Why Only a Hebrew University?: The Tale of the Arab University in Mandatory Jerusalem
Hajj Amin al-Husayni
Hebrew University
All-Islamic Conference
British Mandate
Arab College
American University of Beirut

This article asks, why was there no Arab university in Mandatory Palestine (while there were two Jewish universities). Apparently, the colonial mentality of the British authorities who deemed the Palestinians yet another colonized people who had to be oppressed, while regarding the Zionist settlers as fellow colonialists, feared that such a university would enhance the Palestinian national movement. At the same time, Zionist pressure, British anti-Arab racism, and lack of resources also combined to undermine the emergence of a proper Palestinian higher education system. Nonetheless, educators, intellectuals and some politicians of the Palestinian community did not give up on the idea. They used several teachers’ colleges to provide high quality university-level studies, the most notable being the Arab College (al-Kulliyya al-‘Arabiyya) whose graduates went on to pursue careers in universities in the region and abroad. There was also an attempt by the mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, with the help of donations from abroad, to build an Islamic, but open to all, university throughout the 1930s. This initiative was foiled by the British Mandate government despite the willingness both in the Arab and Muslim worlds to support it.

Author biography: 

Ilan Pappé is director of the European Center for Palestine Studies and a senior fellow of the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, UK. He is the author of twenty books; his two most recent are Our Vision for Liberation (Clarity Press, 2022), edited with Ramzy Baroud and The Historical Dictionary of Palestine (Rowman and Littlefield, 2022) with Johnny Mansour. His most well-known work is The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: Oneworld, 2007).