A short talk that Professor Uri Hadar from Tel-Aviv University hoped to give on June 9, 2010 at Bar Ilan University
He withdrew from the panel meeting because its organizers gravely misrepresented him in their public invitation and did not inform him of this.
"Why are there at least three organizations whose aim it is to silence us, and often to remove us or even get us arrested? I would be happy to blame it on the tight inner logic and moral superiority of our arguments. But I don't really believe that. Instead, I think the explanation is to be found in my own field, psychology. I will first formulate this theoretically and subsequently in political terms. "
The short talk that Uri hoped to give on 9 June, 2010 at Bar Ilan
He withdrew from the panel meeting because its organizers
gravely misrepresented him in their public invitation and did not
inform him of this.
Ends Meeting [a provisional title]
Bar Ilan University, June 2010
I would like to thank the organizers of this conference – The
Forum for the Land of Israel - for inviting me to speak here today
at this meeting of political ends, as I understand it: the far left,
on the one hand, and the far right on the other. This is a very
unusual type of encounter in these times, in this region, in our
political culture. But I believe it is a necessary one and that's
why I accepted the invitation to come and speak here. If I believe
in the need for this meeting, however, it is not because I assume
one side, perhaps, might influence the other or may cause it to
reconsider its views. The chance of that happening, I think, is
small. I assume that the distance between us is just too great.
But I do believe that it is very important for us to be able to
express our views in each other's presence, from the same
podium, without immediate violent escalation. Especially not
physical violence, and I hope we shall be able to avoid verbal
violence too. The organizers of this meeting and I, it seems to
me, share the same aim in this sense. I appreciate this, even
though I do not believe that the right and the left make a
symmetrical contribution to the violence that a meeting of ends
tends to generate.
In fact, I was flooded with violent imagery as soon as I accepted
the invitation to join you on this panel, especially once I realized
who else would appear. But rather than let them take control
over me, I felt it was really paramount to get those violent
images under control. We, psychologists, call this containment.
The need to contain this surge of violence grew even stronger
when I saw footage of the Knesset session in which MK Hanin
Zouabi, on her return from the Mavi Marmara, held up amidst the
frenzy that broke loose around her. She refused to be dragged
into it and did not lose her cool. I wondered whether I would be
able to conduct myself like this in such circumstances and hoped I
would. Well – as I understand it, the main, though not the only,
purpose of our meeting here today, is the attempt to enhance
our political culture beyond the noisy, populist ambience of the
Neither I nor my leftist colleagues in academia are professional
politicians. We don't make the slightest financial gains from our
political activities – usually quite on the contrary. We don't
dedicate most of our time to them either. It is true that a
considerable part of our academic concerns have political
implications – especially for those of us who work in the social
sciences, the humanities and law. Often we clarify and interpret
these implications. It is, I gather, this activity that forms part of
the leftist threat against which the organizers of this meeting are
fighting. Though I have no time to elaborate on this now, I think
that exploring and explicating the connections between the
professional and the political is extremely valuable, in both
intellectual and social terms. I have no doubt that professors on
the right of the political spectrum also engage in this - though I
have no data to show it. This lack of data is the result of the fact
that unlike the right, the left has no organizations that exist
primarily in order to investigate this type of activity. To my mind,
the organized monitoring of political engagements of academics
does more harm than good and, if necessary, the ordinary
academic procedures aimed to ensure the academic quality of
university studies should suffice.
During most of my years at the university I did not deal with
political issues, whether outside classes or in them. Here and
there, of course, I went to the odd demonstration. This changed
in October 2000 when I watched on TV how the Israeli police
fired into a mass of unarmed Arab citizens of Israel at a
demonstration. They killed 12 unarmed demonstrators. It was
clear to me, then as now, that had it not been Palestinian
demonstrators, the outcome would have been different. This
incident caused me great distress and I decided to devote part of
my privileges as an Israeli Jew and an academic to support and
advance the human and civil rights of Palestinians.
By the way, at the end of the day you could say that we – I and
my like minded colleagues – have not done a very good job.
Infringements of the human and civil rights of Palestinian people
have continued and only worsened since then – especially in
recent months. But even after I made my decision, teaching,
research, and psychotherapy continued to occupy by far the main
part of my activities. My social-political activity, however, is very
important to me. I consider it a moral duty which I owe as a
person with privileges, as a Jew and an academic. I am active in
a variety of frameworks, not only at the university. At the
university this has allowed me to interact and exchange opinions
with a large amount of people – faculty, students and others. To
the best of my knowledge, during the many hours of this
interaction I never lifted a finger or raised my voice against
anyone. And in my capacity as teacher I never prevented anyone
from speaking unless for the simple reason that time was running
out. Most definitely, I never stopped anyone from speaking their
mind on account of the views they were expressing. I did, at the
same time, insist on my right to express my own views and
understanding. As I said before, I see this as the moral duty of a
person with certain privileges.
And now I am approached by organizations from the right, or
perhaps the far right – "The Academic Monitor", "Im Tirtzu" and
"The Forum for the Land of Israel", who tell me that my voice is
too loud, that the voices of me and my friends are too dominant,
if not generally, then at least at the universities. They claim that
the universities and the state must act to lower the volume, so it
won't be heard so much, or so it won't be heard at all. In fact, I
believe that our voice is not heard all that loudly, and if it were
not for the activities – conducted by the rightist organizations –
that come to silence it, it would hardly be known outside a small
circle of some thousands of people. I would of course be
delighted if we were to be heard more. That's one reason why I
came here today. Without having closely examined the matter,
my impression is that the voice of the extreme right is far louder
than ours, even just because of its relative proportions. However
that may be, even if the voice of the extreme left on campus
actually is too loud, it hardly seems to leave a scratch on Jewish
Israeli public consciousness at all. Thus, for instance, over 95% of
that population supported the Israeli army's attack on Gaza in
the winter of 2008. Very many people outside Israel opposed this
attack on political, humanitarian and international legal grounds.
The point I want to make is that the rate of support for this
military action did not show a trace of that supposedly booming
academic voice which I and my friends have been producing.
Since we are so minimally effective within Israel, why,
nevertheless are rightist organizations so troubled by what we
do? Why are there at least three organizations whose aim it is
to silence us, and often to remove us or even get us arrested? I
would be happy to blame it on the tight inner logic and moral
superiority of our arguments. But I don't really believe that.
Instead, I think the explanation is to be found in my own field,
psychology. I will first formulate this theoretically and
subsequently in political terms.
There is this term, the subjectivity of the other. It refers to the
way that the other has his or her own will and judgement. These
always remain, over and beyond the margins of what I am able
to identify with. Tolerance is exactly defined as the readiness to
accept this subjectivity of the other, the fact that (s)he is in
charge of her or himself in a way that will always, to varying
degrees, elude me. Where I can identify with the other, there I
can also feel empathy or even love. But this is not the realm of
tolerance, because it is not the same as accepting the
sovereignty of the other exactly where I cannot identify with her
or him. When we are intolerant for long periods of time, when
we try to obliterate the subjectivity of the other, when we refuse
to accept another subjectivity, we enter an extremely problematic
psychological logic. Here, each and every expression of different
subjectivity forms a threat, because the other is other: it is a
zero sum game. As time passes, the most minimal degree of
otherness comes to be experienced as a threat to my
subjectivity. Indeed, we start losing our ability to distinguish
between various shapes and degrees of otherness: everything
looks the same, i.e., like something that threatens our
subjectivity. And this spreading sense of threat forces us to
invest more and more effort into the occlusion of even a glimmer
of otherness. The problem is that so long as the other is alive,
(s)he will always, to some extent, have a different subjectivity –
and this is likely to drive me around the bend.
This is the psychological stranglehold in which those who deny
Palestinian subjectivity get stuck. While at first it seems that we
may just let them get along without any subjectivity at all,
because, hey, what do they need it for? it transpires, with time,
that the human need to will and judge and be sovereign cannot
be set aside for any length of time. Then more and more
resources have to go into their repression. And with time too, it is
no longer only Palestinian subjectivity that is insufferable and
beyond the limits of identification. Now anyone who even
supports that subjectivity also needs to be kept at bay. The
subjectivity of the far left becomes identified with that of the
Palestinians, and then it become pressing to oust it, the far left,
too. Acceptable subjectivity must be homogenous: from this
point on a true Jew is only someone who is willing to keep out
Palestinian subjectvity. And so it comes to pass that a report,
ostensibly academic, produced by Im Tirtzu, concludes that no
less than 70% of all academic courses in political science taught
in Israel are post-Zionist. Dear me… How far is that from the
miserly 5% of Israelis who opposed the military operation in
Gaza! Someone must be wrong in defining their political
I join the Forum for the Land of Israel in its call for intellectual
and ideological pluralism in Israeli universities. But as I see
things, it is sheer paradox to try and achieve this by means of
ideological surveillance or a "regulatory commission", as they
used to call it, way back in the Israeli Labor party. Anyone who
strives to create an academic staff that is balanced in terms of its
political allegiances will fall victim to her or his own ideology,
dragging along more victims as (s)he goes. The one way in
which we can make sure to avoid a totalitarian academia is
through the defense of those who wish to express their political
position and by encouraging them to refine and elaborate it as
much as they can.
Fri, Jun 18, 2010
Below is an account by New Profile activist Mirjam Hadar Meerschwam of one event that has to do with the quite preposterous poster attached. One more sign o' the ever more alarming times around here. I'd recommend reading this in full, and forwarding on. Let the world know what the Israeli society looks like from within nowadays.
HOW IT WORKS
Today, June 9 2010, Uri Hadar, my partner, was slated to participate in a public meeting at Bar Ilan University. At the last moment, yesterday night, he withdrew. I want to describe what happened.
As you probably know, Uri , a full time professor of clinical psychology at Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology is an active participant, off and on campus, in public debate and activity aimed to criticize and bring an end to Israel's military occupation of Palestinian lands. He is a founding member of FFIPP (Faculty for Israeli and Palestinian Peace) and of Psychoactive (Israeli Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights). He regularly participates in meetings and conferences, as well as publishes, on the upholding of human rights, dialogue and reconciliation in Israel/Palestine. He belongs to a small but growing number of Israeli academics who expressly address the occupation in their university teaching on the assumption that the social, cultural, political and epistemological context in which he and his students meet and negotiate knowledge is deeply implied in the formation and communication of that knowledge.
As part of his political activism on campus, Uri moderated a public conference call on video , "Voice from Gaza", last April. This conference call was organized by Hakampus Lo Shotek (The Campus Is not Silent), the Israeli campus-based organization dedicated to human rights violations in the context of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands. In brief, the two-hour event, which was organized at MIT/Harvard, USA was moderated by Dr Sara Roy, senior research scholar, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and the voices from Gaza were those of Dr Eyad Sarraj, a senior non-aligned peace and human rights activist, and President of the Gaza Community Mental Health Center; Rowiya Haman, psychiatric nurse in Gaza, and Omar Shaban, economist and director, PAL-Think, a Gaza-based Palestinian think-tank . Here is an excerpt taken trom their Mission Statement on the internet:
" To promote peace, freedom and prosperity through debate on public issues, producing policy recommendations to the decision makers in Palestine and Middle East. PAL Think aim to:
- Perform constructive and facilitative roles in the rationalization of public discussions, thinking and decision processes.
- Improve quality of life of the Palestinians by promoting innovative development solutions that challenges mainstream thinking on politics, economics and social issues."
Recently, Uri was asked by an Israeli not-for-profit organization, The Forum for the Land of Israel (mostly appearing under the name: The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel) to participate in a panel meeting on "Pluralism of Opinions in the Academic Discourse". Since the meeting was held under the aegis of the above organization and at the religious Jewish Bar Ilan University it was clear to Uri that he was being invited to "defend" his ideas in a politically antagonistic setting. The Forum introduces itself as follows on its English website:
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel is committed to protecting human rights in Israel, ensuring sound government, and preserving the national integrity of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
This is how It explains its roots:
The Forum began as a grassroots organization seeking to find fair and equitable solutions for the thousands of Israeli evacuees resulting from the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria in August 2005.
One of the Forum's stated objectives is formulated thus:
Safeguards the Jewish presence throughout Israel
In the Israeli/Palestinian context this places the Forum solidly on the nationalist right.
Uri was worried about participating in this panel. He anticipated that anger and hostility would be directed at him. These days, in the wake of the Israeli army's attack on the Turkish flotilla, the atmosphere in Israel is even more charged than usual and the subject on which he was to talk is controversial, to say the least.
He would have gone ahead, though, were it not for a phone call, yesterday afternoon (less than 24 hours before the event) from a friend from Psychoactive. Ilana happened to walk past a small but colourfully eyecatching poster at Bar Ilan University. No one had sent Uri this poster or informed him of its contents. Again: he was invited to a panel on "Pluralism of Opinions in the Academic Discourse". I shall attach a copy of the poster, but I also describe it below, for those who don't read Hebrew. My description, needless to say, is tendentious and tries to offer you the context which I deem relevant.
· The sheet/flyer is headed by the logo of the "Forum for the Land of Israel" - the letters and Star of David are blue against a white background. Blue and white, plus the Star, claim affiliation with Zionism and the "national" agenda (a careful distinction with the first referring to nation and nationbuilding, and the second to nationalism; often, in local practice and reality, this distinction collapses).
· A thick red horizontal band appears below. In large blue-national letters (creating a visually arresting contrast with the red background): Stop! All lines have been crossed! Then, in white print: At the conference "Voices from Gaza" Tel Aviv University offered a stage to Hamas and Hezbollah supporters. Is there no limit to academic lawlessness?! To the right of this is a representation of the Israeli traffic sign, white against red, that reads: Stop!
· The central horizontal band of the poster consists of four marked rectangular spaces which are intersected by a largish circular space in their middle. Three rectangles consist of highly colourful, striking photographs. What the photographs share is their focus on flags. One photo is dominated by large Israeli flags. They are seen from close by. Two are held by invisible hands, one is draped around the shoulders of a man the back of whose yarmulke-covered head is visible; another bit of flag is seen, behind which the yarmulke-wearing head of another man. The other two photographs offer views of masses or mobs. No human-scale close ups here. One shows us a sea of placards (STOP the Holocaust in Gaza, one of them reads, for instance, or: Free Palestine, but also Jewish Socialists). The effect is noisy, angry, and "Palestinian" – the placards carry images of the Palestinian flag, the colours are green, red, black, white. The other photo actually does show us human faces, those of some smiling young women included. There is again, however, the immediate effect of being swamped – as a viewer – in a mass of hollering people. And many of the protesters wear Palestinian colours and keffiyehs – the national headscarves that evoke, for a mainstream if not right-wing nationalist section of the Israeli public, alarming associations with Yasser Arafat and terrorism. Flags again, and signs, reading: Genocide Not Justice, End the Massacre, Ceasefire Gaza. The fourth rectangular space consists of a blue background with medium sized white letters reading, in English: "The Forum for The Land of Israel" organizes a response conference on the subject of: This is followed in the same size black letter s – not very visible against the blue background: Pluralism of Opinion in the Academic Discourse - ie the title of the event Uri was told. And this again is followed by information about the time and whereabouts, plus the invitation to: Come and listen and express your opinion! - all of this in white print.
· The circular central image, at last. It is difficult to avoid the impression, also given the actual content of the image, that this circular shape at the center functions as a visual reminder of a shooting target. The image, here, is complicated. What you see is a zoom-in on a man in suit who stands behind a lectern which is marked with the official insignia of Tel Aviv University, with that name, indeed, below it. Where his head should be, however, a photomontage has been inserted. This is a self-announced photo-montage: a white-rimmed photograph of a head is pinned (with two, red headed pins – which however can be misread as slightly off the mark red-winged darts, reinforcing the shooting-target association). The head is the stereotype of the hooded terrorist: it is completely masked in a sinister black balaclava with holes for mouth and eyes. The semiotics of this stick-on terrorist image is not entirely clear to me. Perhaps the graphic "artist" was trying to ensure the legality of the image: a less markedly quoted representation of the Tel Aviv University lecturer as a hooded terrorist could have been problematic. But another reading is prompted too: We (the makers of this broadsheet) stick an identity onto the Tel Aviv University speaker. We mark and mask him. Admittedly, it is not very clever to have designed an image that invites such readings – in fact almost demands them….
· The poster concludes with a narrower red band. In this band appear the following white printed words:
Prof. Uri Hadar from Tel Aviv University coordinator of the "Gaza Voices" conference.
Prof. Asher Cohen from the Faculty of Political Science at Bar Ilan University
Prof. Avi Bell from the Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University
MK (member of Israeli parliament) Dr Michael Ben Ari from the Ichud Leumi [Party] (The National Union)
Note that Uri's affiliation is truncated: Tel Aviv University (which the rest of the poster has already branded as a terrorist stronghold) – not Department of Psychology – but coordinator of the "Gaza Voices" conference. The other members of the panel are presented in their current professional capacity.
Just a few notes on the other panel members – I googled them, so this is publicly available:
Prof. Cohen is affiliated with The Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs which describes itself as follows:
" The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is an independent non-profit institute for policy research and education.
Israel's growth and survival are dependent on its winning the war of ideas. The challenges that Israel faces today are not only military. They extend to the United Nations, the mass media, foreign universities, and non-governmental organizations. In many cases, the assault on Israel is aimed at its very legitimacy as a Jewish state. A direct by-product of the attacks on Israel is a clearly detectable rise in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. In this environment, what is needed is not just better public relations, but also a rigorous analysis of the issues being exploited by Israel’s adversaries who question Israel’s legal rights. In response, the Jerusalem Center seeks to present Israel’s case and to highlight the challenges of Islamic extremism and global anti-Semitism."
Prof. Avi Bell has an entry on Wikipedia which reports on his activities in critiquing the findings of Human Rights Watch and the publication, more recently of, A Critique of the Goldstone Report and its Treatment of International Humanitarian Law. Like Prof. Asher Cohen, Prof. Bell is a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
About Dr Michael Ben Ari, Wikipedia says this:
" Michael Ben-Ari (Hebrew: מיכאל בן ארי, born 12 October 1963) is an Israeli politician, and a current member of the Knesset (MK) for the National Union party. He is the first outspoken disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane to be elected to the Knesset.. He has a PhD in Land of Israel."
The kind secretary at Bar Ilan offered apologies and promised the offending posters/flyers would be removed and not handed out as planned. Uri nevertheless felt unable to participate.
Much worse than this is happening here in Israel/Palestine, of course.
But I think it is important to dwell on how the political debate is held – who is watching which values, by what means and for whose sake.
Thanks for your patience. I will translate the short talk Uri wrote and intended to give during the panel and send it tomorrow.
Mirjam Hadar Meerschwam