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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.
IAM Round table in Tel Aviv on the 3rd of May 2013

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Newly uploaded videos from the IAM roundtable, May 3, 2013 http://israel-academia-monitor.com/index.php?type=large_advic&advice_id=8675&page_data[id]=6341&cookie_lang=en

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Ben-Gurion University
Should Ben Gurion University Dismiss Professor Neve Gordon?
BGU Neve Gordon to speak in an "Israeli apartheid" conference on April 26, 2014 in Belgium. 
In 2009 Professor Neve Gordon (Ben Gurion University) published an article in the Los Angeles Times calling for a boycott of Israel. The article created a firestorm, including demands to fire Gordon but Ben Gurion University refused to sanction him on the ground of academic freedom. 
In 2011 the Knesset passed the Boycott Law that makes it illegal to advocate BDS. IAM found that, with few exceptions, the legislation stopped Israeli academics from engaging in BDS activity. 
Neve Gordon, arguably one of the most radical academic activist, has found ways to speak on the subject. On Saturday 26, April, he will speak on "Ethnic Segregation in Education and its Impact on Israeli Society" at an event organized by Palestinian Solidarity in Belgium. The group supporting Palestinian causes including BDS. The organizers seek to compare Israel to the apartheid state of South Africa in order to make the case for BDS. 
Gordon's writings presenting Israel as an apartheid state are widely used by BDS activists to provide academic legitimacy to their own cause. As the invitation for the event demonstrates, Gordon's academic credentials are prominently displayed. 
The group cites Gordon as saying: "The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 43 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel." 
The question to the BGU management still remains, should a public university pay a salary to an employee wishing to sanction his own employer? 
This question, among others, will be discussed in the IAM event on BDS, on the 14th of May, in Tel Aviv University, Webb 1, at 18:00. 
Panelists are: Kenneth L Marcus, Ofira Seliktar, Richard Landes and Ben Dror Yemini.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Is BDS a Form of anti-Semitism? The Ronnie Fraser Case
The increase in BDS activity on Western campuses has triggered a backlash from Jewish students and faculty as well as from some Israelis. The heated debate produced a spectrum of notional views of the BDS phenomenon– ranging from a legitimate criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories to expressions of anti-Semitism. 
The EU’s Working Definition of anti-Semitism stated that some forms of radical critique of Israel such as depicting it as Nazi state are new forms of anti-Semitism but good faith criticism of Israeli foreign policy is not anti-Semitic. 
The University and College Union (UCU), the union of British academics, has been in the forefront of the BDS movement for a decade. The annual meeting of the UCU conference has repeatedly passed motions calling to boycott the Israeli academy. 
In 2012 Ronnie Fraser, a Jewish member of the UCU took his union to court charging that the BDS debates produced an anti-Semitic working environment. 
The Employment Tribunal under Judge Snelson ruled against Fraser; Judge Snelson found that there was no anti-Semitism involved and that Fraser’s case was “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means”. 
The Fraser case has acquired a second act after the UCU sued Fraser and his lawyers for 580,000 British pounds in costs. Though the Employment Tribunal was established to help individuals take on their employers, the law seeks to protect said employers (and others) from frivolous or nuisance suits. Costs can be awarded against a claimant, under stringent condition: Firstly, the claimant must not only be wrong, his action must be “misconceived or otherwise unreasonable”. And secondly, the hearing for costs must be capable of being heard promptly and quickly, in summary form. 
It is now up to a new judge of the Employment Tribunal to make the determination of whether Fraser’s action was “misconceived or otherwise unreasonable” - something that Judge Snelson seemed to allude to. It is quite clear that much more than the litigation cost rides on the decision as far as BDS is Great Britain is concerned.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Drives the Campus BDS
Over the past few years the SJP- a group with scores of branches in the United States and other Western campuses has emerged as the main driver of academic BDS. By some counts, SJP has some 80 branches in North America alone. As the article below indicates, it has sponsored numerous BDS resolutions in North America. 
The little-studied SJP is a highly effective organization, well funded and enjoying the help of professional activists. For instance, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), hired Dalit Baum, formerly from Haifa University's Gender Studies, to run its West Coast BDS campaign. Baum, the subject of a number of IAM posts, was one of the co-founders of Who Profits from the Occupation? a groups of Israeli academics, including Merav Amir from the Hebrew University, who identified companies operated in the territories such as Ahava Cosmetics as targets of boycott. 
The SJP has been behind the growing number of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) events, It has also been involved in high profile protest against pro-Israeli speakers that, according to critics, create atmosphere of intimidation against Jewish students; in some instances, the SJP was banned from campus activity. Lately, the SJP extended its action to bone fide academic events involving Israel. For instance, it has protested against field trip to Israel offered by the International Studies at Vassar College. 
The SJP has networked with groups that share the same perspective, including anti-Zionist Jewish groups like Jewish Voices for Peace. Occasionally, African-American students and professors are drawn into the fracas, giving some events a racial tone as the article on Vassar College indicates. 
The response of the authorities, often overwhelmed by the competing requirements of free speech and protection of rights of the Jewish students, has been hard pressed to respond. The spotty and fragmented efforts of the Jewish community are no mach for the professional organizers of the SJP events. The Israeli government has recently recognized that the delegitimization of Israel through the BDS movement is a serious threat to national security but, as a rule, states are not well equipped to fight the type of Soft Asymmetrical Conflict (SAC) that the SJP is engaged in. 
IAM has launched a research project into the complex issues that encompass academic BDS. The IAM event at Tel Aviv University, Webb 1, on May 14, 2014 at 6pm will present a first comprehensive discussion of the issue and offer some suggestions on the ways to fight it.


Tel Aviv University
JPost on the TAU Kana’ane case
Hezbollah spares no vituperation or vehemence in its agitation for Israel’s obliteration. It spares no effort to inflict physical harm on Israelis. It spares no expense to stockpile missiles with which to terrorize Israel. Of late Hezbollah has become Damascus despot Bashar Assad’s indispensable military mainstay. 
All that should have sufficed to cause Israel’s institutions of higher learning to admit that Hezbollah is an out-and-out enemy – not only of this state but of fundamental human rights. 
Nonetheless, such rationale failed to sway Tel Aviv University to cancel a scheduled address on campus by convicted Hezbollah collaborator Muhammad Kana’ane, an Israeli-Arab who served nearly five years behind bars for funneling funds and weapons information to the Iran-sponsored terrorists. 
In the end, the university did cancel Kana’ane’s previously countenanced lecture but only on the grounds of “concern about harm to public order.”


Boycott Calls Against Israel
[Weizmann Institute] Kobi Snitz Travel Chronicles: Supporting BDS in Canada
As already discussed, Kobi Snitz (Weizmann Institute) is touring abroad to promote BDS. Snitz, an anarchist who co-founded Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call From Within, along with other radical faculty, is a leading BDS activist. Though the Knesset passed anti-boycott legislation, Snitz apparently is not at all worried about breaking the law. 
He has routinely protested against the separation barrier as part of the activist group Anarchists Against the Wall. All these activities probably have left Snitz little time to do his job as a specialist of analysis and modeling at the Olfaction research group of the department of Neurobiology. But, again, there is little to worry about. Indeed, as long as taxpayers are willing to support his extracurricular activities, he can travel the world to promote BDS as well as the finer points of anarchist theory.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP): Targeting Israel-Related Activities
SJP, with chapters on numerous campus, has evolved an effective technique to target Israeli-oriented activities. Among the tool of choice in the SJP arsenal are heckling, disturbances, protest and others. According to critics, the tactics are designed to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in order to dissuade students from attending such events. 
The statement of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) describes one such occurrence - at Vassar College. 
Members of SJP are highly motivated and easy to mobilize - a characteristic that contrasts with the more low-key supporters of Israel. College authorities have had a hard time controlling this phenomenon because of adherence to the rules of academic freedom that strives to give both sides of the debate a voice. 
Unfortunately, SJP intends on propagating only one "narrative," making it virtually impossible to conduct a rational and civilized campus debate. The real aim of the SJP is to project an image of Israel as an apartheid state deserving to be targeted by BDS. The "moral clarity" necessary for sustaining the BDS movement cannot tolerate alternative views.


Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
History According to Ilan Pappe: The Latest Version?
Ilan Pappe formerly from Haifa University, now teaching now at Exeter University in Great Britain, gave a lecture titled Ethnic Cleansing Does not Stop on Its Own," at a political gathering in Jaffa. 
That Pappe has made a career as one of the harshest critics of Israel is well known. 
What is less known is that, over time he changed his version of the 1948 events, evidently to bolster his political career as a member of the Communist Hadash Party - on whose ticket he ran for Knesset. 
A perusal of his writing clearly indicates that Pappe started his academic career in the 1980s with a rather traditional narrative of the 1948 war. After the failure of the Oslo peace process, he switched to a new narrative replete with the phrase ethnic cleansing - popularized during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. He was also involved in supporting the Haifa University graduate student Teddy Katz who claimed that there was a "massacre" in Tantura. It is noted that the judge who presided over the lawsuit of the veterans, who were accused by Katz of committing the "massacre", offered a scathing rebuke of his dissertation, citing lack of factual evidence and alleged tampering with recorded evidence. 
Pappe retailed by successfully appealing to British academics to boycott Haifa University and other institutions of higher learning in Israel in the early 2000s. Since then, he has been a leading voice for academic BDS in the West, travelling widely in support of various initiatives. 
Needless to say, as his role in the BDS movement has grown, his 1948 narrative is evolving to prove that Israel is a South African style apartheid state deserving of a vigorous international movement to force it not just to give up the territories, but permit a return of all the refugees into a new bi-national state, a formula of choice of many radical scholars activism. 
For traditional historians who try hard to produce an objective account of historical events, such behavior may be puzzling. But Pappe is a leading example of a new breed of scholars who engage in critical, neo-Marxist studies, known in Israel as post-Zionism. As Pappe noted, "scholars who delve into the archives [of the 1948 war] also were guided by a post-Zionist ideology and perception." He also freely admitted that New Historians "represent the peace-oriented camp" as opposed to the "insular, expansionist nationalist" camp of the Likud Party. In plain English, for the critical, New Historians, a historical narrative is hand-tailored for the political case de jour of the scholar. As the case changes, so does the narrative.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
[TAU, BGU] BDS Activist Hagar Kotef is in Charge of Grants at the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU and Lectures at BGU
Hagar Kotef, a BDS activist who received her Ph.D. in Philosophy at TAU under Professors Adi Ophir and Anat Biletzki, is a lecturer at the TAU Cohn Institute and often participates at the Lexicon group at the Minerva Humanities, headed by Adi Ophir. Kotef is also a lecturer at the Department of Politics and Government at BGU. 
Like Ophir and his numerous students, Kotef has combined her political activism with her research interest in “gender and occupation,” as her academic record indicates. While expressing one’s political opinion is legitimate, using academic research to besmirch Israel is not. But this is exactly what Kotef has endeavoured to do; by distorting factual reality of the checkpoints – the subject of her academic output – and whitewashing Palestinian terror. 
Her articles – co-written with another BDS activist, Merav Amir, “Between Imaginary Lines: Violence and its Justifications at the Military Checkpoints in Occupied Palestine” in 2011, as well as the chapter in a new book in Hebrew entitled "The Price for Effectiveness: About Bodies, Fencing and Obstacles in Machsom Watch," which is based on their 2007 article, "(En)Gendering Checkpoints: Checkpoint Watch and the Repercussions of Intervention", are a case in point. The authors admit being active in Machsom Watch from 2003 to 2009. 
Kotef’s has a new position; she is now in charge of coordinating evaluations for grant proposals offered by Minerva Humanities Center. With its deep pockets, Minerva has served an incubator of some of the most virulent criticism of Israel, which according to Adi Ophir is in some ways akin to a neo-Nazi, apartheid state that deserves to be bombed by NATO in order to pressure it to give up the territories. There is little doubts that the new grant recipients will continue in the path of Ophir and Kotef. 
Finally, Kotef’s employment at BGU demonstrates that not much has changed since the Council of Higher Education found that the Department has a disproportional number of radical activists. Once again, the taxpayers are picking up the tab.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
[Weizmann Institute] Dr. Kobi Snitz: Taxpayers Supporting an Anarchist who Supports BDS
Kobi Snitz is a self-described anarchist who was a co-founder of Anarchists against the Wall, among other anarchist ventures. His BDS manifesto served as the basis for launching 'Boycott from Within' - a hard-core faculty-activist group that includes Rachel Giora and Anat Matar, both from Tel Aviv University. 
Like other Israeli citizens, Snitz is entitled to express his political opinions. More troubling, however, is his apparent violation of the Knesset anti-boycott law of 2011. The 'Boycott from Within' group has enjoyed a close ideological relationship with Omar Barghoutti of PACBI – a leading force in the current wave of BDS. In fact, the notice below indicates, Snitz is getting ready to travel to Vancouver to speak in support of BDS. As noted in his interview from 2011, he does not consider the law to be an impediment to his BDS activism. 
Over time, Snitz and other anarchists developed an effective modus operandi befitting a direct-action group; they participate in demonstrations with a view of being arrested for various infractions of the law. Indeed, a perusal of Snitz’s record indicates a large number of arrests, appearance in courts and related time-consuming activities. 
Like in the case of other radical activists, Snitz’s academic position is highly helpful; it provides him with ample time to engage in direct action, not to mention his travels abroad to spread the BDS message. 
Not incidentally, Snitz’s research seems to have suffered badly; compared to publication record of other scholars in the highly-ranked Weizmann Institute, his is very limited. Unfortunately, Snitz is not the only one in the radical fraternity to abuse his position; as IAM reported, Anat Matar and others have parleyed their tenured positions into virtually full-time political activism. 
The question raised in this case is obvious; why should Israeli tax payers support a full-time anarchist and a part-time scholar?


Boycott Calls Against Israel
UN Human Rights Council Draft Resolution on Sanctions - implications for the Israeli Academy
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) located in Geneva is scheduled to vote on a settlement-boycott resolution. 
The draft proposal posted on UN Watch in Geneva as reported by Haaretz, "that the Israeli settlement enterprise makes Israel responsible for serious violations of international law, and calls on UNHRC member nations not to facilitate the continuation of these violations. The draft states, “the direct or indirect assistance of States and private entities to the settlement enterprise constitute obstacles that have frustrated international efforts for the end of the occupation and fulfillment of the right of self- determination of the Palestinian people.” Invoking the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,“the resolution noted the "probability of liability, including international criminal liability, for corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements,” and expresses satisfaction “that some businesses have withdrawn from settlements due to awareness of these risks.” 
The resolution calls on members to advise on "the financial, reputational and legal risks, as well as the possible abuses of the rights of individuals, of getting involved in settlement-related activities, including economic and financial activities, the provision of services in settlements and the purchasing of property, and to prevent and discourage such involvement.” 
Though the language of the resolution is not different from the one passed by the EU, the UNHRC has significant academic implications. Pro-boycott NGOs will most likely use it to exert pressure on Israeli universities and individual scholars engaged in activities beyond the Green Line, including Ariel University. 
The UNHRC may embolden pro-Palestinian scholars to launch their own pro-boycott initiatives by denying Israeli scholars opportunities be it publications, participation in conferences or Sabbatical visits. Some time ago, Professor Rivka Carmi referred to such efforts as "silent boycott;" they are hard to prove because they can be couched in academic justifications, but she felt that these incidents were on the increase: “People in academia talk discreetly about unproven feelings according to which articles by Israeli researchers are being rejected. Researchers and academics have the feeling that they are not being invited to conventions. No one has proof, but there is a sense that the territory is beginning to burn. And now, with the decision by the American [Studies] Association, it is official — and that is worrisome.” 
Finally, the resolution may give academics who nurture anti-Semitic sentiments an opening. Though the BDS movement cannot be defined as anti-Semitic under the EU "Working Definition of anti-Semitism," it is well known that anti-Semitic motives can be found among some BDS supporters. 
In his interview with The Militant publication, Amir Paz Fuchs, the radical activist scholar, former director of the Human Rights Law Clinic at Tel-Aviv University admitted participating in BDS activities. He excused himself for doing it out of "frustration". Ironically, Paz Fuchs admits to being disillusioned after taking the post in the British university where he discovered that BDS is being used as an anti-Semitic tool, as the article below indicates. Paz Fuchs chagrin definitely belongs in the category of "be careful what you pray for".


Boycott Calls Against Israel
The BDS Casts a Long Shadow on Academic Speech
Emboldened by the burgeoning BDS movement, pro-Palestinian activists have made it difficult for some Israelis to appear on campuses. 
The incident mentioned below at Queen's University in Belfast was no doubt exceptionally violent, but Israeli lecturers are often harassed and shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists. On many occasions, it has prompts the university authorities to cancel scheduled events. Even more troubling, anticipating trouble, colleges have refused to authorize appearances by pro-Israeli speakers. 
The imbalance created by the absence of voices that can explain Israeli policies is bound to deepen the one-sided view of Israel as an apartheid state - an image that has helped to promote the BDS in the academy.


Tel Aviv University
Aeyal Gross, the New Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University?
IAM has occasionally reported on the radical academics who use their positions to push for politically-motivated polemics masquerading as scholarship. Shlomo Sand, a professor of French history and culture and the author of the Invention of the Jewish People and the Invention of the Land of Israel, is probably the best known in this category. 
Aeyal Gross, an associate professor in TAU's Law School, is arguably a close runner-up. On his home-page Gross describes one of his research interest as critical approaches to law. Part of the family of critical, neo-Marxist approaches in the social sciences, critical law has been described in the following way: 
"A family of new legal theories, launched since 1970, share commitments to criticize not merely particular legal rules or outcomes, but larger structures of conventional legal thought and practice. According to critical legal scholars, dominant legal doctrines and conceptions perpetuate patterns of injustice and dominance by whites, men, the wealthy, employers, and heterosexuals. The "Crits" argue that prevailing modes of legal reasoning pretend to afford neutral and objective treatment of claims while shielding structures of power from fundamental reconsideration. Critical theorists also maintain that despite the law's claims to accord justified, determinate and controlled expressions of power, law fails on each of these dimensions and instead law mystifies outsiders in an effort to legitimate the results in courts and legislatures." 
Judging by his list of publications, it seems that critical law is his main interest, including such topics as humanitarian law in the occupied territories and queer theory. But it is Gross's contention that Israel uses its liberal treatment of gays as a propaganda tool that he dubbed "pinkwashing" that attracted global attention. 
At his recent lecture at the Sociology Department of the Free University of Brussels, he repeats the accusations without providing a shred of empirical evidence. Gross can get away with discounting facts, because of the claim that critical law theorists have a privileged view of reality because they (and they alone) can uncover the "dominant legal doctrines and conceptions perpetuate patterns of injustice and dominance by whites, men, the wealthy, employers, and heterosexuals." 
It is noted, that the mainstream gay and lesbian movement in Israel has rejected Gross's interpretation. This, of course, did not phase Gross, who has accused mainstream gays lesbians of the Marxist "false conciseness," namely that they have been co-opted and brainwashed by the authorities into "homonationalism." 
Pinkwashing, the intellectual construct developed by Gross, has been extensively used by gays and lesbians in BDS activities around the world as reported recently by IAM. 
Arguably, Gross has now joined Shlomo Sand, who made a "career" out of peddling baseless theories that delegitimize Israel. More to the point, like Sand, Gross has misused his academic position while being supported by taxpayers.


Boycott Calls Against Israel
Anti-boycott Legislation in Congress: Israel, the Academy and Free Speech
IAM is dedicated to publishing occasional updates on the Israel boycott initiatives on campus. 
Following the much publicized decision of the American Studies Association to boycott the Israeli academy, an anti-anti boycott backlash followed. 
As reported earlier, some analysts, including Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador in Washington, now a professor at the IDC Herzliya, advocated for anti-boycott legislation in Congress. 
The Congress responded with the Roskam-Lapinski initiative detailed below. The proposed legislation has generated a robust debate on boycott and academic freedom. 
The hearings on the proposed bill serve as a platform for a much wider debate on the topic. 
IAM will hold a roundtable on the subject of academic BDS on May 14, at Tel Aviv University. 
Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, who plays a leading role in the anti-BDS movement in the United States, will keynote the event.





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