Watch video recording in Hebrew
Keren: A letter greeting the members of the board of trustees of Ben-Gurion University in their annual conference, actually reached their hotel rooms. In the letter was a list of faculty members expressing extreme anti-Israeli sentiments, this according to the definitions of the letter’s authors, who are members of an organization operating the website “Israeli academy monitor”. Hello to Dana Barnett, the manager or editor of the website. Explain to me exactly what you did, whom you attack there, or whom you mark there.
Dana: We track anti-Israeli activity of members of the Israeli academia. In principal, what happens is that there is a large part of university faculty that participates in activities against Israel. For example, goes out to demonstrations against the wall, or all kinds of activities supporting the Palestinians, and they are in fact also lecturers in the universities in all kinds of fields, not only politics.
Keren: So what did you want with the board of trustees? Because you know, I can understand your reservation of one political position or the other but, you know, freedom of speech, they do not call for murder and they do not call for this or that kind of crime. They express their position and that is part of academic freedom.
Dana: there is a problem here with this matter. If, for example, we employ in a certain university people who are much more interested or involved in their public role than in their academic work, there is a problem with that.
Keren: What do you mean?
Dana: There are people who were chosen for their role because of their political position, for their aggressiveness and not the research excellence.
Keren: Is it a kind of bon ton to be post-Zionist and not a Zionist? I thought we were past that.
Dana: This is not new; this is something that existed for many years, only it became stronger in the last decade. This is the problem. A situation was created where there are many people whose path to become known goes through academia and through this anti-Israeli activity.
Keren: And that is because what? Because it is popular in the world? In Israel, they will not enjoy popularity, this is clear to you, but are they popular in the world?
Dana: Exactly. They travel, for example, to give lectures throughout the world. Their stay there is being financed, of course. They publish books. They go to teach in universities abroad. These people are chosen based on their political activity.
Keren: OK, I get it, but it is their privilege. What exactly do you want with the board of trustees, why did you approach the board of trustees? Truthfully, it smells as a kind of silencing, of branding people. These are the people there? That should not be given money? The university should not be given money until it expels them? What do you want to achieve?
Dana: We want the board of trustees to weigh this, their opinion on this problem. We want them to open and discuss this issue. We would like to have some committee that precisely examines nominations. Why a specific person is chosen to this position or the other. Is this the best person for the job? Because sometimes these people are picked for the job for their political activity. We want excellence to return to academia and not the political issue. This is the real goal.
Keren: Why not lecturers from the extreme right? Because there aren’t any? Why the left actually?
Dana: We do not choose the people based on their political opinions, but based on their activity. If a person goes out to lectures and calls Israel a Nazi state, or calls for a boycott on Israel, then based on that. We did not check exactly which party he belongs to and that is not our goal.