged copies of some of the photos showing distraught Palestinian families trying to challenge the University’s bulldozers. I do not know whether HUJI has by now succeeded in evicting the seven families from their lands.

Perhaps other readers of the newsletter can update us.


Dr Sue Blackwell