Israeli professors took to the pages of the country's leading Hebrew newspaper on Friday with a large advertisement denouncing "political pressures brought to bear on universities recently, which are tantamount to blatant interference in academic freedom."

The statement, which appeared in Haaretz, represented the faculties at all of Israel's seven research universities and was the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter debate about the role of politics in university teaching.

The vast majority of Israeli academics support the basic tenets of Zionism, the founding ideology of the state of Israel, which claims the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their historic homeland. Internal debates about the nature of Zionism, the role of religion and democracy, and relations with Arab neighbors are as old as the movement itself.

But calls for an academic boycott of Israel by four Israeli academicsthree at Tel Aviv University and one at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beershebahave stirred passions far beyond the walls of academe.

Earlier this year, Im Tirtzu, a student Zionist movement that has been criticized for its right-wing stance, published a report analyzing the political views, activities, and reading lists of various university departments in Israel.

The report singled out the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University, chaired by the boycott supporter Neve Gordon, as the most anti-Zionist in the country, with nine of 11 faculty members involved in "radical left" politics.

Last month, Im Tirtzu leaders wrote to President Rivka Carmi of Ben-Gurion University, threatening to take action.

"We implore you to put an end to the anti-Zionist bias and the exclusion of Zionist students and researchers from the department," they wrote. "We shall employ all legal means at our disposal to bring this information to the attention of current and future students as well as elements supporting the university in Israel and abroad."

They urged university donors to place their gifts in escrow until the perceived bias could be corrected.

Ben-Gurion's Dr. Carmi said she threw the letter in the trash. When its existence was revealed this week in a series of newspaper articles, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who had originally welcomed the Im Tirtzu report, denounced the group's tactics as unacceptable.

"Regardless of the claims relating to pluralism within Israeli academe and other issues ... Gideon Sa'ar rejects any move that is liable to harm donations to universities in Israel or their situation," said a statement issued by the minister's office.

Last week another report, "Post-Zionism and Academe," drafted by the Institute for Zionist Strategies and using techniques similar to Im Tirtzu's, came to very similar conclusions.

"It demonstrates a severe anti-Zionist bias (euphemistically termed 'post-Zionist') in almost all sociology departments at Israeli universities," wrote the institute's president, Joel Golovensky, in Haaretz.

The report had its greatest impact at Tel Aviv University. The institution was still reeling from the fallout over a speech by the Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz in May, in which he publicly denounced the university's professors who support a boycott. A faculty petition protesting Mr. Dershowitz's remarks drew more than 150 signatures.

The same week, Mark H. Tanenbaum, a major donor from Miami Beach, quit the board of governors and stopped his philanthropic support after the university's president, Joseph Klafter, refused to investigate the boycott supporters on the staff.

'Harm to Academic Freedom'

This week, Mr. Klafter faced another storm of protest after his office forwarded the Institute for Zionist Strategies report to faculty members it had criticized, asking to examine their reading lists and syllabi. He apologized and withdrew the request, saying it had been made in error, and denounced the "frightening indications of harm to academic freedom [and] attempts to interfere with the content of materials being taught."

Anat Matar, one of the pro-boycott professors at Tel Aviv, told The Chronicle that it seemed the self-styled Zionist attack on Israel's universities had crossed a line.

"This was one step too farsuch blatant, such explicit interference," said Ms. Matar, a philosophy professor. "I think they lost this round. The Israeli academic world would not let such things interfere with the way it is conducted."

"What I'm worried about is the gradual, crawling, quiet succumbing to such trends. People who in the future will think twice before they publish something," she said.

Miriam Eliav-Feldon, a professor of history at Tel Aviv who organized the letter protesting Mr. Dershowitz's speech, said she was "horrified" by recent developments.

"What they are saying is that more or less all of us in the humanities and social sciences in all the universities are anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli, and anti-the-state, and that they have the right to decide what is the correct way to teach Israeli history, sociology, or political science. It's unbelievable," said Ms. Eliav-Feldon, who received insulting e-mails from outraged donors after criticizing Mr. Dershowitz.

"There are certain of my colleagues who have asked to join the boycott on Israeli academia. I don't agree with them, but if they say it not in the classroom, but in the newspapers this is part of their freedom to express their opinions, and they should not be punished in any way," she said.

Ms. Eliav-Feldon said the threats reminded her of the McCarthy era in the United States, when her great uncle was hounded out of the University of California at Berkeley for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. "I think that something very similar is brewing up here," she said.

But some professors who denounce the tactics of the new lobby say there may be some truth in their allegations.

"The recent actions of Im Tirtzu, like their threats of boycott on institutes that do not obey their demands, are extremely dangerous and should be fought using all legal means. They do show the true nature of this organization and its goals," said Arnon Avron, a computer-science professor at Tel Aviv.

"This does not mean that what is said in their report or the report of the Institute for Zionist Strategies is totally false. Unfortunately, I have grounds to suspect that some parts of it are actually true. I think that the authorities of the universities should check this, too, without fear and without external pressure or intervention," he said.