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Israel Academia Monitor Follows

Anti-Israel Activities of Israeli Academics



Reprints of anti-Israel articles do not represent the position

of IAM, and they are being reproduced as a public service


IAM supports the universal tradition of academic freedom that is an indispensable characteristic of higher education in Israel. At the same time, it is concerned by the activities of a small group of academics--sometimes described as revisionist historians or post-Zionists, among other labels--who go beyond the “free search for truth and its free exposition” (to quote the American Association of University Professors) that is the hallmark of academic freedom. Exploiting the prestige (and security) of their positions, such individuals often propound unsubstantiated and, frequently, demonstrably false arguments that defame Israel and call into question its right to existence.


We are happy to announce the publication of the study Academic Freedom in Israel: A Comparative Perspective; it compares academic freedom in Israel with that enjoyed by faculty in three academic leaders- Germany, Great Britain and the United States. This first of a kind research, is systematic, detailed and meticulously referenced.
The study indicates that, contrary to the view of radical scholars and their liberal supporters, the Israeli academy has enjoyed far greater freedom than its counterparts in the comparative cases. Indeed, in all three countries a combination of case law, ethic codes and strong oversight by boards of directors and politicians who appointed them have prevented radical faculty in public universities from abusing and subverting academic privileges to push an activist political agenda.
Not countervailed by academic duties and a need to account to the public and its elected representatives, the expansive sense of academic freedom has hurt Israel’s academic standing in the world. Liberal arts and social science, in particular, have been trending well below global averages, jeopardizing Israel’s overall competitive quest.
We hope that the study will spur a long-overdue debate on how to restore much- needed balance between academic freedom and the broader interests of the society and the state.

First IAM Round table in Tel Aviv and videos from the IAM roundtable, May 3, 2013 

The 2nd IAM event "BDS Campaign Against Israel" and Audio

A unique opportunity to purchase the IAM book on Academic Freedom



Click to view whole articles:


Tel Aviv University
TAU Roy Wagner, the political activist newly recruited by the Philosophy Department
Dr. Roy Wagner is a researcher at TAU's Institute of History and Philosophy of the Faculty of Humanities, and a teaching fellow at TAU's administration of the faculty of Humanities. Wagner has been also a fellow at the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU for a number of years, but this is hardly surprising as he is a good match to the radical neo-Marxist activism that has been trending there since its inception in 2009. Until last year Wagner was a post-doc at the Martin Buber Center of the Hebrew University for 4 years. 
Wagner's political activism is no secret. A member of Anarchists Against the Wall, he is signatory #336 at the Courage to Refuse petition, in July 2014 he was among a group of some 200 Israeli citizens that sent a letter to the European Council, Commission and Parliament calling to pressure Israel to accept Hamas’ terms of truce, another petition signed by 500 activists including Wagner called for "urgent international intervention in order to stop Israel from continuing the war it has waged against the Palestinian people in Gaza... Israel's atrocities will not cease without a massive intervention by the international community." 
Wagner has been following the footsteps of a number critical, neo-Marxists that are tenured at TAU. Just like his comrades he also likes to write on neo-Marxist themes. As an activist with the group "Strength to the Workers" (Koach Laovdim) which represents the administerial staff of the College of Law and Business in Ramat Gan, he penned a critique in the lines of "For two weeks now the administrative staff of the Ramat Gan Academic Center is in an indefinite strike. The damage caused is greater than the demands of the workers. It appears that when a group of Generals navigate a ship there is no room for compromise or surrender." 
Recently, he has been a co-organizer of a conference held by the Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine at the Hebrew University, where in 2009-2010 he was a post doc. 
The scientific conference "Time, Space and Time-Space in Science" was held in Hebrew in October 2015. It was purely an academic event. However, most of the participants are radical activists. For example, Wagner himself justified Palestinian stone-throwing in East Jerusalem ; TAU Lin Chalozin Dovrat, protected Tali Fahima that was convicted of aiding Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades ; HUJ Eitan Grossman is a member of the solidarity with Palestinians movement ; HUJ Orly Shenker signed the petition by members of Israeli universities supporting students and lecturers who refuse to serve as soldiers in the occupied territories ; BGU Nadav Davidovitch is a member of "Physicians for Human Rights - Israel" which announced it will not obey the anti-infiltration law ; HUJ Raz Chen-Morris signed a petition calling for army draft dodging ; Weizmann Inst. Oded Goldreich was listed as supporting the boycott call of the Association of University Teachers in England in 2005 ; TAU Yoav Beirach Barak signed the declaration "It is vital at this juncture that the international community and its civil society undertake the needed complementary actions of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel." 
It seems Wagner's intention is to create a network for fellow activists through the Edelstein Center conference. Similarly, the TAU Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas which established the Minerva Humanities Center served as a platform for critical, neo-Marxists that are now tenured at TAU. 
As for Wagner, being a new recruit at the TAU Philosophy Department should ring the bells of the Board of Governors of TAU.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
The Steven Salaita Saga: The Final Chapter?
After having been denied an appointment at the University of Illinois, Steven Salaita, a decidedly mediocre scholar with a record of vulgar anti-Israeli, and anti-Semitic rants on social media, became an academic “superstar”. As reported a number of times by IAM, the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) ruled that no matter how off-putting, his anti-Israeli utterances were protected extramural free speech. 
Salaita took the university to court, but the administration, apparently not sure about its legal prospects, decided to settle. Under the terms of agreement Salaita received $600k plus $275k to cover his legal costs. He is now the holder of the Edward Said chair at the American University in Beirut and busy writing anti-Israeli screeds masquerading as academic discourse. 
For those seeking to fight BDS and anti-Semitism on campus, the Salaita case is sobering. It is one thing to complain about anti-Semitic comments on campus, but quite another to prevent universities from hiring Salaita-like candidates. Even if American universities adopt the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, a policy advocated by a number of legal authorities, there is no assurance that it could be implemented as the Salaita case indicates 
More to the point, it is quite certain that the Salaita brouhaha would have a chilling effect on university administrations across the United States. In denying Salaita the position, the university incurred personal, financial and reputational costs. The university Chancellor Phyllis Wise was forced to resign, the university spent well in excess of a million dollars defending and settling the case and attracted unwelcome attention as an “enemy” of free speech and diversity. As for Salaita, as the saying goes, he is “laughing all the way to the bank.”



Boycott Calls Against Israel
The American Anthropological Association One Step Closer to a BDS Decision
On November 20, 2015 during a meeting in Denver, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) decided to support a BDS resolution. Having previously embraced a pro-boycott recommendation by a Task Force, the decision of the AAA was not surprising. Commentators noted, however, the overwhelming disparity in the vote - 1,040 in favor to 136 against. For the decision to become binding the entire 10,000 membership would need to approve the vote. 
If approved, AAA would follow the American Studies Association (ASA), the Middle East Scholars Association (MESA), and the Association for Asian American Studies. 
The practical impact of the decision is not clear as the Association hastened to emphasize that individual scholars would not be affected. 
Still, the BDS resolution is bound to deepen the negative image of Israel on campus.



General Articles
Ami Pedahzur: Intimidated and Harassed
Ami Pedahzur, a professor in the department of Government and the head of the Institute of Israel Studies at the University of Texas, got into a trouble when a group of pro-Palestinian activists tried to disrupt his seminar hosting Dr. Gil-Li Vardi. The activists marched in the classroom describing it as an “intervention.” 
Pedahzur seems to be genuinely puzzled that his Institute should be targeted and, more to the point, that in spite of his efforts, the group was unwilling to engage in a dialogue, as befits an academic setting. He described the encounter in a Facebook post (see below). Upon further investigation, Pedahzur learned that the activists were professional provocateurs. As we recently reported, disrupting Israeli professors or lectures with Israeli themes have become a popular form of “protest” against the “Zionist enemy.” Acting for Pedahzur, Kenneth Marcus, the head of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) wrote to the UT authorities: "The brazen efforts of the Palestine Solidarity Committee to silence Dr. Pedahzur and Dr. Vardi not only violate basic civility norms but, more troublingly, also represent a threat to academic freedom and the freedom of speech." 
But, as the article in the Jewish Press notes, the pro-Palestinian group crafted their own complaint against Pedahzur. They accuse him of creating a physical altercation and demand his firing. In support of their claim, they posted a video of the entire encounter showing Pedahzur getting face to face with the leader of the “intervention.” 
In response to the brouhaha, the university responded that it is “investigating” the case. IAM would provide updates.



General Articles
Micro-aggression, "Victims Coalition" and other Amazing Tales on Campus: The Perils of Speaking for Israel
For some time now, IAM has reported on an emerging coalition between pro-Palestinian activists and “victims” groups - African Americans, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ and so-on. 
As Professor Dershowitz explains in the article below, the highly popular notion of “micro-aggression,” meaning perceived as racial slights and insensitivities of the white majority, have newly empowered African Americans and their coalition partners. So much so that the president of the University of Missouri was forced to resign because of alleged insensitivity to concerns of blacks on the campus. He was replaced by a black interim president. The movement has spread to other campuses across the country, putting academic leadership on the defensive. For instance, at the prestigious Yale University, a black dean was sent to appease a large protest of African Americans and other “victims” who demanded the appointment of more minority professors as a token of the administration sensitivity to their concerns. 
As a rule, members of the “victims coalition” show up to protest pro-Israeli speakers, a harrowing experience according to Professor Dershowitz. Professor Moshe Halbertal who tried to speak at the University of Minnesota, was repeatedly heckled and interrupted. 
In trying to prevent disruption, universities authorities are caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. On the one hand, they need to punish transgressors, but on the other, disciplining members of the “victims coalition” may be interpreted as micro-aggression or worse. 
Professor Dershowitz is right about the double standards since the sensitivities of Jewish students are not taken into consideration. But given the recent development at the University of Missouri, the university authorities may not be too keen to even the scales.



Tel Aviv University
BDS and TAU Dan Rabinowitz’s Mea Culpa
Though radical academics cannot publicly support BDS, some privately are bound to rejoice. After all, before the Knesset outlawed BDS advocacy, they have been calling for boycott for more than a decade now. Indeed, quite a few, mostly associated with "Boycott from Within," helped Omar Barghouti to organize the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the flagship of the boycott movement. Not incidentally, those who clandestinely stand behind the BDS are all advocates of a bi-national state. 
Others, however, seem to be genuinely dismayed by the BDS onslaught. Quite surprisingly, one of them, Dan Rabinowitz, professor of anthropology from TAU, penned an article to explain his dismay and anguish. 
Rabinowitz, a veteran pro-Palestinian activist, was an early practitioner of critical anthropology. According to these scholars recollections of private individuals were prioritized over factual accounts and formal narratives, which, in their view, represented the "hegemonic discourse." As Rabinowitz explained, it was a "new discursive space for the Palestinians". 
Indeed, critical anthropology became a popular research tool to "document" alleged Israeli atrocities in the 1948 war. For instance, a critical anthropologist from BGU who interviewed women about their war experience concluded that the IDF committed widespread rape. Though none of the women actually witnessed a case of rape and there are no factual accounts, Fatma Kassem concluded that the rape narrative was a valid representation of the situation. 
Not incidentally, at the time, critical anthropology was promoted by Edward Said, who urged scholars to uncover the true narrative of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Rabinowitz was so enthusiastic about the new use of anthropology that "at the invitation of Rabinowitz, Said delivered the keynote address at the Israeli Anthropological Association in 1998." He even allowed fabrications. Rabinowitz was among those writing in defense of Said who was caught fabricating a childhood in Jerusalem while he grew up in Egypt. 
But, as Rabinowitz admits in his article below, he feels cheated by the followers of “his friend Said” that created the BDS movement. He explains that the BDS advocates want a bi-national state or deny the right of Jews to exist in the Middle East altogether. 
Rabinowitz does not discuss the misuses of critical anthropology that he pioneered and which contributed the misrepresentation of the record of the 1948 war. But he should be given credit for denouncing Said's followers and their distortion of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, not to mention the historical relations between the West and the “Orient"



Tel Aviv University
TAU Gadi Algazi: Medieval Historian turned Economic Expert?
Professor Gadi Algazi, one of the most radical academics-activists in Israel, has been subject to a number of the IAM posts. His latest political activities include the following. On October 13, 2015 Algazi has protested in Sakhnin in support with the Palestinian struggle. He is scheduled to speak in Paris at the Symposium "Palestinians in Israel" on Saturday, November 21, for the "Comité Vigilance pour une Paix Réelle au Proche-Orient" (CVPRPO), that is "Vigilance Committee for Real Peace in the Middle East," along with his TAU colleague Shlomo Sand. 
Most surprisingly, however, is Algazi’s metamorphosis from a historian of medieval Europe to an expert on the economy of the military rule in the territories. He is scheduled to speak on the issue in December during a conference organized by the Israeli Association of Economic History hosted by the University of Haifa. All this in spite of the fact that Algazi’s academic interests are middle ages, social-cultural history, historical anthropology, Germany, and history and theory of the social sciences. 
That Algazi would try and use a conference on economic history or any other occasion to bash Israel can be expected. Radical academics believe that their tenured position gives them the right to publish on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict regardless of the field of expertise they were hired for. 
What is surprising, however, is the lack of judgment of the organizers of the conference. By providing a platform for a radical activist with no credentials in economics, they diminish the academic credibility of the entire program. Such shoddy standards would have never been accepted in the life sciences and should not be tolerated in the social sciences.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS in Elite Universities: The Oxford Union Debate
While it is not routine for Israeli newspapers to comment on debates of the hallowed Oxford Union debate society, many carried articles about the BDS debate in which Professor Alan Dershowitz who opposes BDS faced off with the human rights activist Peter Tatchell, a pro-BDS supporter. Some of the articles used a sports metaphor to proclaim Dershowitz a winner after the votes were counted: Dershowitz - 136, Tatchell - 101. 
The problem with this metaphor is that sports events are defined as zero-sum games, one side loses the other wins. By definition, intellectual debates do not possess the zero-sum game characteristics. The 101 students who voted for the BDS were evidently not persuaded by Professor Dershowitz. 
But the event is much more than a count of “yays and nays.” That the Oxford Union chose to host the debate is an indicator of how much the discourse on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has become embedded in the intellectual fabric of higher education. Unlike its American Ivy League counterparts, Oxford University has never been a hotbed of BDS activism. But the constant rehashing of the issue is bound to leave an impression on students as they work their way up to leadership positions. 
“When failure succeeds", as coined by Samuel Edelman and Carol Edelman, the very fact that a BDS motion is debated on campus educates the student collective about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.



General Articles
The Perception of Israel in Elite Universities: A View from Oxford
universities are good point to start. As IAM has repeatedly noted, campuses are incubators of the notion that Israel has a highly negative presence in international relations, a country which occupies and mistreats the Palestinians to the point of a virtual apartheid. This view is especially entrenched in elite universities such as the Ivy League schools in the United States or Oxford and Cambridge in England. 
In the article below, Ilan Manor, a newly arrived Ph.D. student at Oxford University, captures this notion well. Oxford dons “do not regard Israel as a high tech nation, a gay tourist destination or a model for modern democracy.” Worse, in his view, “no public diplomacy, no sloganeering, and no infographics shared on line can counter Israel’s reputation as a synonymous with bigotry, violence and the oppression of human rights.” 
Israel’s poor standing in the academic community is part and parcel of a broad trend in the liberal arts, namely the virtual dominance of leftist views in the academy. 
In his review of a new book by Paul Kengar on the subject, the journalist Robert Knight writes that the “Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci” called for his fellow revolutionaries to “'capture the culture,' that is, infiltrate the institutions that transmit cultural values. So they did, especially in the universities." 
Recognizing that Israel has become a poster child of the Gramscian revolution in higher education, does not make it easier to fight the phenomenon. As Manor noted, not only do elite universities educate the cultural and political elites that dictate the popular perception of their own countries, but inform the views of the a large cohort of future leading elites in the world: “Oxford is more than that, it is a global melting pot: The dining halls are filled each night with students from Switzerland, the Netherlands, Korea, Japan, Egypt and India.” 
Manor’s observations are noteworthy in the context of the current efforts to offer a counter-narrative to the view that Israel is the “skunk” in the international community, a term which Nelson Mandela had used to describe the apartheid-era South Africa. Although Manor seems to be pessimistic that such efforts would succeed, they are essential to balancing the view on campus.









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