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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.



Anti-Israel Conferences
Palestinian Right to Return Travels to Venezuela: Expanding the Academic Reach to South America
On the 15th of April, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hosted a conference on the Palestinian Right of Return. This is hardly surprising since Maduro, like his predecessor Hugo Chavez, have spearheaded pro-Palestinian initiatives in South America for decades. The identity of the organizers of the event is scarcely unexpected either Nicola Hadwa Shahram, the Palestinian football couch and the chair of the Chilean Committee on Solidarity with the Palestinians and Fuad Musa, the head of the Center for Islamic Culture in Santiago are known pro-Palestinian activists. 
What is more intriguing, however, is the scholarly material that the Right of Return groups have used in their presentations. Elia Zureik, a Palestinian sociologist at the Queens University, Ontario, Canada, is arguably the academic architect of the Palestinian right of return. Zureik, a highly prolific scholar-activist served on the Refugee Working Group (RWG) set up under the auspices of the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference. 
Starting in the early 1980s, Zureik tirelessly argued that the right of return should be enshrined in any resolution to the conflict. He and a group of like-minded Palestinian academics including Rashid Khalidi, escalated their pressure on Yasser Arafat during the Camp David II agreement. According to some analysts, the Zureik group had managed to elevate the right of return from a virtual non-issue to a high priority item, making it harder for Arafat to sign the deal. 
Since the collapse of the Oslo process, the Palestinian right of return has been embraced by many in the academic community. Not coincidentally, this development coincided with the critical theory critique of realism and neorealism in International Relation (IR). Realists and neorealists consider power to be at the core of IR and thus regard the plight of the Palestinians as outcome of the 1948 war. In other words, the Palestinians were belligerents who rejected the UN Partition resolution, initiated a conflict, and had the bad luck to lose it. Critical theorists, on the other hand, vehemently reject the notion that power considerations should have a place in IR theory or practice. For them, the Palestinians are the quintessential victims of the power of ‘capitalism, imperialism and colonialism’ that deserve the full restoration of their rights. 
As the Venezuelan conference initiative takes shape, it can count on the Zureik and his academic followers. For instance, the Journal of Palestine Studies has some 215 articles on the right to return, not to mention scores of books and reports. Last but not least, some Jewish academics have signed on petition for the right for returnand in Israel there are some like Shenhav, and others that embraced the Palestinian's right to return to Israel.



Anti-Israel Conferences
Southampton U Conference: Organizers Lose Legal Challenge to Reverse Cancellation on Safety Ground
On the 14th of April 2015, the High Court in London ruled against the organizers of a conference at Southampton University that promised to ‘reevaluate’ Israel’s right to exist. The university cancelled the event on the grounds of public safety. The High Court agreed with the university authorities that safety may become compromised. As the article below mentions, the Judge said "Permission had been withdrawn because the university decided it was not possible to put in place measures to ensure staff and student safety" and that "There is no evidence the decision was taken otherwise than in good faith with a conscientious application of the duty to protect free speech." 
The conference organizers and their supporters have insisted that Southampton University has succumbed to pressure and abrogated their free speech. The situation is ironic to say the least. As IAM noted, pro-Palestinian activists have a long history of violently disputing pro-Israeli events on campus. 
Unlike the United States, Great Britain has no First Amendment and restrictions on free speech can be put in place on account of public safety and other considerations. Radical pro-Palestinian activists have no one but themselves to blame for creating an atmosphere of violence and intimidation that makes a fair and balanced debate all but impossible.



University of Haifa
Quantitative vs Qualitative research methods in Social Sciences: Amalia Sa'ar (U of Haifa) as a case in point
The Israel Science Foundation (ISF) has recently announced a job opening for a director of the Social Science grants system (see below in Hebrew). The job description specifically requested a candidate with strong background in quantitative research methods relevant to social sciences. 
The announcement upset Dr. Amalia Sa'ar (Anthropology, University of Haifa) who wrote the Social Science Forum to complain about discrimination. She noted that the request for quantitative method specialist was very "alarming" and that "whether it reflects an explicit decision of the Management of the Foundation and whether it reflects a hegemonic worldview... In practice, it means a-priori preference of quantitative research. The Israel Science Foundation is now one of the main funding sources of social science research, especially the theoretical and academic studies. A decision on the preference of quantitative studies significantly harms the ability of qualitative researchers to gain funding from the Foundation." 
In order to understand Saar's reaction a broader perspective on Israeli social sciences is needed. 
The ISF's decision to help with elevating the level of social science research and teaching is long overdue. In 2013 IAM expressed concerns with the low standing of Israeli social sciences in Western academy. Dr. Yaacov Bergman (HUJ), an expert on higher education, noted that social sciences scored well below average when compared with American and European counterpart. Bergman pointed out the American National Research Council had indicated that the non-scientific political science departments would tend to cluster in the lower end of its ranking. Cutting edge approaches such as rational choice theory, advanced quantitative methods and networking analysis are considered essential for elevating the status of a given department. 
But quantitative methods are hardly the norm in Israel. 
The International Committee on Evolution of Political Science departments under Professor Thomas Risse that evaluated the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, noted the woeful state of quantitative methods there. A similar conclusion was drawn by the committee that evaluated the Department of Sociology at BGU. In both cases, the recommendations urged that "courses should be broadened further to include additional research from quantitatively oriented perspectives". It also stated that "faculty who work from a critical perspective also teach in the organizational sociology track - which raises issues about the minimal exposure of students in this track to empirical and quantitative materials. In general, we remain concerned about the mal-distribution of the faculty over specialties in light of the student enrollment, among other reasons". 
Even the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University did not escape censure. The Evaluating Committee noted the meager offerings in quantitative methods, prompting the Department to hire appropriate faculty. 
But Sa'ar is not concerned about the standing of Israeli social sciences in the international arena. She writes on her academic webpage: "I am a cultural anthropologist, a senior lecturer and chair of the Department of Anthropology (dept. in the making) at the University of Haifa. I am also a peace and feminist activist." Not surprisingly, a perusal of her research record shows a preoccupation with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict sprinkled with some feminist musings. Most are published in marginal venues. 
Significantly, she was promoted without publishing a book, a standard requirement in the social sciences. 
As IAM has emphasized numerous times, social sciences in Israel are full of the likes of Amalia Saar who use their positions to push for a political agenda. 
The question here is clear: Why should the tax payer support one more radical feminist with a mediocre research record. They have the right to expect excellence in higher education as measured by globally recognized indices.



General Articles
Investing in Social Science Paradigms: The “Knowledge Transfer Initiative” in Bahrain
Bahrain is one of the more recent Arab states to spend a portion of its oil revenues on shaping the social science paradigms in the West. As the below announcement states, the Bahrain Ministry of Culture organized its first Euro-Arab Meeting of Young Researchers in Social Sciences in coordination with the International Sociological Association and European Sociological Association and Arab Sociological Association. Young researchers selected for the project will travel to Bahrain on an all-expense paid trip to discuss proposals for their future research. 
The Bahrain initiative is part of a new high level effort to influence Western sociology with an Arab perspective. It follows the complaint of Sari Hanafi, a professor at the American University in Beirut and the first Palestinian Vice President of the International Sociological Association about the “lack of Arab contribution in social sciences.” Hanafi concludes that, compared to the field of Middle East studies, where Arab and Muslim scholars predominate, sociology needs more of an “Arab contribution.“ 
Though positivist sociologists may take exception to having a nationally oriented perspective in social sciences, Hanafi, a leading neo-Marxist, critical scholar, views traditional sociology as the domain of Western (read capitalist, imperialist, and colonialist) hegemony. His long list of publications is dominated by work on Israeli occupation, Palestinian refugees, and right to return. In fact, Hanafi co-edited with Adi Ophir and Michal Givoni a book titled The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in Occupation Territories on the subject. 
It is hardly surprising that, given his academic-ideological background, Hanafi wants more of an “Arab contribution” into sociology. Hanafi understands that Western social sciences generate the type of paradigms that inform scholarly research at the more applied level. But it is highly significant that the Kingdom of Bahrain decided to invest money in this project. The explanation here is that, by grooming younger social science cohorts, the ‘commanding heights’ of the discipline can be infused with the so-called “Arab perspective.” 
The Bahraini project illustrates the real difficulties in contending with the anti-Israeli initiatives on campus. While BDS is easier to define and fight, the long term paradigmatic changes in social sciences that provides the scholarly justification for BDS are more difficult to challenge.



Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
University of Southampton to cancel anti-Israel conference on ground of health and safety risks
The controversial conference in University of Southampton questioning Israel's right to exist may be cancelled on ground of safety concerns, according to the major media. 
The conference was due to take place in April 17-19. The organizers are all known political activists: Oren Ben-Dor, University of Southampton, a staunch supporter of a bi-national state and a member of the One State Group, wrote in 2005 in The Independent, The boycott should continue; George Bisharat, Professor of law at University of California and Hastings College of the Law, wrote in 2010 on the Mavi Marmara affair in the USA Today, that Israel is "a state committed to privileging Jews" and that "Israel is implanted...in a country that, can only be sustained by violence"; Suleiman Sharkh, Professor of Power Electronics Machines and Drives, University of Southampton, signed in 2012 a Letter in CounterPunch "The World Cannot Stand by as Palestine is Battered to Death". 
University of Southampton authorities were besought by letters and petitions from Jewish groups to cancel the event because of its one-sided selection of speakers and overall bias. The gist of all these appeals was that universities should not provide legitimacy to blatant political events. The only pro-Israel speaker scheduled was professor Geoffrey Alderman from University of Buckingham, hardly a balance for the otherwise hostile three days conference. 
The Southampton case is reflective of the broader issue of whether extreme bias on campus can be tolerated under the guise of academic freedom. There are no simple answers to this conundrum, prompting academic authorities to invoke the safety hazard remedy. This, however, created a powerful irony since pro-Palestinian activists have forced the cancellation of several pro-Israeli events by promising disruptions. For instance, in 2007 the University of Leeds cancelled a lecture of Dr. Matthias Kuntzel, a German scholar that was invited by the German Department, entitled “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Anti-Semitism in the Middle East.” The university’s Islamic Society complained about the “offensive title,” although the title was changed, university authorities cancelled the lecture on grounds of security concerns. 
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the organizers announced that they "will explore legal emergency measures to prevent the university from cancelling the conference." They are learning the hard way what a two edged sword is.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
Anti-Boycott Initiative by Congress: Implications for Academic BDS
Two House members, Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado) and Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) introduced legislation, Boycott Our Enemies, Not Israel Act. Under the terms of the bill, contractors with the U.S. government and those seeking contracts would have to certify that they are not engaged in any boycott against Israel. Lamborn explained that the legislation will “thwart efforts by Palestinian organizations to pressure different corporations, companies and educational institutions to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel.” 
This is the second BDS-related piece of legislation in Congress. Responding to the American Studies Associations' BDS resolution, Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) and Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois) introduced “Protect Academic Freedom Act” in 2014. 
Unlike the Roskam-Lipinski proposal that faces complex First Amendment questions, the Lamborn-DeSantis legislation should have an easy sailing in Congress where both chambers are controlled by Republicans. 
The new legislation is a potential game-changer. None the BDS resolutions have prompted university authorities to actually divest, leading observers to note that the process of debating the resolutions is the actual prize. The debates have provided the organizers with a well-publicized platform to present Israel as an apartheid state. Should Lamborn-DeSantis pass, the BDS resolutions would essentially demand that universities put the said companies between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They can divest to please their academic shareholders, but would have to face federal penalties if they seek contracts. 
Only time will tell how the new scenario will put a dent in the BDS movement or encourage the hard-core activists to take on their other great enemies, capitalism and imperialism.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
TAU Anat Matar to lecture on BDS next week in Prague
Anat Matar, a senior lecturer in the Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University, is a veteran radical activist. As IAM noted, after receiving tenure she essentially stopped publishing in her field in order to write polemics that support her position as a veteran member of the Communist Party. Among her projects is military service refusal and an effort to reclassify Palestinian prisoners accused of acts of terror, as political prisoners. 
As a lecturer in Philosophy, she goes around lecturing on the Arab-Israeli dispute, a topic she is not qualified for - something unheard of in life sciences. 
Matar, along with Rachel Giora, Kobi Snitz and Neve Gordon. has been a leading force in the BDS movement and closely associated with Boycott From Within. 
In 2010 her BDS campaign attracted the attention of some members of the Board of Governors of TAU that called for her dismissal, a move that was nixed by President Josef Klafter. 
Evidently emboldened by the failure of TAU to take action, Matar has already defied the Knesset BDS law before. In 2011 she wrote an open letter to a British theater director to cancel a workshop at the Kameri theater to punish it for an appearance in Ariel. 
Nest week, Matar plans to travel to Prague to speak at an event organized by the Palestinian Club and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) that support BDS. 
TAU can sanction academics who break the law. As a publicly funded institution, it should be especially diligent in following the law. But the past failures to censure Matar suggest that TAU considers itself to be above the law. 
By citing an archaic definition of academic freedom the university authorities do a disservice to the tax payers who fund Matar's salary. Equally disturbing, they shortchange her students who are denied the benefit of an education by a competent researcher, a standard expected in a research university like TAU. 
Last but not least, allowing activist faculty to default on their research duties, the academic leadership contributes to the woeful underperformances of Israel in liberal arts. 
Radical academic activism sailing under the flag of academic freedom has virtually no equivalents in the West where public universities are accountable to the public. Over the years, Israel has adopted many of the Western cultural and political markers. It is about time that the Israeli academy follows suit.



Ben-Gurion University
Neve Gordon Defies BGU Code of Ethics
In December 2011 Ben-Gurion University amended its ethics code to include a clause prohibiting the use of the university's name while speaking publicly about politics. It stated: "In voicing their political or religious opinions, unlike particular professional views, staff members should refrain from using the Ben-Gurion University's name." The purpose was to make sure academics are speaking for themselves and do not represent the university. 
This move was a reaction to Neve Gordon, a professor at Ben Gurion's Politics and Government, who in August 2009 called in the Los Angeles Times for a boycott of Israel. Subsequently, the the Israeli Knesset passed a law making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli institutions. Soon after, Rivka Carmi wrote a rebuttal to Gordon in the L.A. Times, where she stated "Gordon has forfeited his ability to work effectively within the academic setting, with his colleagues in Israel and around the world. After his very public, personal soul-searching in his Op-Ed article, leading to his extreme description of Israel as an "apartheid" state, how can he, in good faith, create the collaborative atmosphere necessary for true academic research and teaching?" 
Now, six years later, as the article below indicates, Gordon has published an article stating "The people of Israel have voted for Apartheid," signing off with his position at BGU. 
Gordon does not violate the boycott law, but he does contravene BGU's ethics code requesting not to include the institution's name when publishing political views. 
Will Carmi sanction Gordon? Not likely. As IAM repeatedly noted, Israel's system of higher education has avoided censuring radical faculty for fear of provoking backlash from the academic community in the West. To recall, in order to prevent implementing fundamental changes, or else closing, of the substandard Department of Politics and Government of BGU as recommended by the International Evaluation Committee, Carmi and Dean David Newman called on academics to send in their protest. Letters and petitions threatening to boycott the Israeli academy piled up in the offices of the Minister of Education and the Council for Higher Education (MALAG). In the end the MALAG blinked first, leaving the Department open with minimal changes. 
As for Carmi's conundrum in dealing with Gordon, her rebuttal in the L.A. Times sounds exceptionally hollow.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS, Hillel and the Open Hillel: The Erosion of Jewish Unity on the Campuses
The BDS debate on American campuses is normally presented as a clash between pro-Palestinian activists and Jewish students and faculty. However, as IAM has reported in the past, this view does not fit the complexities of Jewish politics in America in general and the campus in particular. 
The Jewish vs. Jewish clash around BDS has impacted the Hillel Intentional, which funds Jewish activities on campus. According to the Hillel guidelines, local Hillel chapters are not expected to host speakers supposing BDS. Jewish students at Swarthmore challenged this directive and subsequently established the Open Hillel movement advocating a more inclusive policy on speakers. As the article in Haaretz indicates, the Open Hillel has spread to other campuses, including Harvard University. 
Hillel International has also attracted considerable criticism when its president Eric Fingerghut, refused to attend the upcoming J Street conference. Though J Street does not endorse boycott, it is a liberal group often at odds with the right-wing government of Israel. Interestingly, much of the criticism came from retired and serving heads of Hillel chapters. 
It is well known that American Jews, like their counterparts in Israel are split in their approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The liberal majority, including the Reform movement and non-affiliated Jews, has made little secret of its desire to see Benjamin Netanyahu go. Eric Jaffe, the former head of the Reform movement and one of the most influential voice in the Jewish community, could not have been clearer in his numerous writings before the election. 
Preliminary reports indicate that the resounding victory of the Likud and the prospect of a right-wing Israeli government has dismayed liberal Jews. There is little doubt that the Jewish schism will further fragment Jewish students at a time where unity is needed to fight BDS.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS, anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism: Searching for a Dividing Line?
As reported by IAM, in February the Stanford University Student Senate passed a BDS resolution. The BDS motion was hailed as a victory for the pro-Palestinian cause since the university was considered non-political, as opposed to Berkeley or UCLA and other hotbeds of Palestinian activism. 
A month later a group of senior professors, including a number of Nobel Prize winners, sent a letter to the authorities urging to disregard the students’ resolution. The move is highly interesting. Until quite recently, it was normally the pro-Palestinian faculty that have been engaged in BDS. The Stanford professors, many of them leftist themselves, felt compelled to get involved because of the popularity of the BDS drive. As Larry Diamond, a professor of sociology and political science, explained, there was something unsettling about the way BDS conflates anti-Israeli and anti –Semitic themes. Diamond stated that he was not to look for the proverbial anti-Semite hiding under every bed, but recent events made him note how permeable the line between BDS and anti-Semitism is. Some of the incidents such as painting of swastikas on a Jewish fraternity house are quite clear-cut and have been roundly denounced. 
But it is the more insidious cases of anti-Semitism that worries Diamond the most. One of it pertains to Rachel Beyda, who run for the UCLA Student Council Judicial Board. Instead of focusing on her merits, the meeting turned into a debate on whether a Jewish student involved in Jewish campus life is “kosher” enough to serve on the board. Rachel's nomination was defeated, but after prodding by faculty advisers, the UCLA Student Council apologized and Beyda was elected. 
The case received broad national exposure, including a front-page article in the New York Times. As the article, Diamond and numerous critics point out, it would be inconceivable to apply the same standards to African Americans, gays or other “politically correct” minority students. But after decades of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist discourse on campus, Jews are now painted with the same broad brush of “colonialism, imperialism, and apartheid” as Israel is. For the pro-Palestinian purists, Jewish ethnicity is enough to disqualify a person, whatever their political opinions are. This was a lesson that Amira Hass, the Haartez journalist and an extravagant defender of Palestinians, has learned when she was banned from speaking at the anti-Israel panel at Birzeit University. 
For the less zealous, a Jew (or an Israeli) is acceptable if he or she embraces a politically correct position on the conflict. For instance, members of the Jewish Voices for Peace – a small group that advocates a unitary state and the right of return of Palestinians, are normally sought after by pro-Palestinian activists. 
Sadly, these two trends reflect historical patterns of anti-Semitism. One is based on ethno-religiosity in its most immutable form: a Jew is a Jew and as such, is not acceptable. The other is more flexible: Jews can embrace a politically correct position - a price of admittance. In other words, only “good Jews” need to apply.








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