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IAM Responses to “The ‘guardians’ of Israeli academia” by Benjamin Pogrund, October 23, Haaretz

Dear Editor:

            Re “The ‘guardians’ of Israeli academia” (Benjamin Pogrund, October 23)


            Permit me to respond to Mr. Pogrund’s criticism of Israel Academia Monitor and his derisive characterization of our web site as a platform for “vigilantes” and  “dangerous cranks” who “use crude censorship to shut up academics.”


            As the introductory paragraph on our home page makes clear, IAM strongly supports the tradition of academic freedom that is an essential component of higher education in Israel. At the same time, it is committed to Israel’s security and its existence as a Jewish and democratic state. In keeping with this commitment, IAM brings to the attention of an informed and concerned public the worrisome phenomenon of a small sector in the academic community whose adherents abuse the hallmark of academic freedom to engage in activities that besmirch Israel, distort its history, lend support to calls for international boycotts, and encourage actions against the legal and democratic institutions of the country.


            In choosing selectively from  the IAM web site to make his case, Mr. Pogrund--in the interest of defending freedom of expression--tends to play down the seriousness of the activities of those he identifies. For example, he refers to Dr. Neve Gordon’s  widely circulated call for a boycott of Israel, but omits mention of Gordon’s description of the country as an “apartheid” state, to say nothing of that academic’s warm embrace of Yasser Arafat during the second Intifada. 


            In brief, IAM does not seek to muzzle academic freedom or freedom of speech and we are constantly working to refine and sharpen our essential message. A vital component of this message is the conviction that such freedoms are not advanced by cries of fire in a crowded theater, nor by blatant ideological agendas that contribute to an erosion of the institutions and the society in which these freedoms are deeply enshrined.


            Mr. Pogrund complains that IAM makes the information it compiles available to donors who support the institutions involved. IAM believes that contributors, no less than the public at large, have the right to know the purposes to which their philanthropic generosity is being put.


            The work of IAM is guided by respected Israeli academics of diverse points of view. What they share is a common concern over the damage these activities are causing to Israel and to the academic enterprise in our country.


            We invite readers to visit the IAM web site and judge for themselves.   


            Dana Barnett, IAM editor. www.israel-academia-monitor.com


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