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Jordanian students angered by UAE's 'academic normalisation' with Israel

Abu Dhabi university accused of dragging Jordanian students into normalisation 'with the occupation’ via scholarship programme
Students at the University of Jordan protest at an Emirati delegation's visit to promote scholarships to Abu Dhabi or Israeli institutions (Twitter screengrab)

A number of Jordanian students have expressed outrage following reports that the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi is offering a scholarship programme to students in Jordan in collaboration with Israeli universities. 

The collaboration between the Mohamed bin Zayed University, the Hebrew University in occupied East Jerusalem and the Weizmann Institute of Science has shocked students at the University of Jordan, where a symposium was held on Tuesday to introduce a $45,000 scholarship for students wishing to study at one of the three institutions.

Translation: The Emirati Bin Zayed University is going around Jordanian universities and holding seminars in which they offer scholarships and promote normalisation. The students of the University of Jordan stood on their guard and withdrew from the symposium and staged a protest in front of IT College.

The partnership comes after Israeli and United Arab Emirates (UAE) higher education agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September last year, a month after the two countries normalised relations.

The Wiezmann Institute of Science in Israel and Mohamed bin Zayed University of AI established a collaboration to "advance the research and implementation of artificial intelligence as a tool for progress", according to the memorandum.

On learning of these ties, students at the University of Jordan withdrew from the symposium and held a protest in front of their IT college, against what they see as the UAE's attempt at "academic normalisation" with Israel. 

The University of Jordan's dean of student affairs, Dr Muhannad Mobaideen, issued a statement following the withdrawal, expressing the students "rejection to what happened at the seminar hosted at the IT college because of its normalisation with the Zionist Entity. 

"We are proud of our students' decision to withdraw from the symposium instantly, and we reiterate our unequivocal rejection of all types of normalisation." 

Following criticism and pressure from student organisations, the Hashemite University and the German Jordanian University announced they had cancelled visits by the Mohamed bin Zayed University delegation - they were scheduled to hold similar discussions about the scholarship on Wednesday. 

The Hashemite University's student blocs issued a statement welcoming the administration's decision to cancel the visit, adding that "normalisation cannot exist in all of its manifestations". 

Yet, in a statement uploaded on Wednesday, the “Children of the Camps” student association claims that an altercation occurred between students at the Hashemite University and members of the administration, as, according to the group, the university had secretly received the UAE delegation. 

Translation: As per the report from Children of the camps, the Hashemite University has reportedly welcomed the Bin Zayed delegation despite claiming to cancel the visit. 

Activists on social media urged Jordanian students to be on the lookout for future visits by the delegation, as the Emirati university intends to market the awards and scholarship package to universities around the country. 

https://twitter.com/Aseelabualfoull/status/1460641440996933639?s=20

Translation: The UAE, the official sponsor of Israel, is bringing people to normalise, taking scholarships, and luring them with money and necessities.

Jordan's Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) office cautioned students across the country not to fall "into the trap of obtaining a phoney academic opportunity by dancing on the wounds of the people of the area and their rights". 

It added: "At a time when the occupation continues to carry out its plans to dominate and control the region economically, culturally, and politically, and in light of the occupation's massive attack on Palestinian existence in occupied Jerusalem, the normalisation axis did not halt their efforts to break the enmity barrier against the Zionist regime."

Since signing their normalisation deal, anchored by the then-US President Donald Trump, the UAE and Israel have both been eager to promote public and business relations.