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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:


Ben-Gurion University
BGU Haim Yacobi - A Political Activist at a SOAS Conference "Settler and Citizens: A Critical View Of Israeli Society"
Prof. Haim Yacobi (BGU Department of Politics and Government) is one of the speakers at the annual Palestine Society Conference of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. As well known, SOAS has a long tradition of anti-Israel agitation masquerading as academic discourse. 
The 10th Palestine Society Conference is featuring radical academics such as Ilan Pappe and indeed, Yacobi would be rubbing shoulders with Pappe, Hilla Dayan and others. 
That Yacobi will participate in the SOAS conference is hardly surprising. His academic background indicates that after completing an undergraduate degree in architecture at Betzalel Academy, he decided to find something more suitable to express his political ideas. To this end, he did work on his doctoral dissertation under Prof. Oren Yiftachel who was the first to “determine” that Israel was an apartheid state. 
Like his mentor, Yacobi has worked hard to make sure that Israel is a colonial apartheid society. For instance in 2005, he published an article with Yiftachel titled "Walls, Fences and 'Creeping Apartheid' in Israel/Palestine". A perusal of his work indicates a preponderance of terms like colonial, segregated and divided, discussed in the context of urban planning which seems to be his specialization. 
It is not at all surprising that Yacobi would follow his political passion by “proving” that the colonial, apartheid character of Israeli society is reflected in its urban and regional planning. IAM has proved numerous times that faculty activists invariably use their position to propagate their political agenda. 
The real surprise here, why was he offered a position in the Department of Politics and Government? Certainly, the classes he offers such as, The Politics of the City; Political Geography: Theory, Methodology, Criticism; The Struggle over Space; are extremely marginal to political science. 
Indeed, the 2012 International Evaluation Committee criticized the Department of having no core political science curriculum and virtually no training in research methods. The Council of Higher Education has threatened to close the Department but backed down when the President of BGU Prof. Rivka Carmi and the Dean, Prof. David Newman appealed to international scholars to protest the decision. 
So once again the taxpayers are supporting a radical activist with a questionable research agenda who can use their money to travel to a conference which presents Israel as the "poster child" of colonialism and apartheid. To make matter worse, Yacobi and other radical activists have deprived students of a cutting edge education in political science and other disciplines. 
Yacobi who is tenured cannot be removed from the Department, but here are a few suggestions what he can offer in the politics of urban planning to educate students for 21st century issues. The topics are taken from urban and regional planning program of a middle-level state (public) university in the United States. 
Ecologist and environmental research that focuses on the interrelations between natural and human systems in planning and management; Urban governance, sustainable development and processes of urban restructuring. The Politics and Effects of High Density Zoning in Urban Environment; land use planning and policy, the links between health and the built environment, state and local finance and intergovernmental relations, with a particular emphasis on the impacts of various development patterns and the broad effects of growth on communities.



Tel Aviv University
TAU Gerardo Leibner: A Profile of a Radical Activist Supported by Taxpayers
As the Israeli universities are engaged in yet another round of budget negotiations with the government, the usual complains about the shortchanging of higher education have been voiced. Since virtually all Israeli universities are public, they have to compete for their share of the taxpayers’ money with other sectors of the society. It is imperative thus for the universities to demonstrate that they are good stewards of the public largess. 
However, as IAM has repeatedly indicated, social science and humanities have quite often employed radical activists who used their tenured positions to promote a political agenda. 
Dr. Gerardo Leibner, a senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University’s General History Department fits this profile well. 
He has spent most of his time trashing Israel in Spanish language publications, promoting Nakba Day on Tel Aviv University campus where he was caught on camera yelling, shoving and pushing a policeman, and even running for Knesset on The Joint List party ticket.
Leibner’s virtually full time activism has left him precious little time to research and publish. His publishing record is very modest, especially when compared to the output of an equivalent public university in the United States. Like Anat Matar andother activists that IAM profiled, he was never promoted to associate professor. 
Like Matar, Leibner probably does not care about climbing the academic ladder since his true commitment is to political activism. But the taxpayers who foot his salary have the right to know why Tel Aviv University authorities have created a sinecure - a position that requires little work but giving the holder status or financial benefit - for Leibner, Matar and other activists.



Hebrew University
[HUJ] Tom Pessah: A Profile of Political Activist Supported by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Even by the standards of radical faculty activism, Dr. Tom Pessah is an outlier. A veteran professional activist who tends to sport a kafiya during public events, Pessah obtained a Ph.D. from Berkeley University on the topic of the Nakba. He is an ardent supporter of a binational state, a theory he espoused in “Who's Afraid of the Right of Return?” and favors BDS. 
Since returning to Israel Pessah went into an activist overdrive. He has rejoined Zochrot, an organization dedicated to a binational state and the Truth Commission, modeled on the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Pessah is in charge of organizing a 2016 conference for Zochrot entitled "Third International Conference on the Return of Palestinian Refugees" In his invitation for papers posted on the social science forum he writes, "Zochrot works to promote recognition and responsibility-taking by Jewish Israeli society for its part in the ongoing Nakba and realize the return of Palestinian refugees as the necessary redress of the Nakba. In March 2016, Zochrot will hold its third International Conference on Return to discuss What is currently being done to promote return, and what can be done in the future?" 
of course, Pessah, like any other Israeli citizen, is entitled to his political opinions and activism. What is puzzling, however, is the source of financial support that enables Pessah to operate as a full time political activist masquerading as faculty. As it happens, Pessah was the recipient of the Morris Ginsberg fellow in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for 2014-5. The Fellowship was created through a grant of Morris Ginsberg, an eminent British-Jewish sociologist, to nurture young academics in research pertaining to Ginsberg’s interest. 
The original mandate notwithstanding, over the years the Department offered the Fellowship in a hodgepodge of subjects with no clear direction or rational. Without sounding too negative, one could probably arrive at such a list by picking candidates at random. 
What makes this fiasco more noteworthy is the bad review that the Department received from the International Evaluation Committee in 2012. Headed by Prof. Seymour Spilerman of Department of Sociology, Columbia University, the Committee noted that during its heyday, the Sociology Department housed sociologists of international renown, such as Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt. 
The Committee found the Department lagging behind in many fields and especially in quantitative methods and innovate approaches such as network analysis, sociology of innovation, sociology of technology and science, and others. 
Of course, there are financial constraints on all departments which seek to stay competitive in a fast changing field. But the leaders of the Department could have used the Ginsberg Fellowship to invite post-doctoral students specializing in the cutting edge research fields of the discipline instead of financing Pessah’s activism with Zochrot. 
Here are a number of topics to consider, based on offering at Ivy League universities: labor market organization; economic sociology; social networks organizations; health and social policy in the context of economic and political globalization; organizational theory; statistical methodology; corporate governance, accountability and social responsibility; sociology of the city ;sociology of science, knowledge, and technology; entrepreneurial and startup companies.



Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
Ilan Pappe & the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies at Exeter University: A Match Made in Activist Haven
When Pappe left Haifa University in 2004 amid the controversy surrounding the student Teddy Katz who, according to an Israeli court, “fabricated” a massacre in Tantura allegedly committed by the Alexandroni Brigade in 1948, academic authorities breathed a sigh of relief. But Pappe secured a position at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University, where his career of exaggerations, inventions and fabrications took off dramatically. 
Of late, Pappe has expanded beyond the incessant focus on the alleged misdeeds of Israel in 1948 that, in his view, included wholesale ethnic cleansing, massacres and labor camps. He teamed up with Noam Chomsky to publish a book on the Gaza War, and edited a book on South Africa and Israel to show the alleged apartheid similarities. 
If Pappe was employed by Walmart he would surely be made the “employee of the month” for his faithful service. As it happens, he is employed by the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University, but the principle is the same. Exeter University is one of the largest recipient of Arab money in Great Britain and the Institute, founded by Tim Niblok, has had a highly activist agenda of whitewashing the developments in the Middle East and blackening Israel. 
This much should be clear from the list of conferences and events organized by the Institute since January 2014. As well known, the period has coincided with the immense turmoil introduced by ISIS and its brutal hold on large swath of territories in Syria and Iraq. 
The list indicates that about a quarter of the talks were devoted to Israel, including Pappe’s conference discussed in the previous post. Uri Davis, the former Matzpen member who converted to Islam and a member of the Fatah since 1984 was invited to speak on “(What is Palestine?; What is political-Zionism?; What are Zionist Institutions?; What is ethnic cleansing?; What is apartheid?) and after considering the analogies and the specificities of Israeli apartheid versus past South African apartheid as well as the political implication of declaring Israel an apartheid state under international law.” 
The talk by Professor Simona Sharoni on March 25, 2015, is especially ironic in this context. Sharoni spoke on “gender and resistance” in the occupied territories: “There is much to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the analysis of community-base research conducted by the Women’s Studies Institute at Birzeit University in Palestine or from listening to the accounts of Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories.” 
Needless to say, the Institute did not deem it important to organize an event on the treatment of women by ISIS. According to a detailed report compiled by Amnesty International and carried by numerous media, ISIS has codified sexual slavery for non-Muslim women, including the Yazidi minority, Christian and Jews, and created a bureaucracy for auctioning women in ISIS run auction houses. 
Still, it is not likely that the Institute would discuss the treatment of women in the ISIS- occupied territories. The constant emphasis on Israel is a good diversion technique, it is politically correct, and pleases the Arab funders to boot



Anti-Israel Conferences
An Upcoming one-sided Exeter U conference "Settler Colonialism in Palestine"
Ilan Pappe, one of the most bitter critics of Israel, has been amply rewarded for his anti-Israeli position. Since 2010 he is Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. Under its founder and former head, Professor Tim Nibloc, the Institute received large donations from Arab countries. This largess has continued to date, making Exeter University one of the largest recipients of Arab money in Great Britain. 
Unsurprisingly, the Institute has little to say about the collapse of the Arab Spring, the bloody civil war in Syria or the rise of the malevolent Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) which has committed unimaginable atrocities in its quest to create a new Caliphate. 
Instead, it is funding Pappe's new conference titled "Conference on Settler Colonialism in Palestine." 
According to the outline, the conference will address the following questions: "What is the nature of Israel’s colonisation of Palestine? How does it manifest itself in different political, economic, social, as well as material and ideational arenas? How do settler colonial structures affect different forms of resistance? How are settler colonial narratives articulated (and disarticulated)? How has Israel’s settler colonial project impacted upon Palestine’s social, demographic, political and economic landscapes? How does settler colonialism intersect with global processes such as neo-liberalism, imperialism and war? How does Israeli settler-colonialism relate to the Israeli nation-state building project? How does resistance against the settler colonial regime by the indigenous Palestinian population relate to and articulate itself within/vis-à-vis the Palestinian national struggle?" 
Ironically, in 2011 The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) organized a conference titled 
Past Is Present: Settler Colonialism in Palestine which stated that "For over a century, Zionism has subjected Palestine and Palestinians to a structural and violent form of destruction, dispossession, land appropriation, and erasure in the pursuit of a new colonial Israeli society. By unearthing the histories and geographies of the Palestinian experience of settler colonialism, this conference does not only chart possibilities for understanding Palestine within comparative settler colonial analyses. Rather, it also seeks to break open frameworks binding Palestine, re-align the Palestinian movement within a universal history of decolonisation, and imagine new possibilities for Palestinian resistance, solidarity and common struggle." 
Here is suggestion for the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter: How about organizing a conference titled "Present is Present" which would discuss current events in the Middle East? Regurgitating colonial grievances is not going to advance our knowledge of some vital contemporary issues. 
Here are some suggestions for a conference: How is it that after decades of independence, with the exception of Tunisia, no Arab country has managed to sustain a viable democracy? How is it that, in spite of decades of nation-building, many of the Arab states have devolved into ethno-religious enclaves engaged in bloody warfare? How is it that a group like ISIS can commit some of the most heinous crimes in history, including beheading, burning alive, crucifixion, rape, sexual slavery, among others? 
And here is a suggestion for the really intellectually adventuresome at the Institute. How about organizing a conference called "Present is Future" which would try to imagine the political and social conditions of an ISIS led Caliphate?



General Articles
Steven Salaita: A Legal Update
IAM has followed closely the legal battle of Steven Salaita against the University of Illinois. As well known, in the summer of 2014, the University backed out of an agreement to hire Salaita, at the rank of Associate Professor with indefinite tenure, as part of the American Indian Studies Program. 
The decision was made after revelations pertaining to Salaita’s tweets during last year’s Israeli Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Among others, Salaita stated, "If you're defending Israel right now you are an awful human being” and "I repeat: if you're defending Israel right now, then 'hopelessly brainwashed' is your best prognosis". 
The issue has the potential to make case law history with regard to academic freedom - depending on the decision of the judge. One possibility it that Judge Harry D. Leinenweber would limit himself to the more narrow issue of contract violation. The other eventuality is that he would rule on the broader issue of First Amendment and academic freedom. 
That the latter may be in the working is indicated in Judge Leinenweber’s reference to the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court case Pickering v. Board of Education. At the time the Supreme Court ruled that public schools are in violation of the First Amendment when they fired a teacher for speaking out ex cathedra on an issue of public concern. 
Though the Judge stated that “there’s not yet enough known about the Salaita's case to apply a Pickering balance test between educational and free speech interests. But he also wrote that about the “profanity and incivility in [Salaita’s] tweets and the views those tweets presented:” “The contents were certainly a matter of public concern, and the topic of Israeli-Palestinian relations often brings passionate emotions to the surface. Under these circumstances, it would be nearly impossible to separate the tone of tweets on this issue with the content and views they express.” 
IAM would bring further update on the case.



Ben-Gurion University
Uri Ram and the Dept. of Sociology at BGU: Why Karl Marx and Not Adam Smith?
Professor Uri Ram, the dominant figure in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, has little regard for liberal economy and the globalization that has popularized the ideas of free market. 
To the contrary, in the 1990s, this self-proclaimed critical scholar and architect of New Sociology, launched a crusade against capitalism. He excoriated the eminent Hebrew University sociologist Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt for adopting the developmental model of sociology which, in Ram’s view reflected the “hegemonic” free market thinking. His 2007 book Globalization in Israel vented his frustration with the fact that Israel was becoming part of the free liberal economy. 
Needless to say, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology reflects his distaste of all thing mainstream or “hegemonic.” However, a 2012 Council of Higher Education Evaluation Committee offered a scathing report on the Department. Among others the Committee noted that there was a paucity of rigorous research method courses, that the course offerings were heavily biased toward critical sociology and had little to offer the many students who were interested in applied (and market oriented) subjects such as sociology of organizations, etc. The Committee urged hiring faculty well versed in research methods, including networking analysis and other topics that are prevalent in mainstream sociology departments. 
Not much has changed since the Evaluation Report which is still top heavy with faculty which specialize in what the Committee described as non-mainstream sociology. 
As for Ram himself, he is preoccupied as ever with his vision of what a society should be. In his new book on Buber and the Buberites, The Return of Martin Buber: National and Social Thought in Israel from Buber to Neo-Buberism (Hebrew), Ram writes that Buber, who became a professor in the Sociology Department at the Hebrew University, was a champion of social justice. He goes on to explain that Buberism was undermined by Eisenstadt , but is popular again among the so-called Buberites. 
Ram is also organizing a conference on Marx: "The 1917 Bolshevik revolution was central in shaping our age. The revolution was total: an economic, social, cultural, political and educational revolution, and aimed to make true Karl Marx's communist vision, open a new age in the history of the human kind." 
Quite clearly, it has probably never occurred to Ram, or anyone else in his Department, to organize a conference on Adam Smith, a name that, according to some observers, is not very familiar to Israeli students. To do that would be to acknowledge that Smith is as important as Buber and Marx to students who need to func'tion in the 21th century. 
The Evaluation Committee was emphatic that the Department’s students were not well equipped for this task and, in fact, have been shortchanged by their faculty. 
Here is a couple of suggestions on how the Department can enhance the education of their students. It is based on the curriculum of the Department of Sociology of the University of Pennsylvania (the oldest department of sociology in the United States.) First, the department has a very strong research methods program: “Sociology also introduces students to the conceptual and methodological tools of social science research, including ethnography, social statistics, network analysis and demographic methods. It provides a background for careers in law, management, journalism and media, criminology, medicine, education, and applied social research.” Second, it offers a special course on “Work and Careers in the 21th Century.“



Tel Aviv University
TAU Tovi Fenster, Rafael (Rafi) Greenberg and Chemi Shiff: New Ventures in Exploring Israel's Cultural Heritage
Tovi Fenster, professor of urban planning at TAU teamed up with her colleague in the Archaeology Department, Rafi Greenberg, to launch a new project in "exploration of Israel's Cultural Heritage." Chemi Shiff, a new doctoral student in the Planning Environment and Communities (PECLAB) which she heads, has been put to good use in organizing the new group.
Shiff earned his stripes and a position in the PECLAB with his MA dissertation. In an article based on his thesis, Shiff writes that Israeli landscape reflects a Western-European leisure culture and "can be understood as a relatively new expression of Israeli society’s ambivalent approach to the "natural." He discusses the wine growing farms in Israel which he labelled "Wine Route" – a forbidden product, according to the laws of Islam – can be viewed as another method of detaching the indigenous Muslim" culture from the land. He goes so far as to conclude that vandalism [against such sites] is acceptable because "the extremity of the act of destruction points to the... divide created by the site... to demand participation in the shaping of the...physical and symbolic landscape." 
Fenster, as noted in the previous post, is a veteran activist whose research on issues not related to planning suffers from serious "mission creep." 
Greenberg is best known for his theory that there is no archaeological evidence of Jewish presence in Jerusalem. He is also one of the leaders of Emek Shaveh, an NGO that opposes Jewish digs in Silwan. 
Greenberg told Aljazeera in 2013 that, "Israel has used archeology as one of the weapons in this ground war about expanding the Jewish presence in Jerusalem" and that "At first, archaeology was not part of the programme at all. At some point [2001], they saw that this was a way of gaining influence on all the open spaces - a kind of silent settlement." 
At first glance, the goal of the proposed group to explore Israel's cultural heritage sounds innocuous enough. However, digging dipper into the text of the announcement below reveals that it is aimed "to give proper weight to the cultural values and the values of distributive justice and representativeness, essential in a democratic society." Those familiar with the critical, neo-Marxist jargon popular in the social sciences would note that the group limits the "exploration of the cultural heritage" to the old Marxist notion of economic equality and redistribution of resources. 
Knowing the leaders of the group, there is little doubt that no other values would be "found." For a substantial part of the academics in the social sciences there is value (no pan intended) in preserving the pretense that socialism and communism are a viable reality. As long as the taxpayers support the fraternity of academic activists, such pretense is cost-free. It is the State of Israel with its subpar social science education that bears the real cost.



Tel Aviv University
TAU Tovi Fenster: A Profile of a Political Activist
Tovi Fenster, a professor of urban planning at Tel Aviv University, has turned her tenured position into a platform for political activism. A perusal of her publications indicates that her urban planning research suffered from serious "mission creep," another way of saying that she has embraced what has nothing to do with urban planning. Here are some examples: "Between socio-spatial and urban Justice: Rawls' Principles of Justice in the 2011 Israeli Protest Movement”; "Tactics and Strategies of Power: The Construction of Spaces of Belonging for Palestinian Women in Jaffa-Tel Aviv"; “Teaching Gender in Israel: Experience in Tel Aviv University.” “Belly Dancing in Israel: Body Embodiment, Religion and Nationality,” and so on. 
Fenster was hired to teach and research urban planning, but like other activist faculty profiled by IAM she is pursuing a political agenda at the expanse of the tax payer. 
Her many graduate students have followed the lead. For example, Chen Misgav wrote his doctoral dissertation titled Spatial Activism in the City: Perspectives of Body, Identity and Memory. The Planning for the environment with communities (PECLAB) website indicates that Misgav "works as full time student on his PhD at the PECLAB since 2008 and serves as the PECLAB coordinator." His dissertation is part of Fenster's apparent effort to "re-define the concept of activism by exposing and examining the ways activists construct urban spaces using concepts such as identity, embodiment and memory. The basic assumption of this research is that activism in the global era serves as an important element in our cities." 
How do Fenster and her students link this type of research to urban planning? The trick is simple: add the term “space” or “spatial” to the title and it becomes "urban planning." 
Like other faculty activists, Fenster has benefited from the expansive notion of academic freedom in the social sciences. She is clearly a winner of this system. Regrettably, the students and the taxpayers are the losers.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
How to Fight BDS? A Guide for the Perplexed - Readers Comments
The series has generated a large number of comments from our readers. Since we could not respond to each individual comment, there are two broad categories of issues that the readers brought up. 
First, there are those who expressed frustration that our series is called a Guide but has no suggestions for fighting BDS beyond pointing out the “negatives,” as they put it. The name Guide was a slightly humorous reference to the Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides. The title was meant to map out the contours of the BDS movement and its academic-intellectual roots, the complexity of the issues involved, and the cost and benefit calculations that need to be made when considering options. The Guide is a much needed map for what is now a quite loosely constructed endeavor, with groups and individual players touting their own diagnoses and, more important, their alleged success in fighting BDS. Unsurprisingly, BDS is mostly commonly diagnosed as subspecies of anti-Semitism and has generated a long list of conferences, workshops, books and articles on the subject. While there is some overall between anti-Semitism and BDS, a much broader perspective needs to be adopted to fight the BDS phenomenon. Our post is aimed to stimulate the discourse on the issue. 
Second, some readers sent us their own plans for fighting BDS. These readers also criticized the Israeli government for not leading the anti-BDS effort. As we empathized before, there are a number of bodies in the Israeli government that are in charge of fashioning and implementing anti-BDS infinitives. However, the efforts have been stalled because of bureaucratic turf war and the lack of agreement as to who are potential partners. For instance, the professional staff of the Foreign Ministry are inclined to include the liberal J-Street, but political appointees oppose the group. 
Third, some readers seem to be confused about the remarkable pluralism of the American Jewish community on campus and beyond which is expressed in attitudes toward BDS. By and large, American Jews tend to be secularized – a trend that is reflected in their solid pro-Democratic voting record. For instance, the more recent annual survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee, indicates that only 20 percent identify themselves as conservative or leaning conservative, with the rest self-described as moderate and liberal. Given this make-up, Israel has become a highly polarizing issue in the community at large and on campus in particular, as we reported before. The respectable Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute conducted its own survey that concluded that “Diaspora Jewry is increasingly critical of Israel and young Diaspora Jews are growing more alienated from the Jewish state.” 
The polarizing effect of Israel is not limited to BDS alone. The nuclear accord between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany), which Israel has bitterly opposed, has fractured the community. In spite of the fact that major Jewish organizations are lobbying Congress against approving the accord, the majority of American Jews support the agreement, according to a recent poll. In this sense, J-Street which is lobbying for the passage of the accord, seems to be more in tune with the majority of the American Diaspora. A recent poll conducted by Steven Cohen, a leading expert on attitudes of American Jews, found that 49 percent of American Jews support it and 35 percent oppose it. But among the younger cohorts (below 40), 59 percent support it and 25 oppose it. The disparity between the older generation and the younger American Jews should not come as a surprise as the 2013 Pew survey clearly demonstrated the emotional disengagement of younger Jews from Israel. 
This psychological distancing of the younger cohorts has a subtle but large impact on the BDS wars on campus. The experience of Eliora Katz, a graduate student, is imperative in this context. Katz wrote about the tense atmosphere on campus: “Most of all, we pay for it through the deep divide it has created within the Jewish community outside of Israel. Israel was once a unifying factor for Jews— secular or religious, Ashkenazi or Sephardi. Yet growing up in a post-intifada era, I have seen the Jewish Homeland transformed before my very eyes into a source of deep, acute division, a source of hatred and deplorable behavior [among Jews]”. While anti-BDS activists like Katz battle it out with Jewish BDS supporters, other Jewish students have chosen to dissociate.










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