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Ben-Gurion University
IAM's 2nd in the series on BGU's Oren Yiftachel class for oversees students, which is entitled "Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East"

Editor's note:

Below Dr. Amir Paz-Fuchs (http://www.fljs.org/standard.aspx?id=546) comments to our previous posting:

 ---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Amir Paz-Fuchs
Date: Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 5:39 PM
Subject: [Social Science- IL]: FW: IAM's first in the series on BGU Oren Yiftachel class for overseas students in English entitled "Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East"
To: socsci-il@listserver.cc.huji.ac.il

Dear colleagues,

What you can see below is a natural development in the McCarthy-style (definition: the politically motivated practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence)  targeting of academics who do not subscribe to the dominant, nationalist point of view. Typically, it is also confusing in the argument it's trying to put forward. Oren Yiftachel is at fault for including, as part of the syllabus, an article in a peer reviewed journal by a renowned, admittedly critical, scholar of the history of anthropology, only because a student objects to it? And the reasons he objects to the article include the said student's learned observation that Saadya Gaon may have been born in Yemen, and not in Egypt, and his astute analysis that Ahmad Tibbi is "doing quite well" in the Israeli Knesset (no matter that his vote doesn't really count, because a majority, in Israeli discourse, has to be a Jewish majority). We know nothing about the discussion in the class, about the attitude that was expressed towards students who had issues with the piece. In fact, we don't know if Yiftachel himself agrees with everything written in article.

But all this is quite secondary, of course. What we have here is a clear manifestation of a mobilization of nationalists who want not only to "monitor", but to dictate, the material discussed and ideas aired in academic fora. Nothing can be further from basic ideas of academic freedom. And this is before we mention that each email, including the one below, addresses "donors" to universities, thus seeking to hit universities where it hurts. But I guess this is ok, unless the Anat Matars of the academic world suggest it.

For a better future,




IAM's 2nd in a series on BGU's Oren Yiftachel is written by a student in this Geography of the Middle East class for oversees students, which is entitled in English as "The Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East"

Week Two - Oren Yiftachel's co-teacher Nir Cohen

"Mizrachim needed to de-Arabize when they came to Israel

In other words, Dr. Cohen was falsely labeling the Mizrachim to be Arabs who needed to give up their supposed Arab identity when they became Israeli citizens.  
"Israeli society is ultra-racist, veterans make life of new immigrants difficult.   If grandparents suffered, we will make you suffer.   Need to be a victim to be a true Israeli."

Dr. Cohen is falsely blaming Israeli society for the fact that it is difficult to be an immigrant any where in the world in general, and that Israel is no exception to this.   This does not mean that Israeli society is guilty because of this.
"Ashkenazis have a superiority complex."

I guess he has not met many Ashkenazi Jews who have chosen to get married to Mizrachim.   In general, ethnic stereotypes are really bad, especially when they come from an academic.
"We were taught in early decades that Mizrachim fit Zionism.   Where do we fit?   We weren't allowed to tell our story."

Mizrachim fit into the Zionist narrative in the same way that all Jews fit into the Zionist narrative.   The Zionist narrative is all about supporting a national homeland for the Jewish people all over the world in Israel.   It does not matter so much where a particular Jew was living during the 2,000 years of Diaspora.  
"Arabs are discriminated against and are excluded.   Not a single community has been built for Arabs since 1948.   There are increased gaps between Arabs and Jews from 1948 onwards."

Arabs are no more discriminated against in Israel than African Americans are in the United States.   Just because there are gaps does not mean there is a general government policy to discriminate against them.   And if Dr. Cohen thinks that not a single Arab village has been built since 1948 in Israel, I guess he has never heard of Rahat. 
Nir Cohen refers to the Arabs as "the natives" in the slideshow, which thus denies the fact that the Jews were the original owners of the land.  
Nir Cohen asserted that the budget for minority cultural education is only three percent of the budget.   He did not respond to my request for a comparative analysis to see if
was any worse than other democracies.
Claims that Zionism has an ambivalent attitude towards the Diaspora and that we need to return to the Diaspora.   He obviously forgot about Jewish suffering in the Diaspora.      
Nir Cohen claimed that Zionism viewed diasporatic Jews as "human dust, shivering, weak, disconnected from land," without providing evidence to back this up.      
He claimed that 800,000 and 900,000 Palestinians fled
in 1948 but there are now between 3.4 and 4.5 million Palestinian refugees.    Nir Cohen admitted after class that he used Palestinian sources for his numbers and not objective historians like Benny Morris.
He claimed that Arabs settle illegally because
Israel gave them no choice and that their illegal settlement is ok because it is not like Jewish settlements are legal.   Dr. Cohen provided no proof that Jewish settlements were illegal.  He claimed that the rapid population growth of Israeli Arabs, combined with the lack of building Arab towns legally, has forced Israeli Arabs to create illegal villages, without showing evidence that Israeli Arabs were denied the right to build legally.   

How does one learn to tolerate left wing extremist professors?

I have currently started the spring semester at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.   I love most of my classes.   There is only one problematic course for me, and that course is Selected Topics in the Geography of the Middle East.  My issue with this class is that it is taught by two left wing extremists.   Not just left wingers, but left wing extremists.   I can tolerate left wingers so long as they don't voice extremely biased anti-Israel views.   However, I went to geography today and over seventy percent of what the professor said was incorrect in my worldview.   I don't care what any one says.   I trust Benny Morris's numbers on the number of Palestinian refugees over any Palestinian.    I think that it is a lie to refer to Mizrachim as Arabs and to accuse Israel of robbing them of their Arab identity.   I believe that it is a disservice to history if one glosses over the sorrows of dhimmitude just because the European Jews had it so much worse.   I think that if you are going to condemn Israel for mistreating her minorities, you should make your criticisms based on whether or not Israel is in conformity with the majority of democratic nations and not just demonize Israel for the sake of demonizing Israel.   I believe sincerely that the reading stated that Israel should be destroyed and that Jews should return to the Diaspora, and that Clifford holds this view by quoting people who held such views but not criticizing them for this view.   I also believe that it is a lie to state that the Jews in the Diaspora did not form a community united by a lost homeland.   And the list can just go on with my objections to things stated in this particular class.   I can't believe that such professors are allowed to teach at prestigious schools in Israel.   Professors should give balanced opinions, where they give both sides of the story.   They can state their opinion if they like after that, but to be so one-sided is downright wrong.   It is a pity that academic freedom allows for them to get away with using the university as a political platform to espouse anti-Israel propaganda.      However, regardless of how I passionately I feel about this subject, I obviously can't spend the entire semester with my hand up and object to every thing the professor states, despite the fact that every other word that comes out of his mouth is just plain old wrong on so many levels.    I am open to suggestions on how I can control my emotions and just focus on the most major objections to his many objectionable views, without turning the class into something like the Finkelstein-Dershowitz duel on television.  


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    1.  Amir Paz-Fuchs "forgot" that Israel
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