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Visitors: 110001862 on Dec. 22, 2014

 

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

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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.

(Extract)

26.03.15

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.

 

23.03.15

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.

 

19.03.15

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.

 

16.03.15

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.

 

12.03.15

Boycott Calls Against Israel
 
BDS and anti-BDS: Interesting Legal Challenges
 
As the BDS and the anti-BDS movements unfold on campus, they promise to offer some of the most interesting legal challenges in the realm of academic freedom, free speech and libel law. 
A recent episode that took place on the campus of Ohio University is a case in point. On September 10, 2014, four Jewish students protested an anti-divestment event where the president of the Student Senate, Megan Marzec presented a “blood bucket challenge,” a play on the popular ice bucket challenge. The students urged Marzec to resign, disrupted the event and refused to leave, leading to their arrest. 
Each of the students was offered to plead to a minor misdemeanor charge and pay a $100 fine, but they all refused. They faced trial, but the judge dismissed the case on technicality grounds that the students did not receive a speedy trial for a fourth degree misdemeanor, defined under Ohio law as 60 days. 
Historically, the tactic of disrupting meetings has been the prerogative of the pro-Palestinian activists. Should an Ohio University-type protest spread among Jewish students, it may create even a bigger dilemma for university authorities anxious to avoid legal problems. 
Ironically, this strategy may actually force college authorities to change their traditional reluctance to curb some well-documented cases of anti-Israeli events. These incidents were normally defended on the grounds of academic freedom, but the Ohio strategy would force a uniform standard. As the old saying goes “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

 

09.03.15

Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
 
Southampton University Conference "International Law & the State of Israel" - Activism Dressed up in Academic Garb
 
The planned three day conference between the 17th and 19th of April 2015 at Southampton University is a case in point of the long standing practice of pro-Palestinian scholars-activists to use academic legitimacy to further their cause. 
The brain child of Oren Ben-Dor, a former Israeli, it promises to use critical international law, the recently fashionable tool of choice in the activist circles, to revisit the legal foundation of the State of Israel. Unsurprisingly, the selection of panelists reflects the position that the international community, as embodied in the United Nations, was rooted in “international injustice.” 
Ben-Dor’s claim to provide a spectrum of views is belied by the fact that most of the participants are BDS supporters, as one critic demonstrated. 
The Southampton conference presents a challenge to those who fight the delegitimization of Israel. Though not officially under the auspices of Southampton University, for all intent and purpose the event looks academic and professional. Few outsiders would know that critical international law is a minority field and, more to the point, that it is used virtually exclusively to denounce Israel. 
The only remedy would be to organize a “counter-conference” on the subject as befitting a proper academic discourse. However, pro-Israeli activists are hugely outnumbered on campus and are unable to sustain the efforts needed. 
What is more, the few steps to address the situation have focused disproportionately on denouncing the anti-Semitic aspects of the BDS movement. This maybe emotionally satisfying, but inadequate to challenge the volume of critical legal research.

 

05.03.15

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.

 

02.03.15

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.

 

26.02.15

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.

 

23.02.15

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All articles are Israel Academia Monitor COPYRIGHTS unless stated otherwise

Israel Academia Monitor, P.O. Box 997 Even Yehuda 40500, Israel

Tel: +972-54-4283749 e-mail@israel-academia-monitor.com

  

 

 
 

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