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Ben-Gurion University
[BGU] The false scholarship of Oren Yiftachel: Advancing political activism in South Africa
BGU Geography, Professor Oren Yiftachel
Email: yiftach@bgu.ac.il

Editorial Note

Oren Yiftachel will arrive today in Cape Town, South Africa to participate at the annual conference by The Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS) on African Urban Planning and the Global South: Pedagogy, Research, Practice.  As is stated clearly, AAPS is "dedicated to the promotion of planning education that produces effective professionals who are equipped to deal with the key issues of 21st century urbanization in Africa, and who subscribe to principles of socio-spatial justice and environmental sustainability."

To achieve this goal AAPS invited Oren Yiftachel of BGU, among others.  

Anyone who invites Yiftachel should be advised that his work has already been discredited before, when served as an expert witness in court.  Sarah Dovrat, the presiding judge, took the unusual step of chastising Yiftachel for his sloppy preparation, evasion of truth and other underhanded tactics.  

"I felt uncomfortable with Prof. Yiftachel’s cross examination when it transpired that he relied on sources and quoted from them without bothering to read them, instead he quoted from quotes that appeared in a different source. The expert’s squirming on the witness stand on this matter, not only left an uncomfortable feeling, more accurately a sense of embarrassment for the expert, for the predicament in which he found himself. The expert should not only be objective, in offering his opinion, but he should also read the sources to which he refers, or he should immediately state, without prevaricating, that he relied on secondary sources instead of undergoing lengthy and embarrassing questioning, at the end of which he confesses that that is the case." 

For those who are not familiar with his latest work, Yiftachel's scholarship has been presented earlier this year in London, entitled 'Gray Space and the New Urban Regime: Between Liberalism and a Creeping Apartheid':
"analyse the impact of structural economic, identity and governance tensions on urban regimes and societies in the twenty-first century. It draws attention to the pervasive emergence of 'gray spaces', that is, informal, temporary or illegal developments, transactions and populations. 'Gray-spacing' has become a central feature of urbanism in most parts of the world, as well as a strategy to manage the unwanted/irremovable, as well as the wanted/uncontrollable. Urban planning is central to this process, given its ability to approve, deny, legitimate and criminalise urban development. Gray spacing enables the mobility of marginalised groups into privileged regions, often under the guise of liberalising economies. At the same time, this puts in train a process of 'creeping urban apartheid' under which the region is governed through the principle of 'separation and inequality'. These tensions and trends will be illustrated by highlighting research findings on the planning of cities around Europe, Africa and Asia, with special focus on the 'ethnocratic' cities of Israel/Palestine, such as Beersheba, Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem."

In other words, Yiftachel is expanding on the meaning of the gray urban areas created by "wild capitalism" and "socio-economic urbanization."  

But Yiftachel, the political activist, plans to combine his appearance at the geographical conference dealing with African issues, with his trade-mark efforts to cast Israel as an apartheid state.  He will lecture at an event organized by "Jewish Voices for a Just Peace" - a South African branch of the American organization that advances a bi-national state, and supports BDS. His lecture is entitled The Political Geography of Israel/Palestine.

As IAM has demonstrated, following the Durban conference in 2001 that kick-started the BDS movement, there was a need for "academic proof" of Israel's alleged apartheid regime.  After realizing that the apartheid concept - with its South African connotation of race-based segregation and brutal endogamy laws is an eye-catcher - Yiftachel has made an academic career by purveying such "scholarship."
Not incidentally, Yiftachel is part of a group of Israeli academics whose dubious scholarship entered the cannon of the BDS movement.   In the murky waters of political scholarship at BGU university, a phenomenon denounced by a number of evaluating committees of the Council of Higher Education, Yiftachel stands out as a beacon of the radical activist faculty conceived by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci.  Indeed, Yiftachel once described himself as a neo-Gramscian. In his book Land and Identity Politics in Israel and Palestine,  he notes that his "own approach draws from neo-Gramscian perspective".  
No doubt that Gramsci would have been pleased by the zeal with which Yiftachel adopted his principles.   The Israeli taxpayers who pays the salaries of Yiftachel and his colleagues are not just left holding the bag but told that there is nothing they could do because the 1958 Law of Higher Education allows faculty an unprecedented degree of academic freedom.   Academic freedom, of course, is highly important to the scholarly endeavor, but, unfortunately, it can be misused by unscrupulous academics, as the case of Yiftachel demonstrates. 


A talk by Professor Oren Yiftachel on Thursday 20 November 2014. Professor Yiftachel has published over 100 articles and ten authored and co-edited books, including Planning as Control: Policy and Resistance in Divided Societies (1995), Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine (2006), and Indigenous (in)Justice (co-editor, 2012). He is currently working on a manuscript on Gray Spacing: the Transformation of Urban Politics.
Oren Yiftachel_20 Nov 2014_resized
South African Jewish Voices for a Just Peace (JVJP) is a group of Jewish South Africans who recognise that the South African Jewish community is not homogenous in its thinking and that there are many different views on Israel. Many Jews in our country are deeply troubled by the actions of Israel and the human rights abuses which are inflicted on Palestinians. Many Jews are afraid to speak about these abuses for fear of being ostracized. As such, JVJP aims to facilitate respectful dialogue and discussion amongst South African Jews.


African Urban Planning and the Global South: Pedagogy, Research, Practice

Welcome to the website of the 2014 AAPS Conference

The Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS) is a network of 51 higher education institutions offering planning educational programmes. AAPS members are drawn from Anglophone, Lusophone and Francophone Africa. AAPS is dedicated to the promotion of planning education that produces effective professionals who are equipped to deal with the key issues of 21st century urbanization in Africa, and who subscribe to principles of socio-spatial justice and environmental sustainability.
AAPS will host its fourth all-schools conference in 2014.
AAPS 2014 will focus on the central themes and problems of African urbanization. The conference will focus on developing our understanding of these issues, and how planning curricula can respond to them. While the conference is focused on sub-Saharan Africa, the discussion will be extended to other contexts in the global South.
The AAPS 2014 Conference will feature keynote presentations from a number of international experts on cities and urbanization in Africa and the global South, including Edgar Pieterse (African Centre for Cities), Oren Yiftachel (Ben-Gurion University) and Colin MacFarlane (Durham University).
The conference is aimed at urban planning educators, researchers and practitioners seeking to enhance their knowledge of the contemporary issues and debates surrounding African and Southern cities and urbanization. It will also appeal to other built environment professionals, as well as academics in related disciplines with an interest in urban issues.
This is the first time that the AAPS conference will be open to wider attendance. We welcome submissions from those outside Africa working on urban issues in the global South.
The conference is generously supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

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