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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:


Anti-Israel Conferences
The "Settler Colonialism in Palestine" Conundrum
A short time ago, IAM posted an update on the conference organized by Ilan Pappe from Exeter University . The conference took place last weekend. 
The agreement between members of the Jewish community and Sir Steve Smith of Exeter University did not please everyone. As Professor Geoffrey Alderman from the University of Buckingham stated in the article bellow, the agreement amounted to a “cave in” on the part of the Jewish community and, in his opinion, would only serve to legitimize Pappe and his colleagues. 
Alderman raises an important issue with regard to the conduct of academic conferences. In the positivist tradition, conferences like classroom discussions were expected to reflect the Humboldian principle of a “marketplace of ideas.” In other words, all the viewpoints were to be represented and debated, so that the students or conference participants could form their own opinion. 
The Humboldian pedagogical ideal, however, was discarded when a younger critical, neo-Marxist cohorts took over social sciences. Beholden to the teaching of Antonio Gramsci, the new cohorts viewed the classroom and the conference as an extension of their political agenda. Pappe, a veteran Communist and political activist, was not about to embrace Humboldt on his own accord. 
The pressure applied by the Jewish community had forced him to compromise but, as Alderman pointed out, the outcome has its own problematique. A similarity one sided conference at Southampton University was canceled on the ground of security risk. But, as noted, the security argument is a two edged sword which can be used against a pro-Israel event. 
The Pappe conference is emblematic of the broader problem in the social sciences in the West. Unfortunately, there are no good answers to the conundrums that they generate.



General Articles
The Social Sciences in Israeli Universities are Getting a Failing Grade
Recently, QS, the highly respectable comparative measures in tertiary education, published its result. The QS employs a number of criteria to evaluate the standing of a university as a whole which are further broken down by disciplines: 1) arts & humanities 2) engineering & technology 3) life sciences & medicine 4) natural sciences 5) social science and management. 
None of the Israeli universities made it into the first hundred (out of eight hundred). In general, Hebrew University is ranked 148 and Tel Aviv University 203, but the status of the social sciences is particularly troubling. Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University social sciences are ranked respectively 236 and 280. Social sciences at Haifa University and Ben Gurion University did not even make into the first four hundreds category. 
To understand how bleak the situation is, here are some comparative numbers from public universities (known as state universities) in the United States. Berkeley and UCLA – both in the California university system, are ranked 9 and 19 respectively and University of Michigan at 33. To find the equivalents for HUJ, one needs to search among third of fourth tier public universities, such as University of California, Irvine at 236 and University of Massachusetts, Amherst at 233. Social sciences at TAU compare with University of Arizona at 275. 
The comparisons with social sciences at British universities (which are all virtually public) make for an equally gloomy reading. Oxford and Cambridge are ranked 3 and 4 respectively. So much for HUJ being the Israeli “Oxbridge.” In fact, HUJ is close to Loughborough University at 242 and TAU to Kent University 281, both quite pedestrian institutions. 
There are numerous reasons for the poor performance of the social sciences in Israel, including lack of accountability, outmoded curricula, a paucity of quantitative approaches, and preponderance of critical, neo-Marxist faculty. The latter is apparently related to the failure of the social science at Haifa U and Ben Gurion U, to make into the first 400. 
As IAM often emphasized, the Israeli universities enjoyed an expansive form of academic freedom, a form that is not tolerated in public institutions in the West. All efforts to reform the system were met with the argument that imposing accountability and sound management would hurt “academic excellence.” 
The ranking below clearly shows this argument to be specious. If the amount of academic freedom was in a way related to academic excellence, the Israeli social sciences would have been at the top. The only way to improve this abysmal situation is to force upon the Israeli universities the type of reforms which helped public institutions in the West to achieve true academic excellence.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
American Historical Association Tries Again
Pro-Israeli advocates at the American Historical Association (AHA) took great pride in defeating a BDS proposition in 2015. At the time pro-Palestinian activists vowed to continue the fight, a promise they are trying to deliver on. 
Historians Against the War, the same group which initiated the BDS proposal, is now soliciting signatures for a petition condemning Israel for alleged violations of the right of Palestinian students to education. The petition is to be submitted to the January 2016 business meeting of the AHA in Atlanta. 
It should come as no surprise that the grandly named Historians Against the War is focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alone. After all, leftist activists in liberal arts have so far ignored the Middle East with it unimaginable savagery and wanton brutality. 
Here is a suggestion for the Historians Against the War. Please broaden the definition of war to salvage your academic integrity.



Anti-Israel Conferences
Exeter University and Ilan Pappe: Finally Restrained?
As discussed in two recent posts, Ilan Pappe has used his position at Exeter University to engage in a virulent campaign against Israel. His latest effort, as noted, is the "Conference on Settler Colonialism in Palestine & Workshop on the Naqab Bedouin". True to his modus operandi, Pappe refused to accept papers which would detract from his life work of “exposing” Israel as a brutal colonial society. Waving the flag of academic freedom, Pappe made sure that the conference is well stocked with speakers who share his views. 
Ensconced in his little fiefdom inside the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Exeter University, Pappe has been used to flaunting all academic rules. Since assuming the mantle of a New Historian, Pappe has gotten away with exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright falsifications of historical records. In 2012 a complaint by CAMERA's Dexter Van Zile was lodged against Pappe on the ground that he had falsified a key quote from David Ben Gurion’s diary, but the University refused to act. 
It must thus have come as a great shock when, acting at the urging of the Jewish community in Great Britain, the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Sir Steve Smith decided to intervene in the conference problematique. According to the article below, Pappe would be forced to accept two speakers who do not share his views. Additionally, there would be a follow up conference to discuss the issue brought up by the "Settler Colonialism in Palestine & Workshop on the Naqab Bedouin". 
Sir Steven Smith should be congratulated for restoring some credibility to the academic process. More needs to be done, however, with regard to the misuse of the Institute as a platform for compulsive Israel bashing. Getting rid of Pappe and hiring a bone fide scholar who can contribute to the academic excellence of Exeter University would be a good step in this direction.



General Articles
Brandies University Appointment: Academic Politics and Beyond
On September 8, 2015, Brandeis University appointed Pascal Menoret, to the prestigious Renee and Lester Crown Chair in Modern Middle Eastern Studies. 
The appointment is perplexing on two levels. First, Menoret, who taught at the New York University, Abu Dhabi campus, does not have the type of distinguished academic record to qualify for the position. Second, he is an activist who, as the article below indicates, took some high profile pro-Palestinian positions. His nomination seems to contradict the promise of the university to create a depolarized Middle Eastern Studies program, as stated by former president Jehuda Reinharz: "Too many of the centers that currently exist are so infused with ideology, so obsessed by the Israeli-Arab conflict, they have become less interested in scholarship and more interested in scoring political points." 
There is a possible explanation why a scholar with rather modest achievements and known pro-Palestinian attitude should be appointed.
Social science faculty at Brandeis is known for its far left foreign policy positions and anti-Israeli rhetoric. In 2014, the human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, known for her critique of womens rights in the Muslim world, was disinvited from delivering a commencement address at the University after a large number of professors had protested. Their petition stated: “We cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali’s triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples.” Also in the same year, a Brandeis student Daniel Mael published the content of a faculty listserver which contained venomous comments on American and Israeli policies. 
American-Jewish academics, like the rest of the community have been profoundly divided on a number of issues such as how to fight BDS, whether to support the Iran deal in Congress and how to relate to the right wing government in Israel. It is plausible to assume that, by appointing Menoret, Brandeis University made a high profile political gesture.



Boycott Calls Against Israel
Gray Boycott Update
A few months ago, heads of the Israeli universities have told President Reuven Rivlin that, along with overt boycott, there were cases of unofficial, gray boycott. Not an entirely new phenomenon, gray boycott has been practiced by individual scholars who took it upon themselves to hold their Israeli colleagues accountable for the policies of the government. As IAM reported, in some instances, there was an outright refusal to cooperate, consider papers for publication and rejection of panel proposals for conferences. 
The new crop of cases is a mixture of the old and new. For instance, an Israeli professor was told that she could not participate in a panel unless she denounces the occupation. In another instance an Israeli academic was asked to withdraw from a project because a Lebanese scholar stated that, under the terms of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) she was not allowed to appear in any forum which included Israeli scholars. 
The recent cases of gray boycott are relatively easy to detect because the initiating party has provided a clear statement. As already noted, the more difficult gray boycotts are the ones in which editors, conference organizers or other academic actors reject papers or panel proposals on seemingly academic grounds. Because academic institutions and individual faculty enjoy broad freedom, such cases are hard to prove.









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