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Ben-Gurion University
Radical Academic Fraternity and their Liberal Supporters Declare War Against the Council of Higher Education

  Editorial Note:

Recently, the Council for Higher Education (CHE) advised the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University that it would not be allowed to enroll new students in the year 2013/4.  The CHE reached the decision after a sub- committee concluded that the Department did not fulfill its part in addressing the concerns of the international evaluation committee of 2011. Among others, the Department was asked to hire more faculty in core political science subjects, including research methods. In view of the fact that the majority of the faculty represent the neo-Marxist, critical paradigm, the committee also urged to recruit scholars who represent the mainstream positivist approach.  The CHE was concerned that the paucity of positivist scholarship - the dominant stream in social sciences-  affects the ability of the Department to turn the classroom into a marketplace of ideas, where all issues can be debated in a balanced and measured manner.  

In spite of claims to the contrary by university authorities, the Department's new hires do not reflect the CHE directives.  Hagar Kotef and James Ron are a case in point. 

Hagar Kotef who completed her doctoral dissertation under Adi Ophir and Anat Biletzki, two of the most radical scholars in Israel.   In an article Engendering Checkpoint: Checkpoint Watch and the Repercussion of Intervention, and conference appearances Kotef implies that violence against Israeli checkpoints is justified.  Like many critical scholars Kotef mixes academics with politics; she has signed petitions describing Israel as a racist state and collaborated with individuals and groups that support BDS.

James Ron, who worked for Human Rights Watch (HRW), has written extensively on alleged Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including interrogation of Palestinian prisoners.  Critics, including the founder of the HRW, have claimed that throughout the years the organization has become extremely biased against Israel.

Without noting this development, the radical academic fraternity and their liberal supporters has declared a virtual war on the CHE. Examples herehere and here.   As a post on the social science network stated, the decision on Malag (the Hebrew acronyms for CHE) has "crossed the red lines." The tone was set by Professor Rivka Carmi, the president of Ben Gurion University, who wrote: "this is ... a struggle of the whole of academia in Israel... this is a "Black Flag over academic independence in Israel."  Carmi's letter to the entire academic community in Israel was written in Hebrew and was translated and posted as part of a petiton that calls the CHE decision "an unacceptable assault on academic freedom in our universities."

In waging war on the CHE, radical scholars have used a number of strategies. 

First, they describe the CHE's action as a political exercise pushed by right-wing groupsThey ignore the fact that the international committee of scholars that evaluated the Department made a decision based on substantive problems.  As IAM reported, in a previous round of evaluation, Professor Zeev Maoz, a leftist-leaning scholar, recommended closing the Department on the same grounds.

Second, there is a major effort to discredit the CHE's role in setting the academic agenda.  As IAM's Executive Summary of Academic Freedom in Israel in Comparative Perspective demonstrates the CHE is an accrediting body on par with similar agencies in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It would be inconceivable in any of these countries to mount such an attack.  This can be explained by the fact that, contrary to protestation, Israel has a far more expansive model of academic freedom both at the institutional and individual level.  

Third, either out of ignorance or a desire to deceive, most of the arguments against the CHE decision are garnered from private universities in the United States.  It is indeed true that private schools, say, Antioch College, recruit mostly scholars who represent the neo-Marxist, critical perspective. But public universities supported by tax payers must follow the mandate to provide a balance education that includes positivist perspectives as well. Ben Gurion University is a public institution and its Department of Politics and Government cannot behave as if is located on the campus of Antioch College. 

Fourth, radical scholars plan an intensive camping to mobilize the international community of scholars. In David Newman's email to colleagues abroad he wrote, "I urge you and your colleagues to discuss this matter further, and to consider convening an urgent investigation into this apparent threat to academic freedom in Israel."  AOren Yiftachel explains, Israel is vulnerable in this regard because it is sensitive to its international image. 

A number of petitions have been already circulated on line, such as this by Illinois State University lecturer, or that by a lecturer at Lyon Universityurging scholars to write directly to members of the CHE.  Given the anti-Israel sentiments in academic circles, this is potentially a highly damaging strategy and one that would make it harder on pro-Israel advocates to make their case. 

An essential part of academic freedom is to have a balanced debate in a classroom. The CHE wanted to create this balance by urging the department to hire some positivist scholars.  By refusing to follow this mandate and by viciously attacking the CHE, the Department and its supporters show totally disregard to the pedagogical ideal of the classroom as a marketplace of ideas.



translated from Hebrew by Micah Leshem:

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

12th September 2012. 3rd Tishrei 5773

From: Prof. Rivka Carmi ,       President

My fellow academic and researcher colleagues in Israel,

I turn to you as President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and with your indulgence, also as Chairperson of the University Presidents’ Board. Something has befallen Israel Academia. For the first time the Sub-Committee for Teaching Evaluation of the Council For Higher Education (CHE) has recommended to the Council to prohibit student registration as of 2013 in a university department, in this case the Department of Politics and Government of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. This extreme decision, is not in consequence of an extraordinary event, a serious incident, or non-fulfillment of CHE requirements. Hence the following should cause apprehension in all who are concerned about Academia in Israel.

Over a year ago the CHE appointed an International Professional Review Committee to evaluate the university departments of political science and governance in Israel. As you know, such evaluations are routine and the CHE frequently evaluates different departments in all our universities. The Review Committee report evaluated all the departments of political science and government in Israel.

The Committee made a series of recommendations to the CHE that the department of Politics and Government in Ben-Gurion University should implement. The main recommendations were to appoint additional members of faculty and to expand the core curriculum.

In response to these recommendations, the university and the department, in coordination with the CHE and with two foreign members of the Review Committee appointed by the CHE to monitor the process, appointed in record time three new members of faculty and revised the curriculum. The improvements met the Review Committee’s recommendations, which expressed its satisfaction and praise for the changes in a report by the two foreign members appointed to oversee the changes.

In view of all this we were astounded to discover that the CHE Sub-Committee again discussed the issue and issued an extreme and harsh decision that bears no relation whatsoever to the satisfactory report of the Review Committee foreign members appointed by the CHE to monitor the changes in the department.

As happened with its previous discussion of the Review Committee report, this Sub-Committee decision was immediately leaked to the media, even before being given to the University leadership. You all obviously recall the public debate the report engendered, and the agitation against the University caused by that initial leak. We are currently facing the consequences of the new leak.

Out of our profound commitment to academic freedom we view with anxiety and dismay the latest steps of the CHE, but we are also determined to contest them. The decision of the Sub-Committee is unreasonable and unmeasured, but mainly it is incompatible with the report of the Review Committee’s International members appointed to monitor the process of change in the Ben-Gurion department. We are therefore perturbed as to what lies beneath this decision,

This is not a private struggle of Ben-Gurion university but a struggle of the whole of academia in Israel. The tendentious leak of ostensibly academic decisions to the media is a warning sign. Acceptance of the Sub-Committee recommendation by the CHE would be a Black Flag over academic independence in Israel.

At this time, when there are many threats to Israel’s Academia from within and without, I ask for your support against the dangerous moves fomented before our eyes.

Prof. Rivka Carmi, President


A Blog oppened by the Department of Politics and Government at BGU



Inaccuracies and fallacies of the report submitted by the International Evaluation Committee on the department of politics and government

By isacademyunderattack / 09/18/2012 / Uncategorized / Leave a comment

Assessment of Academic Excellence

A) When counting the publication of referred journals, the committee erred by no less than 50%. This, it seems, is due to the fact that they counted only articles that were published in political science and international relations journals, while the department was established as an interdisciplinary department (see below).

 Consequently, the committee members disregarded articles written by David Newman and Haim Yacobi which appeared in the leading journals in human geography, articles written by Lynn Schler that appeared in the top journals of African History, and the articles published by Dani Filc in health policy journals.

 Moreover, when comparing the committee’s report of BGU to the one they wrote about the department of Political Science in Tel-Aviv University, it becomes obvious that the bias is not only disciplinary. The Department of Political Science at TAU has double the faculty members of its BGU counterpart, and yet according to the evaluating committee published the same amount of articles as the BGU department (and this not counting the ones that BGU published in journals outside the discipline). The TAU department is praised in the report and BGU department ends up being harshly reprimanded.

 B) In the first draft, the report stated that members of the faculty did not publish books in leading academic publishers. After we approached the committee members (who already had at their disposal all the CV’s of the 9 faculty members), noting that in the past three years (since 2008) faculty members published six books, of which three appeared in the top 10 academic presses (California University Press, Cornell University Press, Columbia University Press), two more books were published by Routledge (ranked in the top 15), and the sixth book published by the top press in France, the Committee changed the report, stating that “few books were published by leading publishers.”

This description is particularly disconcerting when compared with the report that committee members wrote about the Department for Political Science at TAU. This faculty, made up of 18 members were praised for their research output. The committee noted that: “It should be mentioned however that of the twenty books published by ‘leading international publishers,’ only two were published after 2004.” It is surprising that while Tel Aviv University was praised, Ben-Gurion University was harshly critiqued for its inadequate level of research output. This inconsistency raises serious questions regarding the objectivity of the reports.

 C) Academic excellence is also determined according to the ability of faculty to receive competitive research grants. In the past three years 5 out of the 9 faculty members have received such grants: One faculty member was awarded a FP7, two members GIF (German Israel Foundation), another faculty member a GIF and FP7 and fifth member an ISF (Israel Science Foundation). It is puzzling that the committee chose not to mention this at all. The committee dealt only in a general manner with the total amount that the department raised in research grants over the last three years from competitive foundations, without really praising it. This despite the fact that the average grant per faculty member was over $100,000, which is relatively high in the discipline. We are unaware of any department in Israel that has such an average.


A) The report criticizes the department’s academic curriculum, claiming that it does not include enough of the discipline’s core courses. Yet the study program does not differ greatly from the conventional programs in the other universities in the country. Indeed, it should be noted that the department offers seven core compulsory introductory courses: Introduction to Politics and Government; Introduction to Political Thought I and II; Introduction to International Relations; Introduction to the Israeli Political System; Political History, and Introduction to Comparative Politics.

In addition, the committee further claims that in conversation with department alumni:

Those who were doing advance studies (elsewhere) definitely felt that they were up to the same level as graduate students from other universities.

This raises an important question: If, as the committee states elsewhere, that “on paper” there isn’t a clear difference between the curriculum of the Department at Ben-Gurion University and the curriculums of departments in other universities, and if Ben-Gurion BA alumni claim that they themselves feel that they fit well in advanced degrees in other universities, why did the committee criticize so harshly the department’s curriculum?

 B) The report emphasises the importance of internship courses, regretting that the department offers a single course that includes internships. “Special courses that truly emphasise social involvement do not really exist,” they write. This claim is both false and misleading. The fallacy stems from another statement in which the committee claims the department generally does not offer courses that include an internship.

 The committee was aware, however, that for the past several years the department has been offering two internship courses, and were told that in the 2011-2012 academic year a third internship would be taught (two out of the three have recently received funding from the Council for Higher Education as practical internship courses). Note that the committee members were given the 2011-2012 curriculum, and were therefore aware of the exact number of specialised courses offered by the department.

C) In its report dealing with the department of Political Science at TAU, the committee congratulates the department for its plan to open an MA program in English, but the English program in the Department of Politics and Government at BGU, which has been running for two years, is not even mentioned, needless to say praised.

This example is brought to show that the inconsistency extends not only to what the committee wrote about the department, but also to what it did not write.

D) The committee ignored the fact that the Council for Higher Education approved the establishment of the department as an inter-disciplinary department, as was noted by Prof. Avner De Shalit, the current dean of social science at Hebrew University and the chair of the first internal evaluation committee set up by the Council of Higher Education several years ago.

E) The committee’s recommendation to close the department if certain changes are not made, is, we think, unprecedented in the history of evaluation committees and does not even follow its own (inaccurate) assessment.

 F) Finally the report was leaked to the media a week before it was discussed at the Council for Higher Education, and the witch-hunt atmosphere present in the media, heightened the sense that in this case the professional assessment of CHE was not objective or carried out in accordance with regular procedure.





Prof. Oren Yiftachel: Your assistance is needed


By isacademyunderattack / 09/18/2012 / 


The Israeli Council of Higher Education (CHE known also in Hebrew as MALAG) is on the verge of ordering the closure of the Politics and Government Department at Ben-Gurion University (BGU), Beersheba, Israel.


An important CHE meeting on this matter will take place on October 23rd. Hence, the many friends of the department, and of academic freedom and critical thought, feel that international pressure may save this very important department.  We are asking you to write and lobby on this matter, as detailed below.


Background: The Politics Dept. at BGU was founded some 12 years ago, and became home to some of the most progressive researchers, several of them dealing with space, planning and human rights.


During the last five years it became the subject of concerted attacks by nationalist organizations (led mainly by west bank settlers), such as “Im Tirtzu” and “Institute for Zionist Strategy” which began a public campaign of incitement and hatred, supported by large donations by the American Jewish and Christian Fundamentalist Right.   We have firm evidence for all this.


Two years ago the Israeli CHE, now under the rightwing minister of education Gidon Sa’ar, appointed an international evaluation committee for the department. The committee was stacked with conservatives and recommended a range of changes to make the department more mainstream, and improve its ‘political balance’.


As an aside let us remind you that many academic departments in Israel are homogenous, usually on the Zionist-conservatist side. But no official body raises with them the issue of ‘balance’. They are safe under the current hegemony.


Regarding the review process -  the Politics Department at BGU has actually implemented the committee recommendation, and received a good ‘bill of health’ from the international committee. Reacting to this, the Israeli Minister of Education recently decided to appoint another evaluation committee, who recommended to close the department!


Notably, this department is academically very solid, and leads all equivalent Israeli departments in publications, impact factors, student registration and grants.


Any thinking person can clearly see that the intervention is blatantly political. The government and its satellite nationalist organizations have made this department a test case in their quest to silence critical academics.  To this end, we should do all we can to save this department, and with it critical and free research, particularly as regards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Against the worrying scenario of a Mccarthyist purge, we would like to ask for your help. Israeli officials and professors are sensitive to their international image. Hence we ask you to express grave concern about the possible closure of the department. A particularly effective way may be writing directly to the members of the CHE listed above (under the “Act to Protect Academic Freedom in Israel” heading).  Most of them are professors and may be swayed by Israel’s international reputation and by the need to protect academic freedom.


Of course, you may also write to journalist, blogs, petitions, electronic media, to your politicians, your governments and to heads of Israeli universities with a clear message – closing an academic department through blatant political intervention will gravely stain Israel’s standing in the a academy, and hinder future contact and status with academics worldwide!


We appreciate your help very much!


Prof. Oren Yiftachel, on behalf of friends of the Politics and Government Department, Ben-Gurion University.





David Newman on the Assault on Politics & Government at Ben Gurion University

Posted on September 19, 2012 by Gerard Toal

Below is an email that David Newman circulated to explain the situation facing the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University. My current colleague Dr Joel Peters served in this department before being hired by Government and International Affairs at Virginia Tech in the National Capital Region.

Dear Colleagues
 There is an urgent matter that I want to bring to your attention. This is in regard to an apparently politically motivated assault that is currently underway by the Israeli government’s Council for Higher Education against the department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University  which is now under threat of being shut down.
Let me note first that though the assault is on a political science department, my colleagues, including myself, strongly believe that this is a matter of the wider social science community and furthermore, we, as sociologists, should speak out in protection of academic freedom. It is also clear to us that the attack on the Department is part of what have been a series of political attacks on the Departments for its so-called “left wing” academics which has been going on for some years with the support of the right wing Minister of Education, Gidon Saar, who is also formally the Chairperson of the Council for Higher Education – although traditionally the Minister has never before intervened in the CHE’s decisions in the way that he is doing in this particular case.
Among the department’s faculty are some prominent, tenured, and politically critical scholars, many of whom have been under pressure by members of the current Israeli government, as well as some prominent Jewish nationalist figures. Tensions over the role of academics in Israel’s political debates have been on the rise, and some Israeli government officials seem determined to discipline the academic community by punishing Ben Gurion University. All these should be understood in the wider context of increasing attacks on democratic forces in the Israeli society, including the Supreme Court, human rights NGOs and their donors and academia.
These are the details and the chain of events that led to the present stage in which on September 5th 2012, a sub-committee of the Israeli Council for Higher Education proposed suspending student registration in the department for academic year 2013-14, effectively closing the department down. In 2010, the Israeli government’s Council of Higher Education established an international evaluation committee to scrutinize political science departments in Israel.
From the outset, the process appears to have been inappropriately politicized. Prof. Ian Lustick, a prominent American political scientist from the University of Pennsylvania, and an internationally recognized expert on Israeli society and politics, was removed from the evaluation committee for unknown reasons. Then, the original committee chair, Prof. Robert Shapiro of Columbia University, resigned, and Hebrew University’s Department of Political Science decided not to cooperate with the evaluation. The international evaluation committee was subsequently recomposed under the direction of Prof. Thomas Risse of Berlin’s Freie University. 
The new committee’s evaluation of the BGU Department of Politics and Government was highly critical, arguing that its performance was marred by the “excessive social activism of its members.” The committee recommended that the department recruit more mainstream political science faculty and engage in some curricular changes. Failing that, the committee said, the Council of Higher Education should consider shutting the department down.  Members of the Ben Gurion University department rejected the evaluation, writing a report that showed that it was methodologically flawed, and factually incorrect. 
At the end of 2011, the Israeli Council of Higher Education appointed Prof. Risse and Prof. Ellen M. Immergut to oversee BGU’s implementation of international evaluation committee’s recommendations. 
In November 2011, BGU’s administrative leadership directed the Politics and Government Department to comply with the committee’s recommendations by hiring three new faculty members in comparative politics, quantitative methods and political theory, and by introducing a number of curricular changes. 
On July 2012, Profs. Risse and Immergut wrote the Israeli Council of Higher Education to “congratulate the department on successfully recruiting three new faculty members in the areas of comparative politics, quantitative methods, and political theory, and for its plans for a fourth recruitment next year.” They also called upon BGU to allow these young scholars “the time, resources, and mentoring to publish in top ranked international refereed journals and university presses,” so that the department could “fulfill its deficits in mainstream political science.”  Finally, Prof. Risse and Immergut noted that “the department should increase its diversity in terms of methods and theoretical orientations in future recruitments.” Neither scholar called for sanctions; instead, their recommendations and tone suggested that they were satisfied with BGU’s efforts. 
On September 5, 2012, however, a sub-committee of the Israeli Council of Higher Education proposed shutting down the department because it had failed to comply with the international evaluation committee’s recommendations. The full Council will consider that recommendation in October 2012, and appears poised to suspend student registration in the department, effectively shutting it down. 
The gap between Risse’s and Immergut’s letter, on the one hand, and the Council’s sub-committee, on the other, suggests that the evaluation process is a politically motivated assault on BGU and its Department of Politics and Government. Unfortunately, Prof. Risse and Prof. Immegut have not spoken out on the matter, even though they were made aware of this decision by BGU’s president. 
BGU President Rivka Carmi has been energetically supportive of the Politics and Government Department, and the University has retained external legal council. President Carmi has been at the forefront of a struggle by Israeli university presidents to prevent the Israeli government from opening a new University in the Jewish town of Ariel, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Some at BGU are interpreting the Council of Higher Education’s moves as reprisal against BGU for defying the government on this important matter.
I urge you and your colleagues to discuss this matter further, and to consider convening an urgent investigation into this apparent threat to academic freedom in Israel. It also needs to be brought to the attention of the various academic associations with which you are affiliated.  The Council of Higher Education’s final decision on the matter is fast approaching; it is imperative that the ASA and other prominent academic associations engage with this unfortunate affair as soon as possible. 
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that never in the history of Israeli academia a department was shut down by the Council for Higher Education, and that the attack on the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University endangers not only this one particular department but the status of the Israeli academia as a whole. The immoral and illegal procedures enacted by the evaluation committee breaches academic freedom in Israel and is of a great concern to all of us who are worried for our future ability to conduct free and unconditional work.    
Prof. Dani Filc, (dfilc@bgu.ac.il) the chair of the Department of Politics and Government can provide documentation and additional information.
Sincerely yours, 
Professor David Newman
Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Ben Gurion University




Adi Ophir - Critical moment for the future of Israel's higher education


פרופ' עדי אופיר: רגע קריטי לעתיד ההשכלה הגבוהה בישראל

By academyunderattack / 18/09/2012

הוועדה לבקרת איכות במועצה להשכלה גבוהה הניחה על שולחנה של המועצה הצעת החלטת הקוראת שלא לאפשר את פתיחת ההרשמה לקורסים של המחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל באוניברסיטת בן גוריון בשנה הבאה. זה צעד מכריע בדרך לסגירת המחלקה. המניע הגלוי אבל הלא רשמי לפעילות במל"ג נגד המחלקה הוא פוליטי. שר החינוך ואחד הנציגים בוועדה הסוקרת שהיה פעיל במיוחד בהחרפת טון הדו"ח של הוועדה, פרופסור דיסקין מהאוניברסיטה העברית, מקורבים לתנועת אם תרצו או מזוהים איתה. ראש וועדת המשנה לביקורת איכות שתרגמה את המלצות חברי הוועדה הבינלאומית להמלצה לא להתיר רישום למחלקה בשנה הקרובה הוא פרופסור מאור, חבר במרכז למורשת בגין ואיש ימין מוצהר. חלק מהנימוקים בהודעות דובר המל"ג, גם אם לא בדו"ח עצמו, היו נימוקים פוליטיים מכובסים (העדר פלורליזם וכדומה). גם התנאים שבהם מתנהלת המערכה נגד המחלקה ובזכותם הפך האיום לסגור את המחלקה לממשי הם תנאים פוליטיים מובהקים. השלטון וחוגי הימין הקשורים בו מקדמים יוזמות בכל התחומים ובכל המערכות המוסדיות לדחיקת אנשי שמאל מעמדותיהם ומנכסיהם ולמיסוד עמדות השליטה שלהם. כך בבתי המשפט, בפרקליטות המדינה, בדרג המקצועי של משרד החינוך, ברשות השידור, בעיתונות. כך גם במועצה להשכלה גבוהה עצמה, שצומצם בה מספר נציגי האוניברסיטאות והוגדל מספר נציגי המכללות והציבור, שרבים מהם הם אנשי ימין מובהקים.

יחד עם זה, למהלך הנוכחי במל"ג יש הקשר אקדמי מובהק והוא חמור לא פחות מההקשר הפוליטי הגלוי.

המחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל באוניברסיטת בן גוריון הוקמה כאלטרנטיבה למה שנחשב בארץ כמיינסטרים במדע המדינה, זרם מחקרי פוזטיביסטי וכמותי השולט בכל ארבע המחלקות האחרות למדע המדינה בארץ. התבחנות המחלקה באוניברסיטת בן גוריון בגישות ובנושאי המחקר היתה למעשה התנאי שהציבה המועצה להשכלה גבוהה לפני קצת יותר מעשור כשהוקמה המחלקה. בכך נקטה המועצה גישה פלורליסטית נכונה. פלורליזם במקרה הזה, כמו ברבים אחרים, הוא עניין של מיקוד. המחלקות האחרות למדע המדינה אינן פלורליסטיות מפני שיש בה רק מיעוט קטן של חוקרים הנוקטים גישה פרשנית, היסטורית וביקורתית, ולאלה יש בדרך כלל מעמד שולי במחלקה. המחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל באוניברסיטת בן גוריון אינה פלורליסטית משום שאין בה ייצוג מספיק למחקר כמותי ופוזיטיביסטי. אבל בזכות החלטתה של המועצה להשכלה גבוהה שאפשרה את הקמת המחלקה, מפת המחקר בתחום הפוליטי בארץ נעשתה פלורליסטית יותר כשהצטרפה אליה מחלקה המתמחה בגישה ההיסטורית ביקורתית.

ואמנם במחלקה התגבשה קבוצה של חוקרים וחוקרות מעולים (על כך אין שום מחלוקת בדו"ח הוועדה הסוקרת), שרובם נוקטים גישות – שונות זו מזו – השייכות למחנה הרחב של הגישה הפרשנית-היסטורית במדעי החברה. אחד המאפיינים החשובים של הגישה הפרשנית, בעיקר בזרמים הביקורתיים שלה, הוא העובדה שבניגוד לרוב המחקר במדע המדינה, המדינה – מדינת הלאום בצורתה ההיסטורית הנוכחית – אינה קובעת את מערכת הקואורדינטות שבתוכה מתנהל המחקר, אלא מוצבת בעצמה כמושא למחקר. זאת הסיבה לכך שהמחלקה אינה נקראת מחלקה למדע המדינה אלא מחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל. ההנחה היא שהמדינה היא צורה משתנה של פוליטיקה וממשל, ואלה, לא המדינה עצמה, הן אבני היסוד שמהן יש להתחיל את החקירה. כלומר, הפרובלמטיזציה של מדינת הלאום אינה פועל יוצא של מחשבה פוסטציונית דווקא אלא של גישה היסטורית וביקורתית למדינה ולמוסדותיה. אפשר בהחלט לנקוט גישה כזאת ולהיות ציוני (ויש במחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל חוקרים ציונים כאלה), אם כי כמובן שבמקרה כזה לאידיאולוגיה הציונית יהיו כמה מאפיינים חשובים שיבדילו אותה מהאידיאולוגיה של הימין הציוני.

המועצה להשכלה גבוהה מינתה וועדה סוקרת שאף אחד מחבריה אינו נמנה עם הגישה ההיסטורית ביקורתית לחקר המדינה והפוליטיקה. בשום כתב עת בתחום הזה, מרכזי או שולי, לא היו העורכים מעלים על דעתם לשלוח לשיפוט לאחד מחברי הוועדה מאמר של חוקרים במחלקה. בשום מקום הגון לא היו שולחים אליהם לשיפוט תיק של חוקר לקראת קבלת מינוי, קביעות או העלאה בדרגה. אבל כולם יחד התכנסו לחרוץ את גורלה של מחלקה שלמה שלמעשה אינה פועלת בתחום המחקר שלהם. הנימוק הביקורתי המכריע בדו"ח המקורי של הוועדה נגע להעדר פלורליזם מחקרי במחלקה. גם ההסתייגות האחת שכתבו שני החוקרים

הבינלאומיים שמונו לעקוב אחרי יישום הדו"ח על ידי המחלקה חוזר על אותה האשמה (למרות מינוי חדש של חוקר כמותני). מאשימים את המחלקה שהיא מתעקשת לעסוק בתחום שהוא הגיון הקיום שלה. מאשימים את המחלקה שאינה מאזנת בין גישות מחקריות כאילו איזון במדע היה עניין של תכנית אולפן בטלוויזיה. ובתוך כך מתערבים באופן בוטה בהתנהלות האקדמית של אוניברסיטת בן גוריון.

המועצה להשכלה גבוהה מפרה בכך לא רק את כתב הסמכות שלה לפי חוק המל"ג אלא את עצם העיקרון של חופש אקדמי. לשום מחלקה אין חובה לתת ייצוג, וודאי לא ייצוג שווה, לכל הגישות המחקריות. בדיוק כשם שאסור לכפות על חוקרים גישה מחקרית מסוימת אסור לכפות גישה כזאת על מחלקות. ראוי שמחלקות יטפחו גישה או גישות מסוימות על פני אחרות לפי הבנתן את מצב הידע. ראוי שמחלקות ייבדלו זו מזו בגישות המחקריות שלהן, בדגשים השונים שהם מעניקים להיסטוריה ותיאוריה, למדידה ולהשוואה. המועצה להשכלה גבוהה אינה אמורה להתערב בנושאים אלה. אם יש מקום לתקן חוסר איזון בין גישות מחקריות שונות, זה עניינן של הפקולטה ושל האוניברסיטה. התערבותן של אלה אמורה להיעשות על ידי מינוי אנשי סגל חדשים או על ידי הוספת מחלקות חדשות, לא על ידי סגירת מחלקות קיימות שחבריהן חוקרים מצטיינים. משמעות ההחלטה המונחת על שולחן המועצה להשכלה גבוהה אינו סתם אי אמון במחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל אלא התערבות בוטה באופן שבו אוניברסיטת בן גוריון מנווטת את ענייניה האקדמיים. שכן האוניברסיטה למדה את דו"ח הוועדה הסוקרת, העמידה לרשות המחלקה תקנים חדשים, החליטה בהתייעצות עם חברי המחלקה אילו גישות מחקריות להוסיף ומאיזה תחומים לגייס את החוקרים החדשים, פיקחה מקרוב, ובעזרת מומחים בינלאומיים, על הליך המינוי הזה, ואף חייבה את המחלקה להכניס כמה שינויים בתוכנית הלימודים שלה, והיא מעניקה למחלקה גיבוי מלא.

וכאן יש לשוב לתנאים הפוליטיים. העיוות החמור הזה בהתנהלות המועצה להשכלה גבוהה וביחסיה עם אוניברסיטת מחקר בישראל יכול להתרחש רק בזכות הרדיפה השיטתית של המחלקה בידי קבוצות של אנשי ימין שסימנו את המחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל "כלא ציונית" או "פוסטציונית" או "שמאלנית", ורק בחסות התנאים הפוליטיים שבהם רדיפה כזאת הפכה לנורמה. אם תתקבל ההחלטה למנוע מאוניברסיטת בן גוריון למנוע מהמחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל לפתוח רישום לקורסים שלה בשנה הבאה יפתח הפתח לעיצוב תכניות הלימודים באוניברסיטאות בישראל בידי פוליטיקאים והאקדמאים המשרתים לידם ומזדהים עם דרכם הפוליטית. זה קרה בהרבה משטרים אפלים. זה עלול לקרות גם אצלנו. זה רגע קריטי לעתיד ההשכלה הגבוהה בישראל. אנשי הסגל בכל האוניברסיטאות צריכים להתגייס כדי למנוע את סגירת המחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל. עלינו לתבוע מהנהלות האוניברסיטאות שלנו לא להפקיר את אוניברסיטת בן גוריון לבדה במערכה ולהנהיג יחד את המאבק בהצעת ההחלטה הנואלת הזאת. צריך להבהיר שמועצה להשכלה גבוהה שתאשר את ההצעה תאבד את הלגיטימיות האקדמית שלה בארץ ובחו"ל, באופן שיפגע אנושות באקדמיה הישראלית. צריך להבהיר שזאת שבירת כלים ביחסים בין השלטון לאקדמיה והיא תחייב נקיטת צעדים שהולמים את המצב החדש, מניתוק מגע עם המל"ג ועד השבתה של מערכת ההשכלה הגבוהה כולה.

עדי אופיר, מכון כהן להיסטוריה ופילוסופיה של המדעים והרעיונות ומרכז מינרבה למדעי הרוח, אוניברסיטת תל אביב


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