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Tel Aviv University
New TAU Program Headed by Assaf Sharon, Director of "Breaking the Silence"


Editorial Note
In a recent appeal (see below) to their peers, a group of academics expressed their support in "Breaking the Silence" (BtS), a political group described as "Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories," which gathers testimonies by former soldiers in order to protest against the occupation. 
According to the BtS website "Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life."
BtS has hit the news recently when the Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon blocked the group from engaging with soldiers, also the Minister of Education Naftali Bennett blocked them from speaking in schools. Both Yaalon and Bennett responded that the group allegations against the military were groundless, that the group had “malicious motives” and that they wish to "besmirched Israel’s image around the world".
While the politicians have focused on the BtS funding by European governments, the group's activity is troubling at the more substantive methodological level.  According to a Ph.D dissertation on BtS by Michal Givoni at TAU written under Prof. Adi Ophir, the group adopted the so-called critical witness methodology. IAM wrote twice about Givoni and her critical approach to witnessing. Traditionally, the act of witnessing to atrocities was understood to have a semi-legal meaning; the witness was expected to have first-hand experience with the event and provide truthful testimony.  Critical theory of witnessing makes no such demands of the witness.  To the contrary, the act of witnessing is said to be “moral act” whereby the witness is encouraged to testify to the underlying evil of the regime; the witness is not required to have personal experience with the event or to provide an empirically based testimony of what had transpired. 

Moral witnessing calls on "witnesses" to go beyond empirical fact and reality to encompass the deeper underlying evil of the situation, including the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.   Givoni wrote approvingly of the controversial testimony of Breaking the Silence used by Judge Goldstone in his report on Operation Cast Lead: "Testimony was not to be confounded with traditional forms of storytelling whose assumption of perfect correspondence between history, memory, and narrative was invalidated in the face of limit experiences of violence and destitution.”    

In other words, critical theory of testimony is not subject to such benchmarks as empirical accuracy; witnessing serves the higher goal of establishing that evil that was perpetrated by a dominant force against the victims:  “A private, even intimate gesture of memory, it was nevertheless construed as the primary form of struggle against the always-imminent realization of murderous political projects." 
In addition, BtS gathers testimony from witnesses under the guise of anonymity. This type of testimony would never pass the muster of law. The BtS questionable reputation for fudging the truth is at the heart of the issue.

But the generous funding received by the BtS is interesting in its own right. According to the Israeli Registrar of NGOs website, the organization offers very generous benefits for its top executives. The salaries of the five highest earners, is above the average Israeli income.  [A list of Foreign Governments donations are listed by the Ministry of Justice.] 

It is worth noting also that one of the BtS directors is Dr. Assaf Sharon, a new recruit in the Philosophy Department of TAU. According to an IAM's post, Sharon is a critical philosopher, that is, follows the neo-Marxist, critical paradigm.   Though he was only hired last year, he now serves as the head of a new BA program combining Philosophy, Economics, Political Science and Law. According to its website, the PAKAM program focuses on the fields of knowledge pertaining to the State and Governance. In plain English, PAKAM offers a neo-Marxist, critical analysis of the Israeli state and its governance.

The list of academics who support BtS is long and includes Neve Gordon, who called for the boycott of Israel; Roy Kreitner who called for sanctions against Israel, among others.  Unsurprisingly, those who work with Sharon in PAKAM or write articles with him are among the signatories.
While faculty have a right to express their political opinions in an extramural setting, the close relations between BtS and academics is one more example of murky boundary between political activism and scholarship supported, as always, by the taxpayer.

Bennett bans left wing veterans group from speaking in schools

Barring Breaking the Silence, Education Minister says ‘those who harm IDF soldiers do not have a place in education system’
December 15, 2015   
Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday decided not to allow members of the Breaking the Silence NGO to speak to high school students, as debate rages over the role of the group in Israeli society.
According to a statement issued by Bennett’s office, the decision was made following consultations with “senior professional staff members” at the Education Ministry and after parents of some of the students complained over the issue.
Bennett said he made the move because “those who harm IDF soldiers do not have a place in the education system.”
Breaking the Silence, which collects testimony, usually anonymous, from Israeli military veterans of alleged abuses of power from within the army, has recently come under fire, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon calling for soldiers to stay away from the group and legislative efforts to throttle the NGO’s funding from abroad.
“We send our children to school to encourage them to learn mutual reliance, not to harm IDF soldiers. The activity of the organization besmirched Israel’s image around the world, when they made it their goal to harm their brothers, who defend us all,” said Bennett, leader of the Orthodox nationalist Jewish Home party.
Bennett instructed the ministry’s director general to update an official memorandum regulating educational procedures, a document published every year outlining the ministry’s emphases for the coming school year,to explicitly state that organizations inciting against the IDF, such as Breaking the Silence, will not be allowed entry to schools.
The decision comes after My Israel, an NGO linked to the settler movement and founded by Bennett and his party colleague Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, complained that Breaking The Silence members had been invited to lecture to students in several well-known high schools across the country.
My Israel called the invitations a “very worrying phenomenon.”
There was no immediate response from Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimony from more than 1,000 veterans who described improper or illegal behavior against Palestinians. Since the NGO was founded in 2004, it has regularly locked horns with the Israeli political and military brass which regularly denounce its activities as harming Israel’s image abroad.
Bennett’s decision comes a day after Ya’alon banned the NGO from events attended by Israeli soldiers.
Ya’alon harshly criticized the NGO, saying the group had “malicious motives.”
Ya’alon said past attempts to work with the organization to investigate and verify claims of misconduct concluded that the allegations against the military were groundless.
In response to Ya’alon’s remarks, the NGO accused the defense minister of “crossing all red lines.”
“Ya’alon has appointed himself minister of silencing and intimidation, and a member of the incitement campaign waged by extreme right-wing organizations against Israeli democracy,” Breaking the Silence said, according to Army Radio.
Last month, the Beersheba Magistrate Court issued an order prohibiting a lecture by members of Breaking the Silence scheduled to be held at a local bar from taking place, citing threats by far-right wing activists to the owners of the site.
The order was issued following a request on the matter by the Beersheba police, after information indicating that activists planned to violently break up the event in protest of the controversial group was received. Police officers said they would be unable to provide the bar with appropriate protection if violence were to break out.
The court order stated that the bar’s owners failed to arrange the appropriate security measures for the event, and added that while the venue was officially suitable for an audience of 40 guests, upwards of 250 people had confirmed they would take part in the lecture.
 Breaking the Silence>> 
Our activists arrived with our info booth to the city centers of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion; we toured the South Hebron Hills area with the public; we met the Kibbutz movement's guides and educators for a talk about the reality of occupation; we provided lectures for Habonim Dror youth from Brazil, as well as the audience at Amnesty International events in both Tel Aviv and Holon.
Thank you to everyone who chose to meet the soldiers who broke their silence, and to hear, ask, and speak about 48 years of military control over the Palestinians.
"We went to Umm al-Khair, and there was a disagreeable demolition. The village’s sheikh, he lay there in front of the tractor, and we had to get the border police to pull him away, there was cursing and yelling. In the end he came up to us and asked, 'Do you hear the tractors working in the new neighborhood in Carmel? What’s that?' And we told him, 'They’re building with an approved plan, you aren’t.' He goes, 'Does that sound just, to you?' And we told him, 'That’s the way it is'.”
Join us on a tour to understand how military control over a civilian population works, and how illegal construction, illegal outposts, settlements and archaeological sites are all part of it.
>> 14/12/15<< 
tour to the Susiya region.
Register now>> http://goo.gl/vLiat
‏373‏ אנשים‏ אוהבים את זה

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Guy Davidov <guy.davidov@mail.huji.ac.il>
Date: 2015-12-07 17:59 GMT+02:00
Subject: [SocSci-IL] 
עצומת תמיכה בארגון שוברים שתיקה
To: socsci-il@listserver.huji.ac.il
שלום לכולם/ן,
נשמח אם תשקלו לצרף את שמכם לעצומה שלמטה, שבאה על רקע אירועים בתקופה האחרונה של השתקה ודה-לגיטימציה של ?שוברים שתיקה? והעדר הגנה מספקת מצד רשויות החוק. העצומה תישלח לגורמי הממשל הרלבנטיים ולתקשורת וכן נעשה מאמץ לפרסם אותה כמודעה בעיתון. התועלת שלה אפשר לקוות היא כמובן מעטה אבל בכל זאת לדעתנו חשובה. 
המעוניינים להצטרף מוזמנים לכתוב אל guy.davidov@huji.ac.il
(העצומה הספציפית הזו מיועדת לסגל האקדמי הבכיר, עם אחרים שמעוניינים להצטרף הסליחה).
גיא דוידוב (משפטים, העברית)
אילן סבן (משפטים, חיפה) 
דוד אנוך (פילוסופיה ומשפטים, העברית)
מעין דוידוב (עבודה סוציאלית, העברית)
אנו, חברי סגל בכיר באקדמיה הישראלית, מבקשים להביע את תמיכתנו בזכותם של חברי ארגון ?שוברים שתיקה? לחשוף בפני הציבור את המציאות הקשה אליה נחשפו בשירותם הצבאי. זכותם היא גם חובתם האזרחית.
אנו מוחים כנגד מסע דה-לגיטימציה המתנהל כנגד ?שוברים שתיקה?, אשר משתלב במערכת רחבה יותר של צעדים אנטי-דמוקרטיים מדאיגים של הממשלה. פעילות הארגון אינה מופנית כנגד חיילי צה?ל, אלא להיפך, למענם, וכן למען מטרות ראויות נוספות.
אנו מבקשים לחזק את ידי הארגון וחבריו, אשר מפגינים אומץ לב ראוי לשבח, ומחזיקים מעמד למול עוינות קשה מצד ציבור שמעדיף ?לפגוע בשליח? שמביא חדשות לא נעימות.
אנו קוראים לרשויות החוק להגן על חופש הביטוי של חברי ?שוברים שתיקה? ולבלום את מי שפועלים באיומי אלימות להשתיקם.
חברה דמוקרטית חייבת להיות פתוחה לביקורת ונכונה לשפר את דרכיה. בפרט כך כאשר מועלות טענות בדבר פגיעה קשה בזכויות אדם. הביקורת לא צריכה להצטמצם לגדריה של החברה הישראלית-יהודית אלא אפשר שתגיע מכל גורם שאנושיות וחתירה לשלום ולצדק מנחים אותו, כולל מדינות המערב שישראל רואה עצמה חלק מהן.
ארגון ?שוברים שתיקה? ראוי להערכה רבה ולהוקרה על מאבקו האמיץ למען הציבור, למען זכויות האדם – כל אדם – ולמען הותרת סיכוי לשלום.
רשימת חותמים ראשונה:
פרופ' (אמריטה) ג'ודי אורבך, אוניברסיטת בן-גוריון ד?ר טל אייל, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון ד?ר עינת אלבין, האוניברסיטה העברית ד"ר קטיה אסף, האוניברסיטה העברית פרופ? דוד אנוך, האוניברסיטה העברית פרופ' דפנה ארדינסט-וולקן, אוניברסיטת חיפה פרופ' דוד בלנק, אוניברסיטת חיפה פרופ' ישי בלנק, אוניברסיטת תל אביב פרופ? איל בנבנישתי, אוניברסיטת תל אביב   פרופ' אילן בנשלום, האוניברסיטה העברית פרופ' ז'וזה ברונר, אוניברסיטת תל אביב   פרופ? אסעד גאנם, אוניברסיטת חיפה   פרופ' מירי גור-אריה, האוניברסיטה העברית פרופ' ניב גורדון, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון   פרופ' אבנר גלעדי, אוניברסיטת חיפה   ד"ר חאלד גנאים, אוניברסיטת חיפה פרופ' חיים גנז, אוניברסיטת תל אביב   פרופ' אייל גרוס, אוניברסיטת תל אביב   פרופ' אבנר דה-שליט, האוניברסיטה העברית  פרופ? גיא דוידוב, האוניברסיטה העברית   ד?ר מעין דוידוב, האוניברסיטה העברית   פרופ? אלון הראל, האוניברסיטה העברית ד"ר תמי הראל בן שחר, אוניברסיטת חיפה    פרופ' גיא הרפז, האוניברסיטה העברית   פרופ' סיליה וסרשטיין פסברג, האוני' העברית  פרופ? מונא חורי-כסאברי, האוניברסיטה העברית   פרופ? אברהם טל, אוניברסיטת תל-אביב    ד"ר יובל יונאי, אוניברסיטת חיפה  פרופ' אורן יפתחאל, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון   פרופ' תמר כתריאל, אוניברסיטת חיפה    פרופ' שי לביא, אוניברסיטת תל אביב  ד?ר ליאור לוי, אוניברסיטת חיפה    פרופ' אסתר לוינגר, אוניברסיטת חיפה   ד"ר דורין לוסטיג, אוניברסיטת תל אביב ד"ר ארן ליביו, אוניברסיטת חיפה    ד"ר אורן לם, אוניברסיטת חיפה   פרופ' מיכה לשם, אוניברסיטת חיפה  פרופ' מני מאוטנר, אוניברסיטת תל אביב    פרופ? גיא מונדלק, אוניברסיטת תל אביב   ד"ר אריאל מירב, אוניברסיטת חיפה  פרופ' יוסי מרט, אוניברסיטת חיפה    ד?ר אילן סבן, אוניברסיטת חיפה   פרופ' מיכאל סולטמן, אוניברסיטת חיפה פרופ' גבי סלומון, אוניברסיטת חיפה    פרופ' סמי סמוחה, אוניברסיטת חיפה   פרופ' רן סמורודינסקי, הטכניון  ד"ר עמליה סער, אוניברסיטת חיפה    פרופ' מרילין ספר, אוניברסיטת חיפה   פרופ' אברהם עוז, אוניברסיטת חיפה     פרופ? פניה עוז-זלצברגר, אוניברסיטת חיפה   ד"ר שלהבת עטר-שוורץ, האוניברסיטה העברית   ד"ר ערן פישר, האוניברסיטה הפתוחה  פרופ' יוסף פליסקין, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון   פרופ' נאוה פליסקין, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון   פרופ' סטיב פסברג, האוניברסיטה העברית  פרופ' קובי פתר (פטרזייל), אוניברסיטת חיפה    ד"ר סנדי קדר, אוניברסיטת חיפה   פרופ' אורה קופמן, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון ד"ר ניר קליסמן, האוניברסיטה העברית    פרופ' ורד קראוס, אוניברסיטת חיפה    פרופ' רועי קרייטנר, אוניברסיטת תל אביב  ד"ר תמי קריכלי כץ, אוניברסיטת תל אביב    ד"ר ארנון קרן, אוניברסיטת חיפה    ד?ר שחר רהב, אוניברסיטת חיפה פרופ' איסי רוזן-צבי, אוניברסיטת תל-אביב   ד"ר קתרין רוטנברג, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון   ד?ר אלה שגב, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון ד?ר ראם שגב, האוניברסיטה העברית   פרופ? רונן שגב, אוניברסיטת בן גוריון   ד"ר דוד שור, אוניברסיטת תל-אביב פרופ' נדירה שלהוב-קיבורקיאן, האוניברסיטה העברית   ד"ר דניס שרביט, האוניברסיטה הפתוחה    ד"ר יופי תירוש, אוניברסיטת תל אביב
(Translated by IAM)
Hello everyone,
We encourage you to consider signing your name in the petition below, which came against the backdrop of the recent events of silencing and delegitimizing "Breaking the Silence" and lack of adequate protection from the law authorities. It will be sent to the relevant government officials and the media and an effort will be made to publish it as an ad in the newspaper. Its usefulness, of course possible to hope, is small but nonetheless is important in our view.
Those interested in joining are invited to write to Guy.davidov@huji.ac.il.
(This petition is particularly designed for senior academic staff, others who wished to join please accept our forgiveness).
Best regards,
Guy Davidov (Law, Hebrew U)
Ilan Saban (Law, Haifa U)
David Enoch (Philosophy and law, Hebrew U)
Maayan Davidov (Social Work, Hebrew U)
We, members of the senior staff in Israeli academia, wish to express our support for the right of members of Breaking the Silence to disclose to the public the harsh reality which they discovered during their military service. Their right is also a civic duty.
We protest against the delegitimization campaign being waged against "Breaking the Silence", which fits into a broader system of troubling anti-democratic measures of the government. The organization's activities is not directed against soldiers, but on the contrary, on their behalf, and on behalf of other worthy causes.
We seek to strengthen the organization and its members, who demonstrate courage worthy of praise, and hold on in the face of hostility from the public which prefers to "hurt the messenger" by bringing bad news.
We urge law enforcement authorities to protect freedom of expression for members of "Breaking the Silence" and block those who threatens in violence to silence them.
A democratic society must be open to criticism and willing to improve its ways. In particular when raised allegations of severe human rights abuses. Criticism should not be reduced to fall within the scope of the Israeli-Jewish society but can reach any human factor and striving for peace and justice that is guiding him, including Western countries that Israel sees itself as part of them.
"Breaking the Silence" is an organization worthy of great appreciation and esteem for the brave struggle for the public, human rights - every person - and for having a chance for peace.
The first list of signatories:
Professor (emerita) Judy Urbach, Ben-Gurion University Tal Eyal, Ben-Gurion University Dr. Einat Albin, Hebrew University Dr. Katya Assaf, Hebrew University Prof. David Enoch, Hebrew University Prof. Dafna Erdinast-Vulcan, University of Haifa Prof. David Blank, University of Haifa Prof. Yishai Blank, Tel Aviv University Prof. Eyal Benvenisti of Tel Aviv University Prof. Ilan Benshalom, Hebrew University Prof. Jose Brunner, Tel Aviv University Prof. As'ad Ghanem, University of Haifa Prof. Miri Gur-Arie, The Hebrew University Prof. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University Prof. Avner Giladi, University of Haifa Dr. Khaled Ghanaim, University of Haifa Prof. Chaim Gans, Tel Aviv University Prof. Aeyal Gross, Tel Aviv University Prof. Avner De-Shalit, Hebrew University Prof. Guy Davidov, Hebrew University Dr. Maayan Davidov, Hebrew University Prof. Alon Harel, Hebrew University Dr. Tami Harel Ben-Shahar, University of Haifa Prof. Guy Harpaz, The Hebrew University Prof. Celia Wasserstein Fassberg, Hebrew University Prof. Muna Khuri Ksabri, Hebrew University Prof. Avraham Tal, Tel Aviv University Dr. Yuval Yonay, University of Haifa Prof. Oren Yiftachel, Ben Gurion University Prof. Tamar Katriel, University of Haifa Prof. Shai Lavi, Tel Aviv University Dr. Lior Levi, Haifa University Prof. Esther Levinger, University of Haifa Dr. Doreen Lustig, Tel Aviv University Dr. Oren Livio, University of Haifa Dr. Oren Lamm, University of Haifa Prof. Micah Leshem, University of Haifa Prof. Menachem Mautner, Tel Aviv University Prof. Guy Mundlak, Tel Aviv University Dr. Ariel Meirav, University of Haifa Prof. Yossi Mart, University of Haifa Dr. Ilan Saban, University of Haifa Prof. Michael Saltman, University of Haifa Prof. Gabi Salomon, University of Haifa Prof. Sammy Smooha, University of Haifa Prof. Ran Smorodinsky, Technion Dr. Amalia Saar, University of Haifa Prof. Marilyn Seffer, University of Haifa Prof. Avraham Oz, University of Haifa Prof. Fania Oz-Salzburger, University of Haifa Dr. Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz, Hebrew University Dr. Eran Fisher, Open University Prof. Joseph Pliskin, Ben Gurion University Prof. Nava Pliskin, Ben Gurion University Prof. Steve Fassberg, Hebrew University Prof. Kobi Peter (Feterzil), University of Haifa Dr. Sandy Kedar, Haifa University Prof. Ora Kofman, Ben Gurion University Dr. Nir Klisman, Hebrew University Prof. Vered Kraus, University of Haifa Prof. Roy Krieitner, Tel Aviv University Dr. Tammy Kricheli Katz, Tel Aviv University Dr. Arnon Keren, University of Haifa Dr. Shachar Rahav, University of Haifa Prof. Issi Rosen-Zvi, Tel Aviv University Dr. Catherine Rottenberg, Ben Gurion University Dr. Ella Segev, Ben Gurion University Dr. Ram Segev, Hebrew University Prof. Ronen Segev, Ben Gurion University Dr. David Shor, Tel Aviv University Prof. Nadira Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Hebrew University Dr. Dennis Sherbit, Open University Dr. Yofi Tirosh, Tel Aviv University

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