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Ben-Gurion University
To the Board of Governors of Ben-Gurion University

In 2011, the Council for Higher Education censured the Department of Politics and Government for poor academic standards and excessive politicization of the faculty.  The situation in the department is reflective of the fact that many of its members including Neve Gordon and Dani Filc are self-described neo-Marxist, critical faculty (also known as post Zionists), who, as a rule, mix scholarship and politics.  For instance, in spite of Knesset legislation, Gordon still promotes boycott of Israel, notably in a co-edited book that justifies BDS.      

Though the Department of Politics and Government has the highest concentration of radical faculty, due to co-option, the phenomenon is wide-spread throughout the social sciences.  Out of thirteen in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, six are critical faculty.   Uri Ram is considered the “father” of the neo-Marxist, critical scholarship paradigm and the architect of the theory that the Jewish nation was invented by Zionist intellectual entrepreneurs and historians.   He is joined by Lev Luis Grinberg, a Marxist who produced some of the most virulent critique of Israeli society and Nitza Berkovich who has worked with Gordon and Ram to paint Israel as an egregious violator of human rights. Oren Yiftachel from the Department of Geography and Environmental Development is best known for equating Israel with the apartheid regime in South Africa; his work has been used to justify the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).  Yiftachel was also involved in the successful effort to enroll the Negev Bedouins in the United Nations register of indigenous peoples, (the same tribal groups in other countries in this region are not recognized as such).

In the Middle East Studies Department Haggai Ram, who is listed as an expert on Iran, has devoted his limited research endeavor to demonstrating that Israel suffers from Iranophobia. In a book by the same name, Ram explains that due to Holocaust trauma, Israelis grossly exaggerate the threat of Iran and, in fact, turned it into a “folk devil.” 

The International MA program, described as "a unique program which examines the different ways in which global and local processes have formed numerous sites of conflict both within the Israeli society and its relations with its neighbors," is illustrative in this sense. Many of the courses in the program are heavy on neo-Marxist, critical theory and replete with bibliography drawn from books published by radical non- academic presses and journals that mix scholarship with radical leftist ideology and pro-Palestinian advocacy. For instance the course "War, Security and Governance," defines conflict as more than the use of "brute force" to include "pervasive controls" by government and "capital." International corporations are described as greedy villains in the service of "capital" and the Israeli government is seen as a major violator of human rights. The program's field trips to "sites of conflict" (including the old bus station in Tel Aviv where many foreign workers live) offer a dim view of Israel's alleged mistreatment of Israeli Arabs, Bedouins and foreign laborers. This is particularly unfortunate as the MA program caters to foreign students; their newly minted degree turns them into effective anti-Israel activists.

With few exceptions, the radicals have a very limited academic record and, regardless how their field of expertise is described in official university publications, they do research on a very narrow segment of the social sciences, mostly focused on proving that Israel is a profoundly flawed society and an egregious violator of human rights.  The question is whether tax payers and donors to Ben Gurion University should support a faculty that does little to enrich research in core areas of social science and that seems to deny their students an opportunity to receive a balanced education.


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