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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 Moshe Zuckermann the self proclaimed Middle East expert interviewed in the midst of the Gaza Operation by Swiss paper
Many media outlets in Europe try to find anti-Israel Israeli academics who can bash Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism. Shlomo Sand, recently retired from Tel Aviv University and the author of The Invention of the Jewish People, became arguably the most interviewed academic in Israeli history. 
Moshe Zuckermann, a professor of German history at TAU, is a close runner-up. Using his knowledge of German, he has served the role of Israel basher in German media, including the following Swiss paper. Zuckermann has used the same formula of decades: coupling ferocious criticism of Israel coupled with whitewashing all things Palestinians. 
Zuckermann is well known in Israel for his far- fetched theories about the alleged deformation of the Israeli psyche and his frequent comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. However, the Swiss do not understand the political agenda of this veteran Communist and anti-Zionist. The title of a professor in a respectable Israeli university gives him all the legitimacy needed to appear as an objective and dispassionate observer. 
Much has been written recently about the academic BDS movement in Europe and the United States. People like Zuckermann provide the intellectual justification for the BDS activists on campuses and beyond.


Tel Aviv University
TAU Shlomo Sand New Soap Opera Arrives in London, Oct. 14, 2014: "How I Stopped Being a Jew"
For some years now, IAM reported on Shlomo Sand, a professor of French culture at Tel Aviv University, who parleyed a modest academic record for a high profile venture of bashing Israel. Unencumbered by empirical research, including genetics studies indicating the common origin of the Jews, Sand claimed that Jews are invented people, that is invented by the Zionists who wanted to colonize Palestine. The book received enormous publicity as it provided academic legitimacy to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that claimed that the Jews were descended of the Khazars. Encouraged by his success, the ever entrepreneurial Sand went to write a book, The Invention of the Land of Israel. 
Sand has recently retired from Tel Aviv University but his career in bashing Israel is not over. On the contrary, with all this free time, he is planning to take the show on the road He is scheduled to speak in London on October 14 about his new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew. 
Sand, like others before him, discovered that writing anti-Semitic polemics is a winning formula. What makes him stand out in this rather large crowd is his title as a professor, now emeritus, at TAU. 
Social sciences and humanities at Tel Aviv University provided a position and a salary (paid by tax payers) to Sand and other academic activists. His website on the TAU page lists his main areas of teaching: "French Intellectual History, Political History of the 20th Century, Cinema and History, Nation and Nationalism, History and Theory." 
Before joining the academy, Sand, a member of Matzpen, a radical splinter of the Communist Party, worked a clerk in the post office. TAU gave him an opportunity to take his politics to a new level at the guise of academic freedom.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
No Silver Bullet: Comments on the BDS Movement against Israel in the American Academy
As IAM predicted, the start of the academic year brought a new round of BDS initiatives. Coming at the tail of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, passions have been inflamed among students and faculty alike. 
Nowadays, individual academics interested in promoting BDS have banded together to sign petitions, as the letter of the American Anthropological Association below demonstrates. A while ago IAM reported on a petition by Middle East scholars and it is virtually certain that others would follow. Though lacking the weight of a professional association, the crisscrossing of such petitions creates the impression that campuses are ablaze with anti-Israeli activity. 
Pro-Israeli scholars have struggled hard to cope with this deluge. IAM already reported on a number of initiatives including a proposed bill in Congress that would make it illegal to advocate BDS. Even if passed, a long shot at best, the legislation will face legal challenges on First Amendment grounds. 
Kenneth L Marcus from the Louis Brandies Center and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin from Amcha Initiative, among others, have launched an initiative based on Title VI. Nita Lowey, a veteran pro-Israel legislator and a member of the House Appropriation Committee, wrote to the Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan to inform him of her concerns over potential abuse of Title VI. While this is a promising avenue, it is not clear yet how it can be applied to individual scholars. In addition, as the list published by Amcha shows, only about one third of academics who are active in the BDS movement work in institutions that receive federal grants. 
Finally, boards of trustees and donors, can exert significant pressure. As already reported, the University of Illinois withdrew a job offer to Professor Steven Salaita because of his anti-Israeli rhetoric; there were subsequent allegations that the University acted out of concern about its donors. But the publicity turned Salaita into a martyr for the cause of academic freedom and spawned a boycott of the University and more petition writing. 
Interestingly enough, Salaita was already deeply engaged in calls for academic boycott in December 2013, long before the Gaza Operation Protective Edge. His article in Salon.com titled "Academics should boycott Israel: Growing movement takes next step" which features a large photograph of Edward Said, explains that "The boycott actually seeks to preserve academic freedom by challenging punitive campus cultures that punish critics of Israel. Boycott is likewise an expression of academic freedom because it enables individuals to decline participation in sites of injustice by inscribing this sort of dissent as a form of protected speech." 
Ignoring his longstanding bias against Israel, shortly after his job withdrawal, Salaita issued a statement in a press conference near the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign saying "I am here today at the University of Illinois to speak against my termination by the Administration from a tenured faculty position because of the University Administration’s objections to my speech that was critical of recent Israeli human rights violations...the Administration’s actions threaten principles of free speech, academic freedom, and critical thought that should be the foundation of any university." For those eager to prove that Israel and the American Jews stifle free speech, the Salaita case is arguably a bonanza. 
For academics who wish to fight boycotts, a new initiative has been announced recently; it has already attracted over a thousand signatures. The invitation to the petition states: "Our approach is that academic boycotts are harmful to the progress of mankind, and that science should be pursued without discriminating against people on account of their race, gender, nationality, politics, etc. This approach is identical to the one expressed by several national academies of science, including the USA one."


Boycott Calls Against Israel
When academic boycotts go marching in
In the past thirty years, Humanities and Social Sciences have gone through a major paradigmatic shift in all the leading American universities. 
Following Edward Said academic bestseller Orientalism in 1979, it became popular to argue that regional studies, notably Middle East Studies have been unduly influenced by scholars who allegedly represented the "colonial" and "imperialist" interests of their countries. Said's call to employ scholars from Middle Eastern countries helped to change the professional make-up of the field; As Martin Kramer demonstrated in 2001 in his Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), became a hotbed of anti-Israeli scholarship by the early 2000s. The Arab-Israeli conflict has been the subject of some 70 percent of Middle Eastern studies courses in the United States and, unsurprisingly, Israel has been portrayed as "born in sin," a result of a colonial cabal of Western powers that dispossessed the indigenous Palestinian population. 
Academic BDS is an offshoot of this paradigmatic shift. Countless academic publications have documented the alleged colonial and apartheid nature of Israel; this work has been routinely invoked by activists who sponsor BDS activities on campus. 
Operation Protective Edge in Gaza gave the BDS movement a huge boost. So much so that Jewish academics who oppose BDS are facing pressure and ostracism. As the article below indicates, strong arm tactics are routinely used by professional associations as well. 
Though some Jewish professors opt to fight, others simply withdraw. As one of the academics quoted in the article said, it "saps your energy." This is exactly what the BDS activists strive to accomplish. With opposition silenced, they can set the agenda and present themselves as the voice on the campus on all things Palestinian.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS in Palestinian Universities: A Taste of Racism?
While much has been written on the BDS on Western campuses, Palestinian universities seem to have escaped scrutiny so far. This is unfortunate, because it is there that the ugly truth about BDS is hiding. 
Israeli pro-boycott scholars have seen it coming but were powerless to stop the juggernaut that they helped to unleash. In February 2010, Anat Matar, a professor of philosophy from Tel Aviv University, spoke at a SOAS, London conference on “Supporting the Boycott on Israel: A View from Within,” She called for boycott, but urged the Palestinians to make a distinction between “good” Israelis like herself and “bad” Israelis who did not advocate boycott. 
Much to their amazement, she and her colleagues found out that the Palestinians do not make such distinctions. Ilan Pappe, the Haifa University anti-Israeli professor who moved to Exeter University U.K, was scheduled to speak in Birzeit University near Ramallah. As well known, Pappe is the architect of the boycott movement who falsifies historical data to accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing and genocide. But because he was not allowed to enter the campus, he was forced to give his lecture in an off-campus venue. 
Amira Hass, the controversial Haaretz journalist whose work reflects the motto that “Israelis can do no right and the Palestinians can do no wrong,” was likewise prevented from giving a lecture at Birzeit University. Her article below implies dismay that she, “a good” Israeli was denied entrance. 
She and other “good” Israelis do not realize that Palestinian boycott is based on an ethno-national criterion. An Israeli Jew is a Jew; it does not matter whether his politics are “good” or “bad” or his service to the Palestinian cause is commendable or not. The Palestinian argument is simple: the campus is a “protected environment” where students and faculty should be free of any Israeli intrusion. 
Most ironic, for a long time now the Palestinians have promised that the BDS would not include “racial or ethnic criteria. IAM recently published the PACBI guideline for academic BDS where it stated that "Anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights, the BDS movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion." 
The Birzeit University leadership will be well advised to peruse this docu'ment.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
PACBI's latest guidelines for academic boycott of Israel
Since 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has advocated for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions. As part of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), it is tasked with overseeing the academic and cultural boycott aspects of BDS. 
According to PACBI, the institutional academic boycott of Israel has been endorsed by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education (CHE) which "since the 1990’s adhered to its principled position of non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities until Israel ends its occupation." 
PACBI claims that this position is also supported by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees and was reiterated several times, including in a CHE statement of thanks to the UK academic union NATFHE in 2006 and in the CHE letter in Arabic to PACBI in 2005 (below). 
PACBI asserts that the BDS movement is anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights, and rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity or opinion. However, an individual representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution, i.e. deans, rectors, or presidents, are subject to boycott. 
In the surreal world of the boycott movement, ironies abound. For instance, Professors Rivka Carmi and David Newman, President and Dean at BGU respectively, who supported Neve Gordon's right to call for boycott of Israel, are subject to the institutional boycott by the BDS movement. Professor Joseph Klafter, president of TAU who protected Anat Matar and Rachel Giora when they called for an academic boycott in 2010, is now subject to the same boycott. 
It should also be noted that according to PACBI "Normalization Projects" such as academic activities involving Palestinians and Israelis, are ought to be boycotted if they are "based on the false premise of symmetry/parity between the oppressors and the oppressed or that claim that both colonizers and colonized are equally responsible for the “conflict” are intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible forms of normalization". 
In light of the institutionalized Palestinian BDS, Israeli academics or students calling for normalization with Palestinian academics or students should be cautioned that Israeli academic institutions are subject to international boycott directed by the Palestinian Council of Higher Education.


Tel Aviv University
The political career of Assaf Sharon sponsored by Tel Aviv University
Dr. Assaf Sharon, a 2012 PhD graduate from Stanford University's Philosophy Department, has joined the ranks of Tel Aviv University's Philosophy Department, the base of operation of the radical political activists, Anat Matar and Anat Biletzki. He will be teaching next month the following courses: Liberalism and Capitalism ; Political Authority: Between Anarchism and Totalitarianism ; Introduction to Political Philosophy. 
By most measures, Sharon has already launched a highly activist career. 
Sharon is a founder of "Breaking the Silence" and serves on its board of directors. 
In a Haaretz article from 2011 Sharon said that he "discovered that the struggle over Sheikh Jarrah has become the way to revive the Israeli left". The article reports that "Veteran politicians and peace activists are keeping track of them [of Assaf Sharon and Avner Inbar] with a mix of envy and concern. They're storming the campuses, and their friends say they wouldn't be surprised if next year Sharon and Inbar stormed the Knesset. "The Israeli left has forgotten that politics is more than just expressing a viewpoint or protesting in the city square, it's a concrete struggle for the street in places where the injustice is taking place," says Sharon." 
Sharon also serves as the academic director of "Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy". According to a 2012 article in Haaretz Molad is "committed to leftist renewal" in Israel. NGO Monitor listed Molad's funders: Molad is “funded by left-liberal foundations and groups from the U.S. associated with the Democratic party.” Molad received two grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund totaling $150,000 (2012-2015). Molad is listed as a grantee of NIF’s Social Justice Fund (Ford-Israel Fund) in 2011. Molad is also listed as a partner by the EU-funded Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation. According to the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Skoll Global Threats Foundations also funds Molad. 
Tel Aviv University has a long history of hiring and promoting political activists who turn their position into an extension of their political agenda. As the following articles indicate, Sharon follows the same line. 
Should Tel Aviv University tolerate once again such political activists among its midst? Surely, students and tax payers deserve better.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Academic BDS in Ireland: The Historic Origin of the anti-Israeli Animus
BDS activities are hardly news on Western campus these days. But the case of Ireland stands out in this context. As Amos Oz, who received an Irish Honorary Degree recently, pointed out, that “Dublin is not an easy place for Israelis. The criticism toward Israel and its policies in the territories is even harsher than anywhere else in Europe.“ 
For those seeking understanding of the aggressive stand of the academy, the history of Ireland is a good guide. 
During WWII, the ostensibly neutral Ireland was a hotbed of fascist and pro-Nazi activity. Irish activists provided a safe haven to Nazi agents and there was even a plan to use the island as staging ground for a major attack against Great Britain. The Irish were also hostile to the new state of Israel because of the so-called “Vatican factor.” In 1949 Pope Pious XII expressed his concern that Israel ignored the Partition understanding of turning Jerusalem into an international city. Irish politicians cited this as the reason for their belated recognition of Israel. 
The conflict in Northern Ireland added to anti-Israeli animosity. The Irish republicans on both side of the border came to empathized with the Palestinians as victim of “British colonialism.” Symbolism aside, the Irish Republican Army, supported by arms donated by Muammar Gaddafi developed close ties with the PLO. 
Adding a prestigious presence, Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has frequently and harshly attacked Israel’s human rights record 
After joining the European Union Ireland became a leader in anti-Israeli activities. The country is base of one of the best organized branches of the international pro-Palestinian campaigns. In 2013 the Irish Teacher Union (that included many in tertiary education) voted to impose a total boycott on Israel. The website of Academic for Palestine, one of the fruits of the 2013 vote, is subtitled Academics against Apartheid. 
Ireland, of course, has its own anti-Israel Israeli academic and her name is Ronit Lentin whose latest article begins with the following: "On 9 August I spoke at the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign National demonstration for Palestine. As an Israeli Jew, born in Palestine prior to the birth of the State of Israel, I am aching for Gaza and for the ease with which many Israelis and their supporters throughout the world excuse the killing of so many Gazans." 
There is little chance that Ireland, a member of the EU would go beyond the official policies of the organization that, at this moment, do not include plans for a comprehensive boycott against Israel. The academic community, however, will continue to delegitimize Israel as an apartheid state.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Academic BDS is a Security Threat to Israel
During the recent counter terrorism conference of the IDC Herzliya, Ambassador Dr. Michael Oren complained for not doing enough to combat academic BDS. Oren, also an academic, argued that this rapidly growing movement on Western campuses is a real security threat to Israel. 
For the past three years, IAM warned about this phenomenon that started in Europe and spread to the United States. But declarations aside, not much has been done. 
The reasons for this failure are complex. Our four part essay indicates the conceptual and organizational difficulties of fighting BDS. In a nutshell, academic BDS is embedded in a social science paradigm that took root in the late 1970s and early 1980s; the neo-Marxist, critical scholarship views Israel as a colonial, apartheid state that subjugates the native Palestinians. The immense tension and the periodical violence such as Operation Protective Edge, gives pro-Palestinian advocates plenty of ammunition. 
The fundraising by the universities and the proliferation of think tanks has opened the door for external influences, including countries and foundations with varied political agenda. A recent investigative article in the New York Times (below) illustrates how countries try and shape public opinion on a variety of issues, including oil exploration in the Arctic, by funding think tanks. Our own series, Academic Forensics revealedsimilar patterns pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
The Diaspora Jewry, once a reliable source of support for Israel, has split into warring campus factions. Jewish Voices for Peace has not only support boycott but actively engage in lobbying for it. The Open Hillel movement has rejected the official Hillel policy that bans pro-BDS speakers from appearing in Hillel events.
Difficult as these problems are, fighting the so-called “gray BDS,” is even harder. This is an umbrella term pertaining to private initiatives of pro-Palestinian academics who, in their capacity as editors or reviewers, reject papers by Israeli academics or bloc their participation in panels. While limited in the hard sciences, this phenomena is not uncommon in humanities and social sciences. In a new initiative to fight this trend, Professor Asher Cohen, the rector of the Hebrew U, recently called on faculty to report such cases. 
As a rule, government authorities are not well equipped to handle the multifaceted BDS activities and even less adept at dealing with the paradigmatic underpinnings that has nourished it Institutes that specialize in national security have not done much better as a perusal of their literature indicates. Schooled in the traditional approach that views security in terms of military action or terrorism, they are stumped by what is essentially a soft asymmetrical conflict, spearheaded by the academy. Numerous scholars have published article or op-eds denouncing the BDS on various grounds. Though frequently eloquent and occasionally heartfelt, they are all based on the notion that appeals to the public can somewhat influence the situation on the campuses. 
The presidents of Israeli universities created a committee under Professor Zvi Ziegler to coordinate the fight against academic BDS. This is a welcome decision but much work needs to be done as soon as possible.


General Articles
Legal Eagle - The Case of Professor Steven Salaita and Israel: The Debate about Academic Freedom in the US
Steven Salaita, an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech was apparently on the verge of being hired by the department of American Indian Studies of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 
However, following Salaita harsh anti-Israeli comments on social media, the Department rescinded its offer. 
Cary Nelson, a former president of the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) and a faculty member of the University wrote that, given Salaita’s deeply biased view, the decision was justified. But the president, Rudy Fichtenbaum, stated that Salaita’s expressions are strictly extra-curricular and that his academic freedom, along with that of the faculty who picked him, were violated. The Native Americans and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) followed up with its own condemnation of the University for withdrawing its offer. 
While it is generally understood that extra-curricular expressions of faculty are part of academic freedom, the Salaita case exposed a close connection between his activism and scholarship. Ostensibly, an expert on American Indian Studies, most of his publishing are on Arabs in America and, even more puzzling, on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. His latest book, Israel’s Dead Soul is telling in this context. According to one reader, Salatia’s scholarship is “shoddy;” replete with slogans and generalities rather than empirical research. 
At the moment, the legal ramification of the case are not clear. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has reportedly offered him a settlement to help compensate the wage loss for rescinding his job offer but some critics are saying it's not enough. According to other observers, Salaita received a written offer from the University thus opening an avenue for legal redress. 
IAM will provide updates on the case.


Tel Aviv University
TAU Tovi Fenster uses Israel Science Foundation grant to promote Palestinian right of return
Professor Tovi Fenster, a Geographer at Tel Aviv University as well as the head of PEC Lab at Tel Aviv University, has recently won NIS 140,000 grant from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF). Her project is entitled "'The archaeology of the address' in urban planning: For Israeli-Palestinian recognition" 
In December 2011 during an event at Zochrot, a group dedicated to the return of Palestinian refugees, she revealed her project's political agenda. Fenster noted that "its focus is the recognition by Jewish society that the history of 1948 can’t be erased through planning. The remains of villages can be erased, but that only distances recognition and the chance of future reconciliation. Institutional and political recognition must come first, and be translated into planning policy. I propose creating planning tools that will be ready when that day comes. Such tools can already be utilized today. I’m doing that with my students. The project is called, “The archaeology of the address – urban planning and recognition (reconciliation).” ...Reconciliation isn’t possible in the absence of formal recognition by the regime and an in-depth discussion of return." 
In a 2013 planners conference in University College Dublin she presented a paper that "explores the possibilities of engaging processes of recognition in developing postcolonial urban spaces in Israel. It is based on a personal and academic journey to discover the original Palestinian owners of my grandparents' home in Jaffa." 
Fenster admits she resents the plans to develop the village of Lifta and turn it into "a boutique village" that will be inhabited by "Jews from abroad" because the Palestinian owners still live nearby. She claims that the "right of return to the city, not only of those who live there today, but also involving the former residents in planning. Such a framework seems to me to be a context in which both groups can jointly think about the return. That’s what we’re doing in Lifta." 
It is not clear whether the Israel Science Foundation understood the real purpose of the study. The ISF should stay away from academics with a radical political agenda.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Middle East Scholars and Librarians call for the boycott of Israel
In 2000, Martin Kramer, a noted scholar of the Middle East published Ivory Towers on Sand, an exposé on the Middle East Centers in American universities and their professional organization, the Middle East Scholars Association (MESA). Kramer pointed out that, following the lead of Edward Said, MESA became a political advocate for the Palestinians. Reflecting this mission, up to 70 percent of offering in the field had some connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. MESA scholars often depicted Israel as an apartheid state or even a neo-Nazi state in its treatment of Palestinians. 
Kramer's work led to hearings in Congress in 2003 and five years later to a change in the Title VI provisions that control dismemberment of federal funds to Middle East Centers. 
Still, not much has changed in the nexus of academic-political advocacy that the Middle East scholars epitomize. 
The following petition to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education - that includes signatures by a number of former Israeli academics such as Ariella Azoulay - is representative in this respect. A one-sided laundry list of alleged Israeli transgressions, it ends with the demand for "Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194." 
Criticizing the state of Israel is a legitimate right of faculty and lay persons alike. Making up charges and taking them out of context to push for the return of Palestinian refugees is not. But then again, for Said and his disciples, the academic endeavor is all about serving their political agenda.






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