Detroit Jewish News 12/7/07
Academic Atrocities / by George Cantor
Dana Barnett has a name for the Israeli academics who disparage Zionism and publish books and articles in open sympathy with the Palestinians. The name is traitor.
“That’s a harsh word,” she says. “But what else do you call an Israeli who goes to Yassir Arafat’s compound to ‘protect’ him while suicide bombers are striking our cities daily? What else do you call an Israeli who gets a teaching job in Britain and then helps to organize a boycott of Israeli academics?
“And the worst part is they are doing it out of the most selfish reasons. Have their activities improved the lives of the Palestinians? No. But these academics go on to good jobs and acclaim from the part of the world community that hates Israel. It’s their chance to be a big shot, instead of an unknown, ordinary guy.”
Barnett, a native Israeli, came through Detroit last month to talk about an organization called Israel Academic Monitor (IAM). She describes it as an attempt to shed light on what these professors are up to and what they are saying.
She was on her way to Ann Arbor to monitor a speech by one of them, Neve Gordon. He teaches at Ben-Gurion University, but is a visiting professor in Middle Eastern Studies this year at the University of Michigan.
“Unfortunately, the average Israeli has no idea,’ says Barnett, “because they usually publish in English, not in Hebrew. And the ones who are the superstars---Ilan Pappe and Gordon---are just the tip of the iceberg. We know that 358 of them signed a petition urging students to disobey orders to serve with the army in the ‘occupied territories.’”
Gordon, for his part, says the organization “would be a tasteless joke if the times were not right for this sort of witch hunt.” He ascribed it to nationalist and sectarian “frenzy.”
According to the think tank affiliated with IAM, the Ariel Center for Policy Research, about 6 percent of the faculty in Israel’s universities are dedicated to the anti-Zionist cause. But in the humanities and social sciences, they estimate the number to be around 25 percent. A booklet published by the Center calls them “Our Inner Scourge.”
“They tell us we are McCarthyites, trying to suppress academic freedom,” says Barnett. “Just the opposite. We are trying to make sure the other side gets heard so students can make up their minds.
“We don’t want to shut them up, although an Arab academic who said the same things about his country would be silenced pretty quickly. We just want people to understand what is going on.
“Others tell us that all we are doing is making these people more famous by giving them attention. But we can’t ignore them any longer. We can’t keep living in denial that this is happening and this is what our students are hearing.”
The IAM’s basic strategy is to reach and inform contributors to Israeli universities. In fact, if you go to its web site---Israel-Academia-Monitor.com---the first thing you’ll see on the home page is ‘Are you a donor to Israel’s universities?’”
Barnett is a former member of the peace movement. But during the second Intifada, in 2002, she realized the philosophy she believed in had been “hijacked by those who support terrorists. The IAM was formed four years later.
“I think we are starting to make a difference,” she says. “More academics are being recruited to our organization and they are speaking out in support of what we’re doing.”