Ben-Gurion University donor: Im Tirtzu are hooligans
Yitzhak Benhorin YNET, 08.22.10
Jane Leaf of Tennessee irked by movement's threat to drive away philanthropists if Beersheba university fails to appoint right-wing staff members. 'Such an attack reflects ignorance,' she tells Ynet, adding it will only make her increase donations
WASHINGTON – One of Ben-Gurion University's most important donors says the Im Tirtzu movement, which threatened to drive away philanthropists if the university failed to appoint right-wing staff members, is a "hooligan" organization and that its effort to drive away donors is "foolish and won't succeed."
In an interview to Ynet, Jane Leaf of Tennessee says that "such an attack only urges me to increase by donation." According to Leaf, who donates both to Ben-Gurion University and to the New Israel Fund, the American donors are committed to academic freedom.
"I know other donors and I don't think that such an attack on academic freedom, or the political opinion of one staff members of another, has any significance. On the contrary, it only influences donors to stand by the university."
Leaf, who is considered an important Ben-Gurion University donor since 1978, was agitated by Im Tirtzu's threat last week. She says proudly that "Ben-Gurion University is popular and has issued more publications than any other university in Israel. Insulting the university with such an attack reflects Im Tirtzu's ignorance."
In its letter to University President Prof. Rebecca Carmi, Im Tirtzu threatened to ask donors to deposit their funds to a trust fund managed by a lawyer should the university fail to meet their demands within 30 days, and replace some of the staff and change the study program.
According to the movement's activists, President Carmi "allowed the academic dictatorship to gain control of academic freedom and considerably limit intellectual pluralism."
'Donors don't care about internal politics'
The Tennessee donor explains that "Jews worldwide won't remain silent in the face of hooliganism. Jews will support brilliant universities like Ben-Gurion, which provide important services to Israelis and conduct studies for the entire world about desertification, children, equal rights for students, religious pluralism and social justice."
Alongside her surprise by the attempt to harm the university, she directs her criticism at the right-wing organization. "We, the American donors, are subject to American laws, and my question is whether such a non-profit organization in Israel is committed to transparency?
"What are Israel's standards? Can such an organization intimidate and attack another organization? Where is their respect for people's opinions? What is Im Tirtzu's financial source? Is this money clean or dirty? I don't think the Beersheba university's donors care about internal political problems when it comes to the academia."
תורמת לבן-גוריון: אתרום יותר בגלל "אם תרצו"
08.22.10 יצחק בן-חורין, וושינגטון YNET
מכתב האיום של "אם תרצו" לנשיאת האוניברסיטה, הצליח להקפיץ את ג'יין ליף, אחת התורמות החשובות למוסד האקדמי זה 30 שנה. "יהודים ברחבי העולם לא יעמדו בשקט מול בריונות", אמרה בראיון ל-ynet, "התקפה כזאת משקפת בורות"
למרות המתקפה, המחויבות לתרום תימשך: בעקבות מכתב האיום ששיגר ארגון "אם תרצו" לנשיאת אוניברסיטת בן-גוריון, פרופ' רבקה כרמי, לפיו הארגון יבריח תורמים אם לא ימונו אנשי סגל מן הימין, אומרת אחת התורמות החשובות לאוניברסיטה כי מדובר בארגון "בריוני" והמאמץ שלו להרחיק תורמים "מטופש ולא יצליח".
בראיון ל-ynet סיפרה ג'יין ליף מטנסי, תורמת גדולה לבן-גוריון ולקרן החדשה לישראל, כי "התקפה כזו מדרבנת אותי להגדיל את התרומה שלי". לדבריה, התורמים האמריקנים מחוייבים לחופש האקדמי. "אני מכירה תורמים אחרים ואני לא חושבת שהתקפה כזו על החופש האקדמי,
או עמדה פוליטית של איש סגל זה או אחר, יש לה משמעות כלשהי. להיפך, זה רק משפיע על תורמים להתייצב מאחורי האוניברסיטה".
האיום שהשמיע ארגון "אם תרצו" בשבוע שעבר הצליח להקפיץ את ליף שנחשבת לתורמת חשובה לאוניברסיטת בן-גוריון משנת 1978.היא סיפרה בגאווה ש"אוניברסיטת בן גוריון היא פופולארית ויש לה יותר פרסומים מכל אוניברסיטה אחרת בארץ. להעליב את האוניברסיטה בהתקפה כזו משקפת בורות של 'אם תרצו'".
במכתב של "אם תרצו" הם איימו כי אם לא ייענו תוך 30 יום דרישותיהם לשנות את הרכב הסגל ואת תוכן הסילבוסים, יבקשו מהתורמים להעביר את כספיהם לחשבון נאמנות שינוהל על-ידי עורך דין. אנשי הארגון טענו כי אדישותה של הנשיאה כרמי איפשרה "לדיקטטורה אקדמית להשתלט על החופש האקדמי, ולצמצם באופן ניכר את הפלורליזם המחשבתי".
התורמת מטנסי הסבירה כי "יהודים ברחבי העולם לא יעמדו בשקט מול בריונות. יהודים יתמכו באוניברסיטאות מבריקות כמו בן-גוריון שמגישות שירותים חשובים לישראלים, ועושות מחקרים לכל העולם על מידבור, ילדים, שוויון זכויות לסטודנטים, פלורליזם דתי וצדק חברתי".
לצד הפליאה מהניסיון לפגוע באוניברסיטה בדרך זו, היא שיגרה חצי ביקורת לעבר הארגון הימני.
"אנחנו התורמים האמריקנים כפופים לחוקים האמריקנים והשאלה שלי היא האם גם ארגון כזה בישראל שאינו למטרות רווח מחוייב לשקיפות. מהם הסטנדרטים של ישראל? האם מותר לארגון כזה להפחיד ולתקוף ארגון אחר. איפה הכבוד לדעה? מהו המקור הכספי של אם תרצו? האם זה כסף נקי או מלוכלך? אני לא חושבת שלתורמים של אוניברסיטת באר-שבע אכפת מבעיות פוליטיות פנימיות כשמדובר באקדמיה".
Freedom to give Nazi salute
Op-ed: No other state would allow Ben Gurion University-style 'academic freedom'
Haim Misgav Published: 08.19.10, 17:27 / Israel Opinion YNET
The Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities is raising the banner of academic freedom in vain. There's nothing academia-like about the publication of articles in anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, Holocaust-denying websites that call for boycotting Israel in universities abroad or for indicting IDF officers and prime ministers on war crime charges.
The heads of Israeli academia, who on Wednesday openly called for safeguarding the independence of Israel's academic institutions, are preaching to others while being guilty themselves. The hornets' nest that has developed at Ben-Gurion University's politics and government department needs to be dried up, as one deals with a festering wound.
If, for example, a senior lecturer in that department dares travel to Palestinian government headquarters in Ramallah (while blatantly violating the law) a day after one of the most terrible massacres we've ever seen here, in order to support Yasser Arafat and pose next to him in a photo where both hold their arms up, does this constitute academic freedom? Is this about the freedom to explore, or about a despicable act by someone who under false pretenses holds on to a job in a publically funded academic institution?
And if this department includes students who take part in an illegal rally at campus following the Turkish flotilla raid, while being photographed (knowingly) giving the Nazi salute, does this have anything to do with academic freedom? Are Nazi salutes a part of the education offered to politics and government students?
I saw the photographs, both of the lecturer alongside Arafat and of the student giving the Nazi salute; I also saw the photo of a female Master's student who climbed up a campus building in order to post a libelous, outrageous, provocative anti-Israeli banner, and I contend that we must put an end to this "academic freedom."
Those interested in this kind of "academic freedom" should go ahead and become lecturers elsewhere. There are many "academic research institutions" abroad funded by anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, Holocaust-denying elements that would be happy to establish a politics and government department to be run by "refugees" from the Beersheba university.
Jews didn't conquer foreign land
And what about the threats to drive away donors? Jews should not be contributing to an institution that nurtures such deep hatred for the Jewish State and everything represented by it. The Declaration of Independence accurately characterized the nature of the national home created here for the Jewish people's benefit. This is the home which the man the university was named after, David Ben-Gurion, wanted. By the way, he also ordered the conquest among other sites, of Beersheba and Eilat, as well as many parts of the Galilee and Coastal Plain.
I assume that the politics and government department, which has been cultivating an almost obsessive hatred to anything that gives off a scent of Zionism in the view of its "researcher," also preachers a return of land conquered in 1948 to the Arabs. I don't know how these lecturers explain this view, but I'm certain that even members of the National Academy of Science and Humanities do not view these types of lectures as part of academic freedom.
I would also take this opportunity to reexamine how some of the lecturers there secured their academic degrees. That is, who granted them their degrees, and what type of articles prompted this reward.
I do not believe that any other state in the world would allow this kind of "academic freedom" to run wild through its academic institutions. A sense of nationalism is among the inalienable assets of any country; it serves as the glue that unites its citizens. No nation in the world would give it up. Under its flag, a nation's sons head to the battlefield to defend their homeland.
The Jewish argument has added value: The Jews are not in the Land of Israel randomly. Their national movement, Zionism, did not aspire to conquer a foreign country. The whole world recognized this in 1917. I assume that in any other country, those who reject the values entrenched in the state's constitutive documents would be spewed out.
Dr. Haim Misgav is a law lecturer at the Netanya Academic College
Thursday, August 19, 2010 |
Hillels prepare to answer anti-Israel campus forces
by sue fishkoff & dan pine, special to jweekly.
Adam Naftalin-Kelman doesn’t know what anti-Israel activists at U.C. Berkeley have planned for this academic year.
But the Berkeley Hillel executive director knows something is coming.
That’s why he joined other Hillel directors around the country at a recent national conference. They came together to map a strategy for competing with well-organized anti-Israel forces on campus.
“I would be naive not to expect anything,” Naftalin-Kelman said. “I’m sure there will be some activity, as there is any year.”
The last academic year was especially tense at U.C. Berkeley, with the narrow defeat of a student-led nonbinding resolution to have the university divest from Israel.
This year, Naftalin-Kelman has a few plans of his own. In terms of proactive pro-Israel programming, Hillel will increase its “tabling,” or presence on campus quads and plazas. The booths and tables are for “students looking to connect Jewishly,” he says, “students who might see anti-Israel booths and might be looking for that Jewish booth.”
With classes at Cal beginning Thursday, Aug. 26, Hillel also has lined up what Naftalin-Kelman calls a “strong docket of speakers … all of which are committed to Israel.” He says he must await final confirmation before announcing the names of the speakers.
The Berkley Hillel strategies mirror plans across the country. Some 300 Jewish college students met Aug. 11-15 at Washington University in St. Louis at the Hillel Institute, a summer training session designed to help them prepare for Jewish engagement work on campus.
A big part of that work was learning how to respond effectively to anti-Israel actions on campus.
Anti-Israel activity has been on the rise on North American campuses for several years, but pro-Israel activists say last year was different: The new campaigns are better organized, more prevalent and more vitriolic.
This summer, a number of national Jewish organizations held training sessions to help students and staff prepare for what is expected to be an even more targeted anti-Israel campaign during the 2010-11 school year.
“In the Jewish community there’s a lot of fear and anxiety, and that lands on our campuses, on our students,” said Hillel President Wayne Firestone at the gathering’s Aug. 11 plenary session.
“We have seen things on campus, last semester in particular, that are really ugly,” he said. “We can imagine what we’ll face when we return this fall.”
Whereas past years might have involved handfuls of anti-Israel students passing out photocopied flyers, last year saw a high-tech traveling exhibit of Israel’s security barrier, complete with a plasma TV showing images that could be seen as anti-Israel.
As part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, efforts to bring resolutions calling for divestment from companies doing business with Israel reached more than half a dozen campuses — a new tactic in the anti-Israel movement that targets student governments.
Only one of those proposed resolutions passed, in a nonbinding student body vote at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. But every time such a bill is put forward, Hillel activists say, the charged atmosphere it creates leaves lasting wounds.
Last year, Hillel at Stanford helped thwart such efforts by aligning with “Invest for Peace,” a campus campaign chaired by Jewish and Arab students to promote constructive dialogue. Among its goals is to educate students on the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and enlist support of organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories that work for coexistence.
One measure of its success: No divest-from-Israel bills came before the Stanford student senate last year.
Similarly, at U.C. Santa Cruz, Hillel took part in the Santa Cruz Israel Action Committee, which worked to disseminate positive views of Israel. Moreover, an endowed student intern program brought additional pro-Israel voices to the relatively peaceful campus.
At San Francisco State University the fall semester begins Tuesday, Aug. 24. SFSU has long been a hotbed of intense anti-Israel activity. Still, San Francisco Hillel executive director Alon Shalev has seen positive changes of late, thanks to what he considers proper planning and a Jewish student body unafraid to stand up for Israel.
Shalev touts the Israel coalition, made up of students, faculty and community partners, which meets regularly to plan pro-Israel activities on campus. The coalition has contracted an Israel Fellow — this year it’s former Haifa University student Yochai Shavit –– to help educate students, Jewish and non-Jewish, about Israeli culture.
But Shalev and his Hillel colleagues still expect BDS proponents to go on the offensive this school year.
At the Hillel Institute meeting in St. Louis, some 80 Hillel professionals took part in a 24-hour simulation exercise in which they played various roles on a mythical college campus faced with a divestment bill and a boycott of visiting Israeli professors.
The techniques used in the simulation are included in an Israel Advocacy Playbook that Hillel distributed at the conference and plans to give every Hillel campus professional.
“The group that went through this exercise together now has a common language,” said Chicago educator Carl Schrag, who developed and ran the exercise on behalf of the Israel on Campus Coalition. “When BDS [the sanctions campaign] hits — and I presume it will — hopefully they’ll remember they’re not alone.”
Coalition building is key to Israel advocacy work on campus, say those involved in leading such efforts. It shouldn’t come down to Jewish students against the rest of the campus community, they add — and as interfaith efforts increase on more and more campuses, Jewish students should find themselves less isolated.
Allison Sheren, now Hillel program director at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that things were different five years ago when divestment efforts hit her campus when she was a student.
Now she points to a “MuJew” program — a Muslim-Jewish alternative spring break option on her campus that has brought Jewish and Muslim students together on social action projects for the past three years.
“There’s a real focus on dialogue, on partnerships,” Sheren said. “When Israel issues come up, even if there are disagreements, there is discussion.”
Naftalin-Kelman hopes to see Hillel members at U.C. Berkeley increase involvement with two campus interfaith dialogue groups, Bears Breaking Bread and the Interfaith Youth Corps.
Ultimately he wants to see Jewish college students decide for themselves how best to adopt and express a pro-Israel perspective.
“For me, pro-Israel is someone who wants to develop a deep, meaningful, mature, loving relationship with Israel,” he said. “How this is manifested may be different for different people.”
At S.F. State, Shalev believes that process is well under way.
“The students are more comfortable being visible,” he said. “Five years ago I don’t know how willing they would be to wear a [pro-Israel] T-shirt. Today they will. There’s a feeling they don’t want to be pushed around.”
Sue Fishkoff is a JTA staff writer. Dan Pine is a j. staff writer
Published 01:58 23.08.10
Latest update 01:58 23.08.10
Shut down the universities
Israeli society is on the verge of being consumed by a menacing wave of McCarthyism stoked by nationalist movements and publicity-hungry legislators.
By Shlomo Gazit , Haaretz
More than 20 years have passed since I served as president of Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, but I still take an interest in what's happening there. So a recent headline in this newspaper caught my eye: "Im Tirtzu threatens Ben-Gurion University with donor boycott" (August 17 ). I asked myself how I would have reacted if I had faced such a predicament as the school's president. Afterward I heard my colleague, BGU President Rivka Carmi, condemn the threat in a radio interview, but in the next breath she played down the significance of Im Tirtzu's demand to fire left-leaning professors. Carmi holds the view that the university should ignore the organization and its letter.
I pondered her statements and came to a completely different conclusion: The threat posed by Im Tirtzu does not stand in a vacuum. Israeli society is on the verge of being consumed by a menacing wave of McCarthyism stoked by nationalist movements and publicity-hungry legislators. If we ignore this wave and it's not stopped immediately, it will endanger - perhaps even destroy - Israeli democracy.
According to Wikipedia, McCarthyism is the "political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence." Unfortunately, this is what has been taking place here recently.
It is particularly sad that the authorities have kept quiet on the matter. No one is condemning this phenomenon, nor will anyone act to thwart it. We have not heard any remarks on this issue from the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker, chairman of the Knesset Education Committee or Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Council for Higher Education's Planning and Budgeting Committee.
I must acknowledge that I have my own criticisms of many of the people who have been "denounced and besmirched." I utterly reject their statements and positions. Nonetheless, I absolutely oppose any attempt to silence them. What is being tested now is not their positions but the shutting of mouths.
Apart from the New Israel Fund, most of the pressure is being put on the universities - certain departments and lecturers who are being pilloried for the sin of showing a lack of loyalty to the state, Zionism and the people.
If I were the university's president today, I would demand that we immediately hold a conference that would include the heads of all the major academic institutions and the Council for Higher Education to discuss the situation. My proposal would be the most serious threat possible to shake up the system. I would demand that the government and Knesset act immediately to stop this dangerous snowball from gaining momentum. Failure to do so would result in the closure of all institutions of higher education, and the new academic year would not open.
Im Tirtzu handed down an ultimatum to the university: Fire leftist professors or we'll dissuade donors from giving money. The donors, who include some of the university's good friends, will have to understand what the universities are fighting for and why they are shutting down. The danger of McCarthyism speaks to them even more than to the Israeli public. They will be the first to support the struggle for democracy; they will be the first to threaten to turn off the spigot of donations to Israel, and not just to the universities.
If we don't act immediately, and with all the tools the law provides, we will find McCarthyism inside our homes.
The writer is a former head of Military Intelligence, director-general of the Jewish Agency and president of Ben-Gurion University.
Excerpt from article below: Professor Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and a former justice minister, one of Israel’s public defenders. “From time to time,” Professor Cotler said to me, “I give a lecture on law at the prestigious McGill University in Canada. “If a member at that university were to call for it to be boycotted, he would not remain a faculty member for even a single hour.”
WHO IS TAKING REVENGE ON THE ZIONIST POSITION?
Israel Hayom (p. 37) by Yaakov Ahimeir (op-ed) -- The argument over “what must not be said” in the framework of academic freedom has refused to die down. Im Tirtzu injected new life into that argument. It must be said that within the framework of academic freedom it is permissible to call for an academic boycott, it is permissible to describe Israel as an “apartheid state” and other such appellations, as long as everything is done within the limits of the law.
But that is not what the disagreement is about. Let us assume that in the framework of the freedom of speech an employee of an academic institution calls for that institution to be boycotted. The very same person does so publicly, both in Israel and overseas. How is the institution that employs him supposed to react? Should it look the other way? Should one not expect the employee to be fired if he, at the very least, refrains from resigning and shows that he is bereft of any intellectual integrity?
In the absence of personal intellectual integrity, lecturers, though not many, are entitled to remain faculty members at the institution that they publicly aspire to have boycotted. I discussed this odd “Israeli” phenomenon with Professor Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and a former justice minister, one of Israel’s public defenders.
“From time to time,” Professor Cotler said to me, “I give a lecture on law at the prestigious McGill University in Canada. “If a member at that university were to call for it to be boycotted, he would not remain a faculty member for even a single hour.” In Israel, alternatively, the university leaders make do with issuing a statement that they “condemn the calls for boycott.” So what? Should such a condemnation remain merely an oblique statement? What is the connection between this strange phenomenon, to understate matters, and either the freedom of speech or academic freedom?
Much has been said—and a fierce debate is underway—about the current action being taken by Im Tirtzu. It has been lambasted and accused of McCarthyism. But what is happening on the other side, which publicly vaunts academic freedom, mainly against Im Tirtzu? That very same side, which perceives itself as “liberal,” is the side that vociferously spoke out in early 2009 against hiring Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, an expert on international law in the IDF.
The people who cast themselves at present as the protectors of freedom sought to prevent Sharvit-Baruch’s appointment at Tel Aviv University, arguing that she had allegedly whitewashed IDF war crimes in the course of Operation Cast Lead. That was an insult not only to her but to the IDF in its entirety, as the alleged systematic perpetrator of war crimes. The defense minister spoke out, and justly so, against the insult to Sharvit-Baruch, noting that Hamas, as opposed to the IDF, did not perceive itself as bound to any law. But some lecturers believed that that legal expert, who wore an IDF uniform, was unworthy of entering Tel Aviv University. Was that also done in the name of academic freedom? Were law professors ashamed that a lecturer in “their” department would wear a uniform by virtue of her job?
The allegations about the state of affairs in academia are very severe: “post-Zionism” receives preferential treatment in the lecture halls. Students with a right wing point of view are leery of the judgment by the “post-Zionist” teachers, and that is something that ought to be part of the public debate. I was told very disturbing things about that process of politicization by Professor Elhanan Yakira from the Hebrew University’s philosophy department, long before Im Tirtzu came into being.
That said, could it be possible, for example, that the Knesset’s Education Committee is the right forum for discussing and determining the content of academic studies? In my humble opinion, that is a slippery slope: it is inconceivable to have a politician establishment decide and perhaps even dictate, heaven forbid, content. Today the Education Committee is headed by a right wing politician, MK Zvulun Orlev; but in the future it might be held by a left wing politician. What happens then? That is why the leaders of the academic institutions are not exempt: they cannot dodge a real debate about the allegations of a pervasive bias in the lecture halls. The responsibility is theirs. It is also incumbent upon them to make a courageous decision, without fear, as to whether a teacher who calls for a comprehensive boycott of the institution he works for can continue to be employed by that same institution. To the best of my knowledge, the Higher Education Council has already begun to formulate an answer to that question. Now it is the turn of the university leaders to state their positions on these issues that are on the public agenda.
Published 02:36 20.08.10
Latest update 02:36 20.08.10
As education minister and chairman of the Council for Higher Education, Sa'ar must go beyond his feeble condemnation of the attempt to sabotage the universities' balance sheets.
Presenting his plan for NIS 7.5 billion in additional funding for higher education on Wednesday, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar described the reform program as "putting higher education back on the right track." Sa'ar's comment came at a critical juncture in relations between civil society and the higher education system: Right-wing groups that presumptuously claim to be defending the Zionist ethos are threatening to derail academia from its proper track.
Haaretz revealed earlier this week that the Council for Higher Education gave university heads the Institute for Zionist Strategies' report on the "post-Zionist" curricula prevalent in sociology departments. In response, Tel Aviv University's president asked sociology lecturers to provide him with their course syllabi. Following an uproar from within and without the university, this order was retracted.
Also this week, the president of Ben-Gurion University revealed a letter she had received from the Im Tirtzu organization threatening to urge foreign donors to withhold contributions unless the university took action "to correct the anti-Zionist tilt" of its politics and government department. The education minister, who once praised a report the group had drafted on what it termed the "post-Zionist" bent of political science departments, is now railing against Im Tirtzu's threat to intimidate donors, "independent of any arguments about pluralism."
The higher education system is not immune to external criticism over the quality of its academics or the proficiency of its administration. But a pluralistic, democratic society is incompatible with external interference in course curricula or lecturers' political views.
As education minister and chairman of the Council for Higher Education, Sa'ar must go beyond his feeble condemnation of the attempt to sabotage the universities' balance sheets. No financial assistance can preserve Israeli academia's prestige or ensure its excellence if the government, including the prime minister, does not unequivocally censure this attempt to undermine the independence of higher education.
Granting even tacit legitimacy to an internal boycott of institutions and lecturers that espouse "unpatriotic" narratives will merely legitimize a foreign boycott of Israeli academia.