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Israel Academia Monitor Follows

Anti-Israel Activities of Israeli Academics



Reprints of anti-Israel articles do not represent the position

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


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


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

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

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

A unique opportunity to purchase the IAM book on Academic Freedom

Click to view whole articles:


Tel Aviv University
Abuse of Academic Freedom: Tel Aviv University Law School
Tel Aviv University Law School has a long history of political activism, a fact demonstrated in its one-sided conferences dealing with political issues such as the occupation. For instance, in 2007 Amnon Rubinstein, the first dean of the Law School, lamented this fact in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post. 
To the charge of unbalanced panels should be added another one: organizing conferences that pay only the skimpiest attention to law. The Conference on Queer Theory co-sponsored by the Law School is a case in point. It has been co-sponsored by Professor Aeyal Gross to showcase a book by Amalia Ziv, Explicit Utopias: Rewriting the Sexual in Women’s Pornography. 
The speaker on the panel include: 
Yael Mishali, gender program, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the program for Gender Studies supported by NCJW, Tel Aviv University, "Pleasure under patriarchy: Feminist Porn Is it possible?" 
Atalia Israeli-Nevo, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, "Girl with cock is not subversive: the surplus and shortage of female transsexuals in porn" 
Lital Weinbaum, program of Gender Studies, Tel Aviv University, "Slash's actions of non-binary gender" 
Avner Rogel, The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television, Tel Aviv University, "Fast forward and pause: temporal queer porn films" 
Amalia Ziv, gender program, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, "Pornography and Pedagogy" 
Out of the other panels at the conference, only one can be legitimately considered as having a legal orientation. The others are a hodgepodge of discussions on gay and queer activism, sexuality and pornography. 
This is not to claim that there should be no academic discussion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) issues. To the contrary, the evolution of the LGBTQ movement has involved intense legal debates. For instance, the United States has been currently gripped by the issue of bathroom access for transgender people. It was provoked by a law in North Carolina which would mandate access to bathrooms based on the gender in the birth certificate. 
The question then is why should a Law School host a conference which has so little to do with legal issues? 
The answer is quite simple. Aeyal Gross and Amalia Ziv are “comrades in arms.” As IAM reported before, Gross started his activist career in Kvisa Shchora (Black Laundry), a splinter of the gay movement in the 1980s, which self defined as queer. Gross and other queer activists developed the so-called “pink washing” theory, that is the notion that Israel’s liberal treatment of gays is a cover up of its sins of occupation. In 1996 she and Gross organized the a study group of queer theory, which subsequently led to the annual Alternative Sex (Sex Acher) conferences. As written in her c.v, Ziv has been giving seminars on the anti-occupation activism for years, such as in NYU on "Performative Politics in Israeli Queer Anti-Occupation Activism"; and published “Performative Politics in Israeli Queer Anti-Occupation Activism,” as well as "Queering Protest and Performing Queerness in Israeli Queer Anti-Occupation Activism." Gross too has chaired a round table, in a Sex Acher conference, "Forty Years of Occupation, and Not a Minute Longer: On Pride and Occupation". 
The “Alternative Sex” conferences is just one in a long series of abuse of academic freedom by activist faculty that IAM discussed in length. University authorities need to make sure that tax payers money is not misappropriated for private political ventures.



Articles by IAM Associates
The BDS Movement Recruited Jewish Israeli Professors to Deflect Accusations of Anti-Semitism
The IAM 4th annual conference on Anti-Semitism and BDS on the 10th of May provided the audience with some unexpected information. For example, Dr. Dana Barnett, the IAM editor, explained the role of the Jewish and Israeli activists within the movement to boycott Israel. 
Much to everyone's surprise Barnett revealed that the fun'ction of Jewish Israeli professors is to deflect accusations of anti-Semitism. In an interview with JerusalemOnline shortly after the conference, Barnett cited Israeli professor Rachel Giora, a Tel Aviv University linguist and a staunch supporter of BDS who wrote in an article detailing the movement of boycott from within, that “The major role of the Israeli BDS movement has been to support international BDS calls against Israel and legitimize them both as clearly not anti-Semitic." 
Barnett also revealed that Israeli professors profit from their roles in the delegitimization of Israel campaigns. BGU professors Neve Gordon and Oren Yiftachel are a case in point. The former received Saudi support for his book Israel's Occupation, as he admitted in the foreword of the book, "I began writing the book in 2004 during a sabbatical at the University of California, Berkeley, where Nezar AlSayyad from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies... welcomed me and provided me the necessary resources to write." Berkeley's Center for Middle East Studies has been a recipient of Saudi largess for years. The latter, who coined the apartheid analogy received a trophy from Michael C. Hudson, a veteran Arab propagandist and the director of the Middle East Institute at the University of Singapore, which is supported by Gulf states funding. 
Barnett stated that this pattern is not new and has been used to promote the "New Historians" in the 1980's.



Hebrew University
Commemorating Prof. Robert Wistrich: Hebrew University and the Undermined Research on Antisemitism
We approached today the first yahrzeit of late Professor Robert Wistrich, the renowned historian, who chaired the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University, until his death on the 19th of May 2015. The SICSA website presents his voluminous research, including the conferences he held - all focusing on various aspects of antisemitism. 
SICSA was founded in 1982 by Vidal Sassoon, the famous hair-dresser who came to Israel in 1948 to help her fight in the Independence War. Antisemitism was high on his agenda. In his last interview to Voices on Antisemitism published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Sassoon said: "I was born in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, in 1928. And the period of my childhood was very interesting, because Britain never went Fascist or Communist. But antisemitism was absolutely rife. I mean, it was nothing for another kid to say to you, “Dirty Jew.” And although England was a good place to be, especially with Churchill and the fight against the Nazis, there was always that sense of the Jews being second-class citizens." The interview was published shortly before his death in 2012. 
Professor Dalia Ofer served as SICSA's chair from 1996 and Wistrich replaced her from 2002. In her concluding remarks upon ending her term Ofer wrote, "From its inception, the Sassoon Center has been dedicated to an independent, non-political approach to the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge necessary for understanding the phenomenon of anti-semitism." 
Before his death Wistrich privately expressed concerns over where would SICSA be heading. Wistrich was right to be worried, exactly one year after his death, SICSA has not been focusing on the study of antisemitism, as can be seen from the activities listed below. 
Things came to a head when some of Wistrich research projects were discontinued soon after his death. For example, the proceedings of a conference hosted by Wistrich were purposed to culminate in a book, two years have gone by and the book is not out yet. 
It is worth noting that SICSA's academic committee of eight professors comprises of half specializing in fields not related to antisemitism: Romance and Latin American Studies; Musicology; English; and Law. 
Ofer's words on "non-political approach" sound hollow, some members of the academic committee participate in political activism. For example, a conference held by the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU together with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, a political German foundation, questioned "Are Modern Societies Racist? Racism and Xenophobia in Israel and Europe Today," the new chairperson of SICSA, Prof. Manuela Consonni, included comparisons of antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe. Not a single incident, between 2011 to 2012, organized by Van-Leer, Consonni participated in a discussion group on "Partition and Its Alternatives" promoting a one state solution for Israel/Palestine. By aiming to "examine critically the view that partition is the only logical solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Group members questioned "whether separation ... is indeed the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." And questioning to "what extent partition will ensure sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians." 
Consonni is not the only political activist among SICSA's academic committee. In an interview with Al-Jazeera published in 2012, Yehuda Bauer was questioned on the Israeli demand of the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, Bauer's response was, "I think that is proof of his [Netanyahu's] internal insecurity. If you are secure in your Jewish identity you do not need Abu Mazen or Saeb Erekat to tell you that you are a Jew. Do they need me to fortify their belief that they are Palestinian?" 
Another member of the academic committee, Michael Karayanni, a law professor who wrote about his work, "I teach three courses at the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and engaged in three main research projects: the first deals with the liberal dilemma associated with the accommodation of religious minorities in nation states given that liberalism will work to back such an accommodation but should also be attuned to vulnerable minority members such as women and children; the second deals with the extraterritorial application of access to justice rights; and the third deals with the history and nature of the recognition accorded to the Palestinian-Arab religious communities in Israel... As to my extra-academic activities I would like to list the fact that I was a member of the board of ACRI – Association for Civil Rights in Israel – the country’s major human rights association, and since 2009 serve as a member of the committee awarding the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award to organizations and individuals whose work made a significant contribution in the field of human rights in Israel. I have also served as a member in the School of Peace, located in Naveh Shalom – Wahat El Salam that engages in different co-existence activities." He has no background in the study of antisemitism. 
Since Wistrich's death, the legacies of Vidal Sassoon and Robert Wistrich have been undermined. While neo-antisemitism is growing among Muslims in Europe and elsewhere, by having academic committee members associated with pro-Palestinian activist groups, the study of antisemitism will be heading nowhere.


Articles by IAM Associates
The Israel Academia Monitor Conference on Anti-Semitism and BDS, Tel Aviv University
The IAM Conference that took place last week in Bet Hatfutzot, Tel Aviv University, has dealt with BDS and its relations to anti-Semitism. The first panel, in English, was academic; the second was in Hebrew and geared toward applied issues. 
Each of the scholars at the first panel presented an original piece of research. For example, Dr. Sharona Goldenberg, a lecturer of law at the Netanya Academic College and the director of International Freedom of Research Center (IFRC), spoke about the research she had conducted on scholarship applications. She found that one of six Israeli scholars who apply for grants abroad hide their identity in order to increase their prospects. In other words, the national identity of the scholars dooms their chances regardless of their qualifications. 
In an interview to Jewish News Service, Goldenberg explained that these are “new hidden Jews, the new anusim (forced converts) within Israeli academia... By putting them into a situation where they need to hide their identity, the boycotters are breaching their basic rights.” 
The struggle against BDS has taken place mostly on campuses and the fight against it should therefore focus on this arena. IAM is dedicated to educate both academic and the lay pubic about this phenomenon.

Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
Oren Ben-Dor Loses High Court Case Against University Over Anti-Israel Conference
IAM recently reported on the law-suit filed by former Israeli academic, Oren Ben-Dor and a colleague, against his university, Southampton University, for cancelling their conference questioning Israel's right to exist, on grounds of public safety. 
The High-Court hearing took place last week and the British High Court Judge has ruled against the professors. The Judge explained that the University was "motivated by well-founded concerns for the safety of people and property, and exemplify good and responsible decision-making." 
The Palestinians and their supporters are reaping what they have sown. They instigate provocations, disruptions and "interventions" during lectures by pro-Israelis that the university can now claim that there is a well founded concern for public safety and the recent King's College London brawl is still fresh on the public mind.




Boycott Calls Against Israel
[BDS] Hearing by House Foreign Affairs Committee "Israel Imperiled: Threats to the Jewish State"
On April 19, 2016 two subcommittees of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a joint hearing - the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Four experts were invited to testify on "Israel Imperiled: Threats to the Jewish State," David Makovsky from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute; Jonathan Schanzer from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Tamara Cofman Wittes from the Brookings Institution. 
The witnesses elaborated on the threats faced by Israel with regard to Iran and overall terrorism. Two witnesses mentioned the BDS movement. Makovsky stated that the BDS movement is not pushing for a two states solution, "Omar Barghoutti, founder of BDS, has said he doesn't want Israel to exist at all... the main group pursuing BDS on American campuses, called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), pointedly refuses to accept the idea of two states... we must work to find an approach that creates wide-ranging coalitions on campus, involving Jewish and Muslim groups together. These divisive BDS resolutions rip campus communities apart. Instead, we must strive for practical coexistence. If the BDS movement is not blunted and there is no movement on the ground, along the lines I have suggested, I am concerned that this movement could metastasize beyond college campuses." 
Schanzer, who introduced himself as a former analyst of terrorism finance for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, focused on the corporate and fiscal structures of the BDS's major actors in the U.S. He introduced a research conducted by Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on former employees of organizations targeted by the U.S. government for terrorism finance violations. Schnazer revealed that three organizations, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development; the Islamic Association for Palestine; and KindHearts for Charitable Development, were implicated in financing Hamas between 2001 and 2011: "their former leadership appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign." While some members of the organizations were jailed, deported, or faced trials, many of the high and mid level operatives were left untouched and formed a new Chicago-based organization, American Muslims for Palestine, which is a leader of the BDS campaign in the U.S. 
The fact that former employees of organizations that provided support to Hamas now play important roles in a charity based in the U.S., exposes the real agenda of key figures of the Palestinian BDS campaign and makes it an American problem. 
IAM shall report on future congressional efforts to fight BDS.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
Legal Battle Against BDS
Two new legal initiatives for fighting BDS were announced lately. One is by a group of members of the American Studies Association (ASA), who filed a law-suit against the ASA for illegally boycotting Israel. According to the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law which advised the professors, the “ASA’s stated mission has nothing to do with boycotting a foreign nation" and that ASA adopting BDS "violates the law that governs nonprofit corporations.” 
The move could potentially deter other associations, such as the latest pro-BDS round by members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) which began its online polling of thousands members. The AAA online vote on the boycott of Israel is taking place now and will continue through May 31. 
The second is a warning letter of intent to file a law-suit by the Israeli Shurat Hadin against the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (RBF). Shurat Hadin warns that RBF, which supports groups that advocate boycotting Israel and could cause the fund to be "considered complicit and as a participant in these groups' illegal activities." According to Shurat Hadin, the RBF contributes hundred of thousands of dollars to groups supporting BDS. Although RBF declares it does not support BDS, recipients of their funds clearly do. 
The result of the legal initiatives could potentially affect other pro- BDS groups. If successful, it would mean a significant step forward for those fighting BDS.



Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
Oren Ben-Dor Granted Permission to Judicially Review Cancellation of Southampton Anti-Israel Conference
Last week, Dr. Oren Ben-Dor, an ex-Israeli professor who teaches law at the University of Southampton, U.K. was given a green light by the court to proceed with law-suit against the University of Southampton. As IAM reported, Ben-Dor, a radical leftist, tried to organize twice a conference on whether Israel has a right to exist - a topic that created a substantial backlash. Citing security concerns, the authorities cancelled the conferences. No date of court hearing is set yet. 
It is not clear what type of legal arguments would be used in court, but Ben- Dor has a long history of a writing that verge on anti-Semitism. 
To examine what mounts to anti-Semitic speech, there are three separate bodies that took this issue to test. The 2005 EU Working Definition of Anti-Semitism; the 2010 Fact Sheet of the State Department; and the 2016 University of California Principles Against Intolerance. 
The EU Working Definition of Anti-Semitism states that "Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include: Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor." The Working Definition also declares that anti-Semitism is "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis." 
According to the Fact Sheet of the State Department, anti-Semitism is, "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis"; "Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions"; "Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation"; "Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations"; "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist." 
According to the University of California Principles Against Intolerance, "In particular, opposition to Zionism often is expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture...Anti-Semitism, anti-semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California." 
When assessing Ben-Dor's writing with the indices mentioned above, he is an anti-Semite on three counts.
First, he denies Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Ben-Dor has written in 2007 "Why Israel Has No Right to Exist as a Jewish State," where he stated that "The non-recognition of the Jewish state is an egalitarian imperative that looks both at the past and to the future. It is the uncritical recognition of the right of Israel to exist at a Jewish state which is the core hindrance for this egalitarian premise to shape the ethical challenge that Palestine poses. A recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state means the silencing that would breed more and more violence and bloodshed." He then ends his article by a typical neo-Marxist critical utopian goal of a bi-national Jewish Palestinian state, stating "Only a single egalitarian and non sectrarian state over all the whole of historic Palestine will achieve justice and peace." 
Second, his criticism targets Israel alone. 
Third, Ben-Dor wrote in an article in 2008 that "the Holocaust’s significance lies beyond the actions by the Nazis who actually perpetrated the violence and who justified these actions by turning this significance into a militarist object of an idea. The same claim can be made in relation Zionists and their Jewish opponents." By suggesting that Israel can do to its opponents what Nazi Germany did to Jews, Ben-Dor fits to the description of anti-Semitism. Also, Ben-Dor appeared in the conference "One State for Palestine / Israel: A Country for All Its Citizens," which was shown on the TV program Arabic Hour on April 18, 2009 (Ben-Dor speaks at 19:45 mins into program) where he stated "It is the denial that there is something so Jewish in that which has provoked the holocaust and the dealing with which has been so successfully postponed by the holocaust." Ben-Dor cites Jean-Francois Lyotard, the French political activist-turned-philosopher, in stating that Lyotard "called the jews with a small j to distinguish it from actual Jews, as a phenomenon that belongs to human being and thinking. In the same way that terrorism is a phenomena that may be distinguished from actual terrorists. We must not be external and representational, of rights and duties, in thoughts and action. We must connect to what is, but not the is of unjust acts. but the is the deepest primordial self concealing is, the how of the people that perpetrate these acts, who justify rationalize them as no choice as we saw in the Lebanon destruction and the Gaza massacre." Ben-Dor invokes Lyotard who universalized the meaning of Auschwitz, for the need to remember all other victims ranging from political prisoners in Stalin’s labour camps to causalities of Western neo-colonial control under the guise of development, including the Palestinians. 
Ben-Dor should be aware that being a Jew does not automatically grant immunity from being labeled an anti-Semite. One can be both Jewish anti-Semite and Ben-Dor fits this description on many counts. Hopefully, the court would take this into consideration.


Tel Aviv University
TAU Ariel Handel Replacing Adi Ophir at the Minerva Humanities Center Without Any Notice
In November 2015 the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU revealed that Ariel Handel replaced Adi Ophir as the new director of the Lexicon for Political Theory, Ophir supervised Handel's Ph.D along with Tovi Fenster. Replacing Ariella Azoulay in the Photo-lexic project is her Ph.D student Ruthie Ginsburg. 
Handel's CV is quite revealing, he has been in a post-doc positions since 2010, earning grants from Rosa Luxemburg Foundation among others. In 2013 he was a visiting scholar at the department of Geography at the University of Cambridge working with Prof. Ash Amin, member of the board of the Durham Palestine Educational Trust, a British charity "aims to contribute to the social and economic development of the Palestinian Authority . The DPET offers master degree scholarships at Durham University for Palestinian graduates." Handel is also a political activist. For instance, in 2002 he signed the petition Courage to refuse, 
For the summer of 2016, Handel has applied to the Antipode Foundation for their "Scholar-Activist Project Awards" which provides scholarship in the field of "radical geography". Antipode's "Awards are intended to support collaborations... that further radical analyses of geographical issues." Handel's listed his research as "Critical Studies in Israel/Palestine." 
Particularly troublesome is the circumstances of Handel's appointment, which contravened accepted procedures of publishing in the slot and seeking competitive candidates. To appoint Ophir's P.hD student to replace him is quite unethical. Tel Aviv University should be more vigilant about the appointment protocols in Minerva. Handel is a classic neo-Marxist, critical activist, a theory which is well overrepresented in the academy. As a public institution, Tel Aviv University has a responsibility to the public who is funding it. IAM has repeatedly emphasized that the hiring of political activists masquerading as academics is detrimental to the standing of social sciences in Israel that have a particularly poor scores in the key comparative higher education indices.









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