By Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | December 7, 2005
A specter is haunting the far-left fever swamps found inside Israeli universities: "Israel Academia Monitor." It is Israel's new cousin to the "Campus Watch" web site that operates in the U.S., which has been controversial because of its practice of publishing some of the loopier citations and statements made by faculty members in North America who pose as Middle East Studies "experts." Israel Academia Monitor provides a well-d'ocumented record of the most outrageous statements and seditious a'ctivities of Israel's own academic extremists. Organized by campus, it makes no secret of its desire to see the informatio'n reach donors to those universities, as well as alumni, journalists, and others. And it has the extremists running scared.
Campus Watch has long been denounced for its "McCarthyism" by those who object to its activities. Similar denunciations of critics of the Israeli academic Left are becoming more common. Free speech is precisely what the hysteria is all about, namely the right to free speech for critics of the extremists. Israel’s far leftists believe firmly in their right to denounce Israel as a Nazi-like, oppressive, racist country, all this during a time of war. What they don’t tolerate is anyone else’s right to criticize them. They have been attempting to silence the critics of the anti-Zionists, much the way communists have always tried to delegitimize anti-communism as “anti-democratic”.
The attacks on Israel Academia Monitor (and Campus Watch) are coming from people who insist that in the name of democracy they have the right to endorse terror, collaborate with and promote anti-Semitism, promote law breaking, demand that Israel be annihilated, and use their classrooms to impose their extremist political agenda on their hapless students, all within the rubric of free speech and academic freedom. Free speech for progressive little me but none for thee.
When the British Association of University Teachers declared a boycott of two Israeli universities last year (later reversed), it turned out that the main initiator was none other than a Senior Lecturer at the University of Haifa, Ilan Pappe, who has spent most of his academic career collaborating with anti-Israel propagandists around the world. Pappe is best renowned for inventing, together with a graduate student of his, an imaginary “massacre” of Arabs near Haifa that Pappe insists took place in 1948. Never mind that no one has ever come up with a scrap of evidence that any such massacre occurred, and never mind that the graduate student in question admitted in court that the story was a fabrication! Pappe is on record calling for Israel to be eliminated as a Jewish state altogether. Much of his “academic record” consists of anti-Israel political propaganda. He is still on the University of Haifa faculty and continues to draw a salary paid for by the Israeli taxpayer.
While Pappe became the most visible of Israel’s anti-Israel academic extremists, he is only one example of a growing academic plague of extremism. The international “divestment” and “boycott” campaigns against Israel have shone light on Israel’s academic extremists and tenured traitors, and helped bring to public attention to the damages they cause. Many of these people endorse boycotts of their own universities, and quite a few openly endorse Arab terrorism against Israelis. They continue to draw salaries at state-financed universities, funded by the very same taxpayers whom some of them wish to see murdered by Arab terrorists.
Four Israeli universities are today the centers of anti-Israel tenured extremism (nearly all of the extremists by the way are leftist Jews; few Arabs are as venomously outspoken as they), although each of the other schools also has a few such people. Many academic extremists have been part of the international campaign to boycott Israel. Most have been involved in attempts to organize mutiny and insurrection among Israeli soldiers and to promote refusal to serve in the army until Israel adopts the policies endorsed by its Arab communist parties. Many make the University of Colorado’s Ward Churchill look like a sane moderate.
There is some argument over the question of which campus is the very worst. Ben Gurion University is certainly a serious contender for that title, crawling with extremist leftists who do not think Israel has the right to exist. It contains at least one entire department (political science) in which no Zionist, pro-Israel faculty members may teach, and the single pro-Israel non-leftist lecturer there was fired last year for incorrect thinking. The operation of such an anti-pluralist department goes with the blessings of Ben Gurion University President Avishay Braverman, himself a leftist who has now joined trade union thug Amir Peretz, the new anti-productivity anti-market head of the Labor Party.
Also at Ben Gurion University is sociologist Lev Grinberg, best known for his articles published in Europe claiming that, when Israel targets Hamas terror leaders, Israel is guilty of “symbolic genocide”. Then there is Oren Yiftachel, a geographer who has devoted much of his career to “proving” that Israel is an apartheid state. The list goes on and on.
The University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University are only slightly less richly endowed with tenured extremists than Ben Gurion University, and the Hebrew University is close in the running. At Tel Aviv University, politicization and in-classroom brainwashing have the official sanction of the President of the University, Itamar Rabinovich, the man who nearly moved the Syrian army up to the Sea of Galilee. The psychology department there now offers an anti-Israel propaganda course entitled "The Psychology of the Occupation" (course number 1071.3627.01), taught by a radical anti-Zionist professor (Uri Hadar). It goes without saying that no psychological damage caused to any Jew by terror is discussed in the course. When I exposed the existence of this course in the media, President Rabinovich wrote the heads of my own university to demand that they silence me and penalize me for the sin of revealing correct facts about Tel Aviv University. The Haifa chiefs dismissed the call for censorship, probably with amusement. Rabinovich's letter was published on the Internet by the spokesman for Tel Aviv University, Danny Shapiro, himself a Marxist. So much for free speech and democracy in the mind of Rabinovich!
Several TAU faculty members have been jailed for their activities, including Dr. Anat Matar, recently arrested for being part of a violent attack upon Israeli soldiers by international “anarchists”. Professor Aharon Eviatar is part of the movement to get Israeli army officers indicted before politicized kangaroo courts outside of Israel. The now-retired Prof. Tanya Reinhart (a protégé of Noam Chomsky) has been the most candid about her desire to see Israel annihilated altogether.
These are only a small sample of illustrations of the growing problem. A far more detailed and fully-docu'mented exposure of these people can be found on the web site operated by Israel Academia Monitor, at www.israel-academia-monitor.com. The Monitor expresses the desire for donors to Israeli universities to review the material and make their views heard. That is what enrages the radicals. But what is wrong with donors also having freedom of speech? Should not donors take responsibility for, and a moral interest in, how their generosity is misused by politicized universities?
Let us be clear. No one is denying freedom of speech nor academic freedom to the extremists, even though there are serious questions as to whether their activities always fall within the category of protected speech. During World War II, Oswald Mosley and his people were not granted academic lectureships in the UK when Winston Churchill was PM, and Lord Haw-Haw was never granted an honorary PhD as a celebration of free speech. I doubt there are many European countries in which an open Holocaust Denier could hold a university lectureship today, although in Israel at least one admirer of Norman Finkelstein does.
Outside Israel, academic freedom does seem to have its boundaries. Many European countries have laws making expressions of anti-Semitism a crime. Israel has a law against open endorsement of terror violence, and an "anti-racism" law. No Israeli leftist has ever been indicted under it. Why not?
Many of the leftist extremists on Israeli campus have embarrassing academic records, consisting of little more than political propaganda misrepresented as scholarly research, yet they enter the system and stay around thanks to political solidarity by other academic leftists.
There is a great difference between affirming their rights to free speech and insisting that taxpayers and others have to foot the bills for their politicization. Israeli universities are all (with one exception) state-financed, with foreign donors covering what the taxpayer does not. Taxpayers and donors have the right to demand accountability and to resist being coerced into financing sedition and radicalism. Departments like Political Science at Ben Gurion University, wishing to functio'n as leftist propaganda machines, are free to secede and operate independently without taxpayer support.
Critics of the Israeli far left and donors to Israeli universities should be as entitled to express their opinions as the extremists and radicals themselves. Israeli professors unhappy with this arrangement can always move to Bir Zeit University, run by the PLO in the West Bank, where they’re likely to find a receptive audience for their hateful views.