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Petition by many radical academics to the CHE accusing it of political motivation reached Haaretz instead

Editorial Note

A report by the Council for Higher Education that threatened to close the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University should it fail to improve deplorably low academic standards and curb excessive political activism, has provoked a predictable reaction. Talila Nesher from Haaretz broke out with the story of a petition opposing the CHE decision, (see below).  Curiously, this petition could not be found anywhere on the Internet; when contacted by IAM, the CHE spokesperson related that he only had learned about it from a Haaretz journalist who contacted him for a reaction.  IAM made further inquiries, yet as of this writing, according to the spokesperson, the petition has not arrived.

It is quite plausible that the real target of the petition was not the CHE;  rather the organizers sought to garner publicity through Haaretz.    Indeed, violating every journalistic norm, Nesher played right into such expectations.  She notes that the petition was signed by leading academic authorities in the world.   In reality, the list of the 160 odd academics bears the names of some of the most radical academic in the United States and Israel.

On the American side, there is Judith Butler (UC Berkeley) an energetic promoter of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against  Israel, Immanuel Wallerstein (Yale U), a leading Marxist, and Joel Beinin (Stanford U) a bitter critic of Israel and a former president of the Middle East Studies Association, a bastion of anti-Israel activism.  

In Israel, most of the radicals mobilized in defense of their BGU colleagues.  Yehouda Shenhav (TAU) supports the Palestinian right to return, Oren Yiftachel  (BGU) argues that Israel is an apartheid state, Haggai Ram (BGU) claims that Iran's nuclear danger is a figment of Israel's Holocaust-driven imagination and Adi Ophir (TAU), once advocated NATO bombings to force Israel out of the territories.   

Nesher  repeats the  petition's assertion that the CHE was politically motivated, noting that Ian Lustick (U of Pennsylvania) was removed from the international committee of scholars who evaluated the department.   Lustick is described as "prominent American political scientist and internationally recognized expert on Israeli politics and society;" his role as one of the most radical detractors of Israel in the United States is conveniently omitted.    Galia Golan, a member of the evaluating committee who wrote a dissenting opinion, is quoted as further proof of the of the alleged political motivation of the CHL. But as IAM already reported, Golan (Hebrew U and IDC) a long time political activist and leader in the Meretz Party, pioneered the role of the politically- engaged academia. 
Given their background, the real question is why were Lustick and Golan invited to serve on the committee in the first place.  To them and to the many radicals who signed the petition, the classroom as a "marketplace of ideas" looks like an old- fashioned idea in need of replacement with a call to political action against Israel.

(This petition was sent to IAM upon request by the Haaretz journalist)

To the Council on Higher Education:

We the undersigned, members of social science departments in Israel and abroad, wish to express to you our concern over the report of the international committee entrusted with evaluating the political science departments in Israeli universities and colleges and over the CHE's uncritical adoption of this report. We also wish to endorse the views expressed by Prof. Galia Golan, a member of the committee, in her minority opinion regarding Ben Gurion University and in her letter to the CHE dated November 25, 2011. As Prof. Golan has suggested, the committee diverged from its legitimate funct'ion – an academic evaluation of the departments – and ventured into a political assessment of the curricula and of the conduct of the faculty members. The most serious and harmful manifestation of this breach of the committee's mandate was its recommendation that the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University be closed down unless certain changes in its program and personnel are made. We note and share Prof. Golan's view that this recommendation was completely unwarranted in view of the committee's own academic evaluation of the department in relation to the other departments surveyed, and that it was in    all probability politically motivated.

Our conclusion that this recommendation was politically motivated is reinforced by the history of the committee, which was fraught with political maneuvering from the very beginning. Personal and political objections that were raised against the participation of Prof. Ian Lustick, a prominent American political scientist and an internationally recognized expert on Israeli society and politics, led to his removal from the committee. In response, the original chair of the committee, Prof. Robert Shapiro of Columbia University, resigned and was replaced by Prof. Thomas Risse. We have every reason to believe that these personal changes were not unrelated to the outcome of the committee's work.

We call on the CHE to disavow the political portions of the committee's report and its (conditional) recommendation to close down the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University and to affirm its commitment to academic freedom and to the free exchange of ideas in the Israeli higher education system. Such an affirmation would be particularly important at this time, when free speech, judicial independence and the autonomy of civil society – indeed the heart and soul of Israeli democracy – are all under attack by powerful right-wing forces in Israel.

David Abraham, University of Miami
Carlos H. Acuña, Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina
Gadi Algazi, Tel Aviv University
Meir Amor, Concordia University
Andrew Arato, New School for Social Research
Oren Barak, Hebrew University
Drucilla K. Barker, University of South Carolina
Gad Barzilai, University of Washington
Moshe Behar, University of Manchester
Guy Beiner, Ben Gurion University
Joel Beinin, Stanford University
Benjamin Bental, University of Haifa
Avner Ben-Amos, Tel Aviv University
Nitza Berkovitch, Ben Gurion University
Neil Bernstein, Ohio University
Dwight B. Billings, University of Kentucky
Michal Bodemann, University of Toronto
Tom Boellstorff, UC Irvine
Oded Borowski, Emory University
Robert Brenner, UCLA
Stephen Eric Bronner, Rutgers University
Yigal Bronner, Hebrew University
Jose Brunner, Tel Aviv University
Robert Brym, University of Toronto
Jan Busse, Universität der Bundeswehr München
Judith Butler, UC Berkeley
Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland
Naomi Chazan, Tel Aviv-Yaffo Academic College
Akiba A. Cohen, Tel Aviv University
Yinon Cohen, Columbia University
Elliott Colla, Georgetown University
John Collins, St. Lawrence University
John Walton Cotman, Howard University
Daniel Demalach, Sapir College
Olga Demetriou, University of Nicosia
Jason Dittmer, University College London
José Maurício Domingues, IESP-UERJ, Brazil
Federico Donner, University of Rosario, Argentina
Alan Dowty, University of Notre Dame
Susan Drummond, York University
Alasdair Drysdale, University of New Hampshire
Peter Eglin, Wilfrid Laurier University
John Ehrenberg, Long Island University
Julia Elyachar, UC Irvine
Gil Eyal, Columbia University
Samuel Farber, Brooklyn College, CUNY
Gary Fields, UC San Diego
Michael Forman, University of Washington
Michal Frenkel, Hebrew University
Chaim Gans, Tel Aviv University
Nir Gazit, Ruppin Academic Center
Irene Gendzier, Boston University
Henry A. Giroux, Mcmaster University
Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni, Tel Aviv University
Yehuda Goodman, Hebrew University
Jeff Goodwin, NYU
Alexander Grab, University of Maine
Louis Greenspan, Mcmaster University
Aeyal Gross, Tel Aviv University
Jan T. Gross, Princeton University
Janet Handler Burstein , Drew University
Benjamin Hary, Emory University
Sara Helman, Ben Gurion University
Dafna Hirsch, Open University, Israel
Eva Illouz, Hebrew University
Jack Jacobs, John Jay College, CUNY
Amal Jamal, Tel Aviv University
Amy Kaplan, University of Pennsylvania
Eran Kaplan, San Francisco State University
Mark J. Kaswan, University of Texas at Brownsville
Kimberly Katz, Towson University
Ira Katznelson, Columbia University
Ilana Kaufman, Open University, Israel
Orit Kedar, Hebrew University
Adriana Kemp, Tel Aviv University
Menachem Klein, Bar Ilan University
Kristin Koptiuch, Arizona State University
Vered Kraus, University of Haifa
Ilana Krauzman, Ben Gurion University
Ron Kuzar, University of Haifa
Gordon Lafer, University of Oregon
Idan Landau, Ben Gurion University
Gerardo Leibner, Tel Aviv University
Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin
Karen Leonard, UC Irvine
Gal Levy, Open University, Israel
Yagil Levy, Open University, Israel
Edna Lomsky-Feder, Hebrew University
Heather Love, University of Pennsylvania
Oded Lowenheim, Hebrew University
Steven Lukes, NYU and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Loren D. Lybarger, Ohio University
Andrew Lyons, Wilfrid Laurier University
Michael Mann, UCLA
Abraham Mansbach, Ben Gurion University
Lisa Markowitz, University of Louisville
Michael R. Marrus, University of Toronto
Melani McAlister, George Washington University
David McMurray, Oregon State University
Assaf Meydani, Tel Aviv Yaffo Academic College
Adam David Morton, Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, Nottingham
Pnina Motzafi-Haller, Ben Gurion University
Guy Mundlak, Tel Aviv University
David Myers, UCLA
Nadine Naber, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Gulie Ne'eman Arad, Ben Gurion University
Gadi Nissim, Ruppin Academic Center
Claus Offe, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
Adi Ophir, Tel Aviv University
Reecia Orzeck, University of Vermont
Amir Paz-Fuchs, Ono Academic Center
Wendy Pearlman, Northwestern University
Yoav Peled, Tel Aviv University
Silvana Rabinovich, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Dan Rabinowitz, Tel Aviv University
Haggai Ram, Ben Gurion University
Uri Ram, Ben Gurion University
Tamar Rapoport, Hebrew University
Motti Regev, Open University, Israel
Rivka Ribak, University of Haifa
Shira Robinson, George Washington University
Lisa Rofel, UC Santa Cruz
James Ron, University of Minnesota
Zeev Rosenhek, Open University, Israel
David F. Ruccio, University of Notre Dame
Amalia Sa'ar, University of Haifa
Galia Sabar, Tel Aviv University
Jillian Schwedler, University of Massachusetts
Shlomi Segall, Hebrew University
Gershon Shafir, UC San Diego
Michael Shalev, Hebrew University
Stephen R. Shalom, William Paterson University
Michal Shamir, Tel Aviv University
Jacob Shamir, Hebrew University
Yehouda Shenhav, Tel Aviv University
David Shulman, Hebrew University
Susan Slyomovics, UCLA
Bernardo Sorj, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Jeannie Sowers, University of New Hampshire
Simcha Srebnik, Technion
Guy Stecklov, Hebrew University
Rebecca L. Stein, Duke University
Zeev Sternhell, Hebrew University
Stephan Stetter, Universität der Bundeswehr München
Steve Striffler, University of New Orleans
Jacinda Swanson, Western Michigan University
Ted Swedenburg, University of Arkansas
Sidney G. Tarrow, Cornell University
John Torpey, CUNY Graduate Center
Eve Troutt Powell, University of Pennsylvania
Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania
Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University
Christian K. Wedemeyer, University of Chicago
Max Weiss, Princeton University
Meredith L. Weiss, University at Albany, SUNY
Howard Winant, UC Santa Barbara
Oren Yiftachel, Ben Gurion University
Niza Yanay, Ben Gurion University
Yuval Yonay, University of Haifa
Nira Yuval-Davis, University of East London
Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University

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