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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.



Tel Aviv University
TAU Minerva Humanities the Employment Hub for Radical Activists: Tom Pessah
For long, the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU has served as the premier employment outfit for radical activists. The philosopher Adi Ophir, who urged NATO to bomb Israel in order to get it out of the territories, or Ariella Azoulay, who compared the separation fence in the West Bank to the fence in Auschwitz, they and others received salaries for doing what was essentially propaganda work. 
Minerva Humanities has continued this tradition by providing employment opportunities to a new cohort of scholar activists. Tom Pessah, who did his doctoral thesis "Backgrounding Ethnoracialization: The Meaning of Cleansing in Israel/Palestine, 1948" at the Department of Sociology of the University of California, Berkeley, is a case in point. As indicated below, this highly committed activist has been a Member of Students for Justice in Palestine that took part at mock checkpoints in Berkeley’s ‘Apartheid Week’ protests. He is also engaged with Zochrot, promoting Nakba recognition and responsibility of the Israeli society. 
Pessah, a fellow at the Minerva Humanities, is the source of the call for papers to a conference on "Zionist Opposition to Expulsions of 1948", below. 
Israeli universities are public and thus obligated to be accounted to the public and its elected officials. In the West the public supports tertiary education to advance the human capital of the country. It is well known that, for years, social sciences in Israel rank well below average and are skewed toward the critical, neo-Marxist paradigm. 
For instance, the CHE Evaluation Committee of the Department of Sociology, Ben Gurion University stated that there was a real disparity between the demands of the students for applied fields such as sociology of organizations and the preponderance of classes on Critical, neo-Marxist theory. The report indicated clearly, "students are taught to comprehend society and culture from a critical perspective... While this intent is laudable...the Committee is of the opinion that the objective of the department's programs should be, first and foremost, to familiarize students with the variety of theories." 
There is nothing wrong with academics who are politically engaged. However, there is something very wrong with the Israeli tertiary education that uses taxpayers money to provide salaries for activists. 
Tel Aviv University authorities should be good stewards of the funding they receive. A good place to start is to look at the practices of the Minerva Humanities Center.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
Israeli Apartheid Week Begins on Campuses Across the World
The beginning of March has been designated as Israeli Apartheid Week. According to favorable reports, from a handful of events more than a decade ago, it has grown to a sizable movement in some 200 locations. In their streamlined and polished version, the new Apartheid Week are coordinated with the BDS movement, handing out material pertinent for launching BDS initiatives. 
The situation in the United States reflects the overall trends. Some people feel that the Conditions on campus have deteriorated, still Pro-Israel activists are optimistic that there are legal and organizational remedies to fight this phenomenon. It is certainly true that after years of inaction, Jewish organizations have put campus BDS at the top of their agenda and contributed considerable sums of money to the project. The Peter Roskam bill that would make BDS illegal is moving slowly through Congress. 
But, as IAM already indicated, the various anti-BDS initiatives face a stiff challenge. Efforts in Great Britain and Australia to link BDS advocacy to anti-Semitism were rebuffed by the courts. First amendment issues as well as academic free speech will also play a role in determining the success of the anti-BDS drive. 
The academic year 2015/6 will provide some answers to this questions. As always, IAM will report on all relevant developments.



Tel Aviv University
Israeli Social Science Scores Below Average and TAU Moshe Zuckermann's Israel Bashing: Where is the Connection?
Professor Moshe Zuckermann (TAU) was invited to give a talk in Germany and Switzerland to launch his new book in German "ISRAEL'S DESTINY: How Zionism Operates its Demise." 
IAM has repeatedly emphasized that Zuckermann, like any other Israeli citizen, has a right to free expression. But Zuckermann, who piled up a lot of frequent miles travelling to German speaking countries, gets his legitimacy from his association with Tel Aviv University. 
It is deplorable that Zuckermann uses his academic credentials to peddle conspiracy theories about the alleged manipulations of Zionism, to an appreciative pro-Palestinian audiences. It is even more deplorable that Tel Aviv University used tax payers money to hire and promote a person with dubious academic credentials who spent much of his career writing anti-Israeli polemics. 
Those who repeat the mantra of "academic freedom" to justify Zuckermann and his ilk are misguided. As IAM repeatedly pointed out, Zuckermann would not have been tolerated in engineering or sciences where faculty are expected to teach and research in the field of their expertise. Moreover, Zuckermann and his ilk would not be tolerated in any public university in the West where accountability protocols are strong. 
Those who claim that unfettered academic freedom is the only way to achieve academic excellence should know that according to Science Watch by Thomson Reuters - a stringent comparative criteria - a comparison of Israel’s world share of science and social-science papers reveals that the Israeli social sciences trend badly behind their counterparts in the West and are the lowest of other comparative fields. 
The two reports below describe Zuckermann's lectures.
The Munich talk in January was organized by the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel group by the name Salam-Shalom and took place shortly after the murder of Jews at the Kosher supermarket in Paris, forcing Zuckermann to react. He downplayed the events of violent anti-Semitism by stating that Europe is safer for Jews than Israel. He also implied that Israeli government is exaggerating the incidents of anti-Semitism in Europe to persuade Jews to immigrate to Israel. Zuckermann even claimed, without support, that David Ben Gurion said, "if there is no anti-Semitism, we must foment something" so that Jews will move to Israel. "The Holocaust was used as an argument for Zionism, one is tempted to think that Israel had to have the Holocaust first, to enforce Zionism in politics." In his hyperbolic analysis he also stated that "all Israeli politicians manipulate people with the term anti-Semitism." 
Zuckermann's second talk in February in Zurich was sponsored by Islam.ch, Cafe Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace among other anti-Israeli groups. There, Zuckermann stated that: "If today in Germany someone says: anti-Semitic, anti-Semite, this is like a wonderful present for the Israeli government." He also noted that: "The Zionists began with the negative connotation of the Diaspora which later was accomplished by the Nazis that physically destroyed the Diaspora." Zuckermann ended his talk by advising young people who are thinking of emigrating to Israel, "go somewhere else, in Israel life is too dangerous for you, with its many wars you have a good chance of not turning 21." 
Without strong academic leadership no reform of the social sciences can be expected. Zuckermann and his like-minded peers will continue to travel and the rip off of the tax payers will go on.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
Stanford University Students Pass a BDS Resolution
After a re-vote of a last week vote, the Students Senate of Stanford University passed a resolution to divest from corporations that are complicit in human right abuses in “Israel and Palestine.” Although the students who organized the resolution – Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine – claim that it is not associated with the BDS movement. As finally passed, the resolution actually stated that it “was not connected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.” 
The disclaimer notwithstanding, the Stanford vote is a substantial victory of BDS and was received as such in pro-Palestinian circles. Stanford, a prestigious but largely apolitical university, has been on the “wish list” of the BDS activists for a long time now. As IAM reported, last year’s effort fell short, but after another vote and a re-vote in February 2015, the resolution passed. 
Stanford’s case is illustrative of the broader BDS’s campaign. Characteristically, it is based on patient and repeated efforts and coalition building with kindred groups. 
It is too early to assess the practical value of the Stanford resolution. University authorities have an array of tools to fight BDS resolutions. When students at Harvard University voted to divest from coal companies that contribute to environmental degradation, the university filed a petition in court against the resolution.
The real issue, however, is delegitimization. Even when a particular petition or resolution is rejected or overturned by the court, the surrounding publicity is never good news.




General Articles
Queers against Israel: The Logic of the Pro- Palestinian Coalition on Campus
Over the past decade Palestinian students have made significant progress in BDS, through Israel apartheid week and other anti-Israeli activities on campus. Coalition building with other student groups is one of the reasons for their success. 
Arguably, queer organizations on campus are their most loyal supporters. To understand why a subset of gays and lesbians who describe themselves as “queers” have a special dislike of Israel, four interrelated dynamics are illustrative. 
The first dynamic pertains to the fierce “identity wars” within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) movement dating to the early 1980s. While the majorly of LGBT opted for a “normal” identity that promoted integration into the heterosexual society, a radical fringe adopted the queer position - a mixture of high individualized, nonconformist lifestyle characteristics, including exaggerated, sexually driven dress-code and behavior. The same antagonistic attitude toward accepted social codes was applied to national politics. Queers were more likely to embrace radical political creeds of one word community (one worldism) or anarchism. Conversely, all forms of patriotism or nationalism were rejected and mainstream LGBTs were labeled homonationalists. 
The second relates to the choice of international targets for queer activism. As well-known, after the end of the colonial wars in the 1960s, virtually the entire Left adopted the Israeli-Palestinians conflict as their cause célèbre and the Palestinians into poster children of all that was wrong with the allegedly colonial, capitalist, and imperialist international system. Taking its cue from the Western peers, the fledgling Israeli queer group that had split from the mainstream LGBT in the 1980s, adopted the same harsh critique of Israel. Kvisa Shchora, (Black Laundry) a group co-founded by Aeyal Gross, now a professor of law at Tel Aviv University, organized radical street theater where semi-nude activists scrolled, some appearing in cross-dress, with pro-Palestinian slogans written on their bodies. 
The third dynamic is linked to the burgeoning field of gender studies in Israel. Though broadly defined as the study of gendered identity and gendered representations, Israeli gender studies seems to be skewed toward feminist, LGBT, and queer studies with its seamless transition into Palestinian issues. Preoccupation with Machsom Watch, is said to fit gender studies because Machsom members are women. As already noted, Hagar Kotef justified her study of Anarchist against the Wall on the ground that many members of the group are queer. The article” by Merav Amir and Hagar Kotef "Limits of Dissent, Perils of Activism: Spaces of Resistance and the New Security Logic" published in Radical Geography, is a good case in point. According to the abstract: 
"On 26 December 2003 an Israeli activist was shot by the Israeli Army while he was participating in a demonstration organized by Anarchists Against the Wall (AAtW) in the West Bank. This was the first time Israeli Soldiers have deliberately shot live bullets at a Jewish-Israeli activist. This paper is an attempt to understand the set of conditions, the enveloping frameworks, and the new discourses that have made this event, and similar shootings that soon followed, possible. Situating the actions of AAtW within a much wider context of securitization—of identities, movements, and bodies—we examine strategies of resistance which are deployed in highly securitized public spaces. We claim that an unexpected matrix of identity in which abnormality is configured as security threat render the bodies of activists especially precarious. The paper thus provides an account of the new rationales of security technologies and tactics which increasingly govern public spaces.“ 
In spite of the rather convoluted prose, queer studies code-words such as identities, bodies, secularized identity, etc., are easy to recognize. 
The four dynamic involved the academic-activist feedback loop. Since pro-Palestinian activism is almost entirely a campus-driven phenomenon, it relies heavily on academic research for legitimacy. A perusal of the canonical literature of the pro-Palestinian advocacy reveals that research by Israeli scholars who depict Israel as an apartheid state or a brutal neo-Nazi style occupying force, resonates especially well. Not surprisingly, the large body of research on Machsom Watch, Anarchists against the Wall, B'Tselem and others are used to justify the position of queers against Israel. 
There is little doubt that the academic-activist loop has worked very well for the queers against Israel. But gender studies in Israel and the taxpayers who support them are clearly outside the loop.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
From BDS to Expelling Jewish Students: A Durban University New Initiative
A university in Durban, the South African city associated with the notorious Durban conference where anti-Semitic commentary, inside and outside the hall, was on full display, has made a new and even more dubious headline. Students at the Technical University of Durban want all the Jewish students, or at least those who do not agree with the Palestinians to be fired, or “deregistered.” 
The decision is unprecedented and was roundly denounced by the university administration and the organization of Jewish students in South Africa. 
But the case is distressing on many levels. It indicates, as many have suggested, the existence of a thin line separating the BDS movement from outright anti-Semitism. Once this line is crossed, clear anti-Semitic patterns of thought and action emerge. First, the Durban students want to expel all Jewish students – a classic ploy that holds individual Jews as responsible for the Jewish collective, in this case the State of Israel. 
Also, the Durban students suggest that only those who disagree with the BDS should be expelled. The so-called “good Jews” and “bad Jews” ploy has been detailed by IAM before. In this scenario the pro-Palestinian activists are charged with identifying the “good Jews.” The criteria for selecting the “good Jews” or sometimes “the good Israeli Jews” vary. Ilan Pappe is universally considered a “good Israeli Jew” because his work accused Israel of all sort of heinous crimes, from ethnic cleansing to virtual genocide. But others, like Daniel Monterescu found out that even though he had a strong record of opposing Israeli policies in the territories, he was not considered a good enough Israeli Jews. 
And there is the case of Amira Hass, normally considered a “good Israeli Jew” because of her inflammatory reporting in Haaretz. Hass was prevented from speaking at Birzeit University because she is Israeli and Jewish, which is indicating that rules can change and the “good Jew” is demoted to a “Jew” subject to a policy of exclusion in an academic blink of an eye.



Other Institutions
Ruthie Ginsburg: Ariella Azoulay’s Academic Clone
Just as an older generation of academics-activists is retiring or moving on, a cadre of their students is supplanting in the Israeli academy. Like their mentors, the younger generation is dedicated to pursuing the binational state project and, more to the point, using their tax-payers supported positions to do that. 
Ruthie Ginsburg, a visual culture researcher from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is a case in point. She did her doctoral dissertation under Ariella Azoulay at Bar-Ilan University at the Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies. As IAM reported, Azoulay subsequently moved to lead the Photo-lexic international research group in the Minerva Humanities Center of Tel Aviv University, part of the Political Lexicon Project directed by Adi Ophir. 
Ophir described the project in the following way: "The Lexicon group studies foundational concepts in political theory and initiates the writing of original essays in the field... Through the critical interpretation and redefinition of these concepts the group seeks to broaden the horizons of the theoretical thought and at the same time to shed light on present political conditions." Though sounding general in scope, the project was essentially a compilations of essays bashing Israel. Azoulay used an obscure approach known as critical photography to produce images equating the treatment of Palestinians to the fate of Jews during the Holocaust. Most notoriously, Azoulay added a caption to an image of a chain-link fence and some Palestinians stating "In this act, too, Palestinians are the ones who will be arrested. This time, however, they force the Israeli soldiers to chase them as if they were chasing (Jewish) prisoners under the Nazi regime." 
Ginsburg, as her Bezalel web page indicates, is teaching photography, visual culture and gender at the History and Theory Department, as well as at Tel-Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University. Ginsburg is more than ready to follow in the footsteps of Azoulay. She is now leading the Photo-Lexic research group at Minerva of Humanities Center, Tel-Aviv University. Her most recent book is And You Will Serve as Eyes for Us − Israeli Human Rights Organizations as Seen Through the Camera’s Eye (Hebrew). 
The articles by Ginsburg are to be found in journals and books on Visual Culture and Human Rights: "Framing, Misframing and Reframing"; "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest Soldier of them All?"; "Taking Pictures Over Soldiers' Shoulders: Reporting on Human Rights Abuse from the Israeli Occupied Territories". 
As IAM repeatedly stated, scholars have the right to engage in political activism. What is wrong, however, is the fact that activism became so seamlessly combined with an academic position. Ginsburg seems to take this for granted. For example, in the article “Taking Pictures over Soldiers' Shoulders: Reporting on Human Rights Abuse from the Israeli Occupied Territories”, she writes that her goal is to “dismantle the uniform understanding that the photographs… as nothing more than objective evidence…” She adds that the critical approach enables her to "represent a certain “reality” and also a viewpoint that is chosen over others.” 
This use of critical jargon should not deceive the readers. Ginsburg is not interested in using photography to represent objective evidence, because her point of view “chosen over others” is to present the Israeli soldiers in a most incriminating way. By adopting critical photography, Ginsburg can contribute to her political agenda of human rights for Palestinians. As she put it, “human rights language has created the foundation for “an advocacy revolution” and has done so by providing the abused and oppressed with the tools to pressure from within and beyond the borders of the nation-state.” 
Once again, the long suffering tax-payer is forced to support this self-proclaimed “advocacy” revolutionary.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
Targeted Academic BDS: A New Phase in the Movement?
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London announces referendum, to assess whether to boycott Israeli academic institutions, on February 23-27, 2015. 
SOAS has a long history of launching “anti” movements. Going back to the twenties and thirties of the previous century, SOAS was a hotbed of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist activity. 
In recent times, SOAS was one of the first to embrace BDS or even pioneer it. In late 2004, a little noticedconference took place in SOAS, where Ilan Pappe appeared to plead for a wide academic boycott against the Israeli academy. In 2005 SOAS students were the first to vote for academic boycott of Israeli universities, a vote that the Student Union is still very proud for. 
It is no surprise that SOAS is taken the BDS into a new level by providing hand-tailored “charge sheets” for individual universities. As the items below indicate, according to the SOAS Student Union the Hebrew University has a long list of anti-Palestinian transgressions. Part of it is built on Palestinian land, it offers classes to security personnel, has links to Ariel University that is based “in the West Bank colony of Ariel” and recognizes its degrees, and preferential treatment is offered to IDF solders “who are engaged in daily human rights violations of Palestinians.” The video documenting the alleged military-academic collaboration pertains to Tzameret, a military medicine program in conjunction with the HUJ medical school. 
Given the pioneering role of SOAS, the new strategy of targeting a particular university and compiling a list of alleged charges can be expected to be adopted by other BDS groups.



General Articles
Allahu Akbar at UC Davis: Free Speech or anti-Semitic Abuse ?
Not since the McCarthy period has the issue of free speech on American campuses became so controversial. While the anti-Communist passions of the Cold War have died down, the BDS movement has created a most daunting challenge to the issue of free speech. 
The article below describes the scene in aftermath of a vote in favor of BDS at the University California Davis. 
The Davis campus has been known as a stronghold of pro-Palestinian activism for some time now, but the most recent episode has reached a new height. Pro-Palestinian activists chanted Allahu Akbar and made anti-Israeli comments that could be construed as anti-Semitic. In a separate incident, swastikas were painted on a Jewish fraternity house close to campus. 
University Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi stated that last week’s BDS vote “does not reflect the position of U.C. Davis or the University of California system.” But the swastika event triggered an immediate and strong reaction from the authorities. Katehi denounced it in the strongest possible terms calling the behavior “repugnant and a gross violation of the values our university holds dear.” She added, “nothing rivals a swastika as a more potent or offensive symbol of hatred and violence toward our Jewish community members.” 
The Allahu Akbar case is more complex, however. The Davis administration issued its stock reaction. The spokesman for the university stated: “Statements by individuals do not reflect a position of the university or the university community as a whole … U.C. Davis is built on a foundation of tolerance and inclusion, and we have an obligation to treat each other with respect and dignity even when we disagree.” 
Arguably, the administration tried to hedge its bets by reminding everyone that discourse on campus should be tolerant of all views, but stopped short of denouncing the behavior at the BDS meeting as anti-Semitic or a hate crime. Even the subsequent tweets of some activists to the effect that “Israel will fall” and that “sharia law took over the campus” do not clarify the picture. To recall, during the Vietnam War, students took over entire campuses and declared them to be the “Republic of Vietnam” or some other socialist paradise. 
The UC Davis case attracted attention of the media. It remains to be seen if legal remedies would be used to clarify the Allahu Akbar case.










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