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Ben-Gurion University
The War against the CHE: Academics Worldwide Protest Possible Closure of Israeli Political-Science Dept.


Editorial Note:  

In the past three weeks IAM reported on the world-wide protest against the possible closure of the Department of Politics and Government of BGU.  In addition to individual scholars [including Michael Walzer from Princeton] who signed petitions, scores of American and international professional associations in political science, sociology and geography as well as the European Consortium for Political Research and the Canadian association of university professors have voiced their protest.  This unprecedented mobilization is aimed to dissuade the CHE from approving the closure at its October 30th meeting.
The fast response from so many groups is a testament to the power of the Israeli radicals, their liberal supporters abroad and to their modus operandi. Virtually all the petitions have uncritically accepted the claim that the CHE's action represents a political witch- hunt against professors who dared to defy the Israeli government.  The prestigious Chronicle of Higher Education that carried a number of items on the story have been likewise one-sided.  Overall, clarifications from the CHE have been ignored or misrepresented and its officials slandered.  
The article below is a case in point.    It enhances the bias by  failing   to reveal the political identity of the organizers of the London School of Economics petition  -  Jonathan Rosenhead and Robert Boyce.   Rosenhead chairs the British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP) that has led the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel for more than a decade.Rosenhead appeared with Norman Finkelstein and other extreme critics of Israel to advocate for BDS.   Boyce has worked tirelessly to sever Israel's research ties with the European Union
Paradoxically, Israeli academics enjoy far broader freedoms than their peers in the United States, Great Britain and Germany- where the bulk of the petitions originated.  As Academic Freedom in Israel in Comparative Perspective reveals, case law makes it illegal for American professors to call for a boycott of the United States.  Academics in public (state) universities are subject to numerous regulations and are well aware that boards of regents appointed by governors watch out for taxpayers interests.   In Germany, faculty are considered state employees; their political speech and action are restricted.   In Great Britain, the so-called "management university" model- a result of the Thatcher reforms in the eighties -  limited academic freedom at multiple levels. 
Few would disagree that the conversation on academic freedom in Israel cannot be held in isolation.  But this is precisely what has occurred in the CHE debate.  Radical scholars managed to persuade many in the international academic community that the spirit of McCarthy reigns supreme in Israel.  Given that quite a few in this community pioneered the double standards by which Israel is judged and condemned - and noting that Isolating the subject from any comparative context is at its core -  this was apparently not a difficult task. 



Academics Worldwide Protest Possible Closure of Israeli Political-Science Department

October 19, 2012, 2:16 pm

More than 600 academics worldwide are protesting the threatened closure of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s department of politics and government, sending a petition to Gideon Sa’ar, Israel’s education minister, to halt the move. A subcommittee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education has recommended suspending registration of students for the next academic year after it said the department had failed to carry out the recommendations of an international quality-assurance committee. But the petition letter to Mr. Sa’ar argues the move is an attempt to silence the department’s faculty members who have criticized the Israeli government.

“This attack on the department quite transparently has nothing to do with the quality of its staff, or of their teaching or research. It has everything to do with the fact that some of them have publicly taken brave and locally unpopular political positions,” says the letter, which was organized by two academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As of Friday, 633 scholars had signed the statement. The fate of the department is to be decided at a meeting of the Council for Higher Education on October 30.

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