Israel Academia Monitor responds to Prof. Rivka Carmi's "Universities are in the footnotes", May 28, 2011. JPOST
We recognize Professor Rivka Carmi's enormous contribution in the field of pediatrics and genetics and her past criticism of Neve Gordon, a professor at Ben Gurion University known for his advocacy of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. It is thus puzzling to read Prof. Carmi’s response to the justified criticism of anti-Zionist professors who continue to hold tenure on her and other campuses. She obfuscates facts and uses sophistry to deflect the real problems raised by what she calls right-wing “watchdog groups.”
Carmi describes Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) and other critics as headline seekers who try to attract public attention by coming out with “sexy” accusations against faculty. She compares herself to President Barack Obama, who was forced to produce a birth certificate to disprove claims of his birth in Kenya. The implication here is that her critics represent right-wing, disreputable, and deluded elements in Israel when, in fact, IAM is a group of respectable academics and concerned citizens spanning the political spectrum. One of them is a member of Tel-Aviv University's board of governors.
Carmi distorts IAM’s criticism when she claims that out of the nearly five thousands Israeli academics, only ten support BDS, while our concern is with a much larger group of anti-Zionist professors in the social sciences and humanities. The IAM database indicates that they comprise more than ten researchers and, in fact, form a sizable group in political science, sociology, history, geography and philosophy. They claim that Israel is an apartheid state akin to South Africa and many of them publicly support the BDS movement. It may be more than a coincidence that a talk by one of these professors about Israel being an apartheid state prompted Johannesburg University to declare a boycott of BGU. Clearly, the academic position of these radicals, financed by the Israeli taxpayer, has been essential to this endeavor.
Carmi’s suggestion that Israel is a boisterous democracy sustained by a Talmudic tradition of dispute is another ingenious way to hide the real issues. IAM has never challenged the right to express opinions. However, advocating BDS promotes de-legitimizing of Israel; as such it is an act of hostility toward the state from within. Whether taxpayer-supported professors should have a right to act against the state is a question that Carmi conveniently fails to address.
Carmi seems to be particularly upset by what she calls “blackmail” - efforts of IAM and others to inform the boards of governors of Israeli universities about the activities of anti-Zionist professors and demand their removal. This is a particularly insidious accusation. Most, if not all, of the donors to Israeli universities are Zionists; this poses an ethical question whether it is fair to take their money without informing them of the anti-Zionist activities on campus, unknowingly sponsored by them. Evidently, Carmi thinks that it is not only ethical to get their donations but it is also legitimate to block them from receiving information on the subject. During the recent Board meeting at BGU, the authorities took strenuous steps to prevent IAM from distributing facts to participants in both on- and off-campus venues. This behavior is highly undemocratic and hypocritical.
We agree with Carmi that Israeli universities are full of amazing students who embody the pioneering Zionist spirit. We think that they deserve better than professors who pioneer the notion that Israel is a racist apartheid state. Universities should concentrate on science and research rather than become hotbed for any kind of warfare against the state, the main sponsor of these institutions of higher-education.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar,
Chairman, Israel Academia Monitor