Palestinian scientist wins top job at Israeli ministry

Tarek Abu-Hamed of East Jerusalem is appointed deputy chief scientist of the government tech bureau

Dr Tarek Abu-Hamed at the Aravah Institute in southern Israel. (photo credit: Jewish Agency for Israel)
Dr Tarek Abu-Hamed at the Aravah Institute in southern Israel. (photo credit: Jewish Agency for Israel)

A scientist from East Jerusalem was appointed to a senior position at Israel’s science and technology bureau Sunday, becoming the highest-ranking Palestinian without Israeli citizenship in an official government post.

Tarek Abu-Hamed of Sur Baher, who specializes in the field of chemical engineering, was named as deputy chief scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, the state body responsible for setting national policy on issues such as international scientific collaborations and research and development funding.

The deputy chief scientist is responsible for overseeing national scientific infrastructure, statewide intellectual property and the taxation of academic institutions, according to the ministry’s website.

The chief scientist at the bureau, Nurit Yerimiah, praised the decision and said that the appointment was made on professional grounds, the Haaretz daily reported.

“Dr. Abu-Hamed brings a proven track record of scientific endeavor together with field-research experience and scientific publications,” Yerimiah said.

“His intimate knowledge of the ministry and ever-evolving scientific fields and trends will allow him to perform his job in the best way,” she said.

Like most residents of East Jerusalem, Abu-Hamed does not hold Israeli citizenship, but he does have an Israeli identification number and permanent residency status.

When Israel annexed the capital’s eastern side in 1980, it offered all its residents full citizenship. However, only a fraction took up the offer.

Abu-Hamed received his BSc in chemical engineering from Ankara University in Turkey and studied for his post-doctorate at Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, focusing his dissertation on oil substitutes for public transportation and renewable energy sources.

After his studies, he held a series of posts in Israeli research projects before joining the Science Ministry in 2013.

In an interview with Israeli journalist Eliezer Yaari in a yet-to-be-released novel detailing the Sur Baher neighborhood, Abu-Hamed spoke of the “schizophrenia” and dual identity that many East Jerusalemites experience on a daily basis.

“The Arabs of East Jerusalem have a number of advantages,” Abu-Hamed said.

“You travel the world with a Jordanian passport, you can visit Arab states and leave the country with Israeli travel documents,” he said.

“The dual passports hold a mirror to our schizophrenic situation: We don’t want Israel, but we really do want it.”

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