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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.



Ben-Gurion University
Academic Forensics: BGU Neve Gordon Received Arab Oil Money for his Israel's Occupation Book
For those who may still wonder how radical anti-Israeli scholarship has flourished in the academy, Neve Gordon's book Israel's Occupation is a case in point. Gordon, a former executive director of the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel that was denounced by the Israel medical establishment for fabricating propaganda, has moved to Ben Gurion University and continued this tradition. Using neo-Marxist, critical jargon, Gordon essentially accuses the Israeli government of running a Nazi-like state in the West Bank, where Palestinians are constantly monitored, abused, and worse. 
In the introduction, page xiv, Gordon states that, 
"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 and Eric Stover from the Human Rights Center welcomed me and provided me the necessary resources to write." 
Eric Stover worked for years as a freelance writer and a consultant to Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. Not surprisingly, he used the recourse of his Human Right Center to sponsor the type of scholarship that Gordon was producing. 
More important in this context is Nezar AlSayyad of the University of California, Berkeley, the head of the Middle East Center. 
In 2003 AlSayyad's was quoted in an article published by the Saudi Aramco World, a cultural organ of the giant American-Saudi oil corporation, to the effect: "The Middle East is the only area study that is not really geographically based-it refers to the middle of what, and east of what? ... The center's approach in this regard is very transnational: Any intellectual subject that involves either the Arabs or Islam, contemporarily or historically, is a legitimate subject for scholars to take on." 
The Aramco article also gives an insight into the extent of Arab oil money "paving the way to greater interregional understanding" by investing in Middle Eastern centers in American universities in order to exert influence on what the neo-Marxist call the "production of knowledge." The article details the amount of donations given to Berkeley by the Saudis, 
"Among major donations, Berkeley received two large gifts in the late 1990's from Saudi benefactors, one for technology-transfer studies and one for Arab studies. The Al-Falah ("Success") Program was established with a $2 million endowment from the Alireza family to support a better understanding of Muslims and to promote technology transfer to the Muslim world, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Sultan Endowment for Arab Studies, established by a $5 million gift from the Sultan ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz Charity Foundation, is dedicated to broadening understanding of the Arab and Islamic worlds." 
Although sources of funding do not automatically discredit an academic center, but the list of scholars invited to this center indicates anti-Israeli animus. For instance, the Center obtained a grant from the Diller Family to hire Oren Yiftachel, who, as known, provided "academic" backing to the widely used theory that Israel is an apartheid state. The works of Gordon and Yiftachel are widely used by the BDS movement to justify boycott of Israel. 
From the perspective of AlSayyad, a professor of urban studies, this was money well spent. As he himself admitted in an 2013 interview, “Urbanists can never be apolitical”. 
The larger question though is whether Centers for Middle Eastern Studies in America can afford to be political. In his book Ivory Towers on Sand and subsequent publication How Not to Promote Israel Studies, Martin Kramer demonstrated the extent of politicization of Middle East scholarship, a topic that the US Congress had taken up through its Title VI legislation. 
Still, Arab money, newly bolstered by the high profile higher education mission of Qatar, has poured into the United States. So have the invitations to radical anti-Israeli scholars. With rather modest academic accomplishments the likes of Yehouda Shenhav and Hanna Herzog were invited by Princeton University and Harvard University, respectively, to spend their sabbatical leaves there. 
Neve Gordon scored even better when, in 2012-3, he spent a sabbatical leave at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. The School for Social Studies at the IAS listed his topic as “The Political Economy of Governance and Resistance: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as a Case Study.” With the added prestige of the IAS, Gordon utilized his stay in the United States to appear at events that directly or indirectlypromoted BDS. 
Unfortunately, the old adage "money talks" has been enthusiastically applied on the academy.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS in Australia lead by former U of Haifa academic Marcelo Svirsky
It has been very clear by now that anti-Israel activists seek Jews and especially Israelis to legitimize anti-Israeli activities, a step meant to deflect from accusations of anti-Semitism. 
The Boycott Divestment, Sanctions movement as epitomized by Omar Barghouti's Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is a prime example. 
Dr. Marcelo Svirsky, lecturer at the U of Haifa School of Political Science until 2008, now teaching at the University of Wollongong, Australia, wholeheartedly embraced the PACBI agenda. In his latest book of May 2014, After Israel, Svirsky argued that "the Zionist political project cannot be fixed - it is one that negatively affects the lives of its beneficiaries as well as of its victims... Overcoming these modes of being is to after Israel." 
Ariella Azoulay of Tel Aviv University's Minerva Humanities Center wrote a supportive review of the book: "After Israel is a secular book. It refuses to accept Zionism as a religious dogma; this excellent book rather dares to read Zionism as an episode in the history of Palestine, and of the two peoples that live there. This is neither an apocalypse nor a prophecy. It is a daring political and cultural analysis of the processes undermining the current Israeli regime that are at work today." 
Writing aside, Svirsky is busy with his new project, a walk for BDS that culminated with a BDS Petition to the Australian House of Representatives on Monday, 27th of October 2014. Along the walk - from Sidney to Canberra, Svirsky is spreading the BDS message as the article below indicates. 
Unlike in the United States and Europe, Australia had so far little BDS activism. Svirsky is obviously working hard to change that.


Tel Aviv University
[TAU & BGU] Efraim Davidi, the radical political activist sponsored by the Israeli tax payer
Dr. Efraim Davidi, senior lecturer at Tel Aviv University's Latin American History and Culture and Ben Gurion University's both Social Work and Politics and Government Departments, is a Marxist, a member of the HADASH party. Like other politically active faculty, Davidi has conveniently merged his political agenda with his academic position. 
His scholarly output is a case in point. Written from a Marxist perspective, the material consists of a devastating critique of capitalism in general and Israeli capitalism in particular. A syllabus of a course he taught last year “An Introduction to the European Welfare State in the 20th Century” is even more telling. There is no pretense of offering the students a balanced perspectives. Virtually all the assigned reading represent a Marxist perspective or a Marxist critique. Indeed, the materials could have been featured in a class at Moscow University in the 1960. 
During the latest Gaza Operation, Davidi told a leading Argentine paper (below) how dangerous it is to be an Israeli peace activist. Of course, Davidi did not mention his plush academic job that enabled him to become a peace activist in the first place. 
As a self proclaimed expert on Middle East Davidi recently lectured in Buenos Aires (below) about the Palestinian Israeli conflict. 
Davidi, like every citizen of Israel has the right to oppose Israeli policies or to become a member of a political party. 
The real question is why Tel Aviv University or Ben Gurion University should be using taxpayers money to have someone like Davidi teach students courses that belong to the Agit-Prop tradition of Soviet scholarship circa the 1960s.


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.





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