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General Articles
Academic Earthquake: Part 3
Editorial Note 

This IAM post, Academic Earthquake: Part 3 intends to present the mixing of academics with politics. The list would be very long if we brought all the evidence available in the last two decades. But it is essential to understand the relations between the political activists-turned-academics. A perusal at the TAU Cohn Institute PhD Dissertations showcases the following: Merav Amir, advisors Adi Ophir and Yehouda Shenav; Ariel Handel, advisors Adi Ophir and Tovi Fenster; Michal Givoni, advisor Adi Ophir; Anat Rimon Or, advisor Adi Ophir; Hagar Kotef, advisors Adi Ophir and Anat Biletzki; Roy Wagner, advisors Adi Ophir and Anat Biletzki; Boaz Hagin, advisors Adi Ophir and Orly Lubin; Dani Filc, advisor Moshe Zuckermann; Ariella Azoulay, advisors Moshe Zuckermann and Gila Blas. This list is a clear indication of how political activist academics promote each other.

We have gathered a short list of some other key players promoting their political stance in their scholarships, some are familiar and some new names:
In 2013 IAM reported on Yehouda Shenhav (TAU) who was hired to teach and research the sociology of organizations. Soon after gaining tenure, he neglected his field in order to concentrate on various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   Since then, the self-proclaimed critical sociologist has tailored specific topics to suit his political activism.  Upon joining the Mizrahi Rainbow in the 1990s, a group dedicated to bringing together Jews from Arab countries and Palestinians, Shenhav wrote a book and a number of articles on Arab Jews, his name for the Mizrahim, to prove that they, like the Palestinians, were victims of Zionism.  In the mid-2000s, Shenhav launched a project to create the intellectual infrastructure for a bi-national state.  In another project, in 2012 he headed a research group at Van Leer Institute Jerusalem which aspired to locate the discussion on Zionism explicit within the global matrix of imperialism. The group membership was tailor-made to produce such findings.  In addition to stalwarts as Hanna Herzog and Hannan Hevera number of Shenhav's doctoral students participated, Manar Hassan, Yuval Evri, Areej Sabbagh and Benny Nurieli.  In addition to privileging Shenhav's students, it was a signal to potential PhD candidates that radical scholarship pays off.

IAM discussed Assaf Sharon in 2014, in a post titled "The political career of Assaf Sharon sponsored by Tel Aviv University", which detailed how Sharon, a co-founder of "Breaking the Silence" who sits on its board of directors, has joined the ranks of TAU's Philosophy department, the base of operation of the radical political activists, Anat Matar and Anat Biletzki.   By all accounts, Sharon has launched a highly activist career since co-founding the political think tank Molad. In a recent Tweet, he wrote "New study by @moladCRID: West Bank settlements are a burden on Israel's national security."

Another life-long political activist sponsored by TAU is Gadi Algazi, a former IDF refusenik.  He joined the ranks of TAU as an expert on late medieval history but, as other activists, spent much of his career on promoting his political agenda. Algazi is especially active in Germany, where he is scheduled to speak at Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Salon in Berlin today, June 29, on "Common perspectives: what links and separates the left in Germany and Israel."
Aeyal Gross, a legal scholar at TAU, known to be the intellectual architect of Pinkwashing, a theory which holds that Israel has embraced gay rights in order to mask the sins of occupation.  Gross was quoted recently in an Aljazeera article titled "In Israel, racism is the law", to the effect that  "Equality cannot be recognised on the constitutional level... since that would challenge the inequality created by the complete identification of the state with only one group." He has recently published a book "The Writing on the Wall: Rethinking the International Law of Occupation."  Where he offers insight on the 50th anniversary of the occupation, "the law of occupation in its current version to legitimize new variations of conquest and colonialism". He proposes the "need for reconsidering the law of occupation in light of changing forms of control, such as those evident in Gaza."

A long-time radical political activist Ofer Cassif, was recently filmed comparing Israeli legislation to those of Nazi Germany in a Politics and Government course of a preparatory college program at the Hebrew University.  One of Cassif's students objected to the comparison, but Cassif continued with his analogy, stating that it is comfortable to deny the situation in order not to come to terms with reality, which is very dangerous. He said "those who refuse to see the similarities between what is happening in Israel, specifically in the past two years, and Germany in the 1930s, has a problem and will be responsible for the potential situation of the state."  Cassif drew parallel in legislature regarding Arabs and Jews, to the policies of Nazi Germany. He stated that the law "allows Jews to take over Palestinian-owned land for themselves, just like Aryans in 1930 Germany were allowed to kick Jews out of their homes."  Hebrew University responded to Channel 2 who reported this story, rather typically: "It is unfortunate that there are individual students who choose to record their professors during class, instead of engaging in debate and open discourse on facts and opinions, and who choose to go to the media when these things do not coincide with their views.  Academia is exactly the place to conduct deep and free debates. That's its essence and any other way harms this fabric and endangers the principles of democracy". 

A Hebrew University Law school's new recruit is Ahmad AmaraAmara's scholarship surrounds the legal rights to land by the Bedouin community in the Negev, he calls them Palestinian Bedouin-Arabs and wishes to portray Israel in a colonialist nature. He charges Israel of dispossession of the Bedouins. "The indigenous Bedouin Arab population in the Naqab/Negev desert in Israel has experienced a history of displacement, intense political conflict, and cultural disruption, along with recent rapid modernization, forced urbanization, and migration" Recognizing the Bedouins of the Negev as indigenous people he examines the international human rights framework and how it protects the rights of indigenous peoples to determine which group should be considered rights holders. In a recent article he wished to contest the stereotypes of Bedouins as 'nomads' and 'savages' as in the second half of the nineteenth century. As a lawyer he is representing members of the Dawabsheh family in a lawsuit against the Israeli government for compensation of tens millions of shekels over arson attack in the village of Duma, West Bank in 2015.
Yael Berda of the Sociology and Anthropology department at the Hebrew University boasts about being "highly engaged in social justice activism and politics in Israel" in her university webpage.  Barda, like many academic activists has studied the various facets of the military administration in the West Bank.  
Even this very short survey of scholar-activists is indicative of the confluence of academy and political activism. Quite clearly, these academics abuse academic privileges by using their classroom and research to promote a political agenda.  There are two consequences of this deplorable state of affairs which is mostly limited to the social sciences.  

First, students of these professors do not receive the type of balanced education in the classroom as a "marketplace of ideas." Instead, the syllabus and reading materials in many of these classes are solidly neo-Marxist and critical theory oriented.  How can students develop a balanced view of the economic system, for instance, if they have never encountered a reading from Adam Smith or neo-liberal economics?

Second, the incessant preoccupation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict robs sociology and political science of desperately needed subjects such as quantitative methods, system analysis, rational choice theory, and other cutting-edge topics.  In an age that social sciences have rushed to study unique twenty first century social phenomena which require these tools, Israeli scholarship and teaching look inevitably archaic.  

For more than a decade now, IAM has been emphasizing the damage done to social sciences in Israel and the cost to the tax payers who are asked to pay the salaries of political activists masquerading as faculty.  We have repeatedly pointed out that it is the duty of the university authorities to supervise their social science departments. So far, the authorities which are intimidated by vocal faculty, the fear of bad publicity, and indeed, threats of international boycott (as in the case of the efforts to close down the department of Politics and Government at BGU) have not acted. To the contrary. Given this state of affairs, an Ethics Code is more urgent than ever.

Gadi Algazi in RLX Berlin 29th June "Common perspectives: what links and separates the left in Germany and Israel"


  • 29. Juni | Berlin | 19:00 | Salon der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Franz-Mehring-Platz 1
    Gemeinsame Perspektiven: Was verbindet und trennt die Linke in Deutschland und Israel
    * Gadi Algazi (Historiker und Aktivist)
    * Tsafrir Cohen (Leiter des Auslandsbüros der Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Tel Aviv)

BY YOCHEVED LAUFER   JUNE 23, 2017 10:48  
Dr. Ofer Cassif of Hebrew University faces heavy criticism after his students leaked a video recording from his political science class.
Hebrew University Professor, Dr. Ofer Cassif, compared recent Israeli legislation, both proposed and passed, to those of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany, reported Channel 2 on Thursday as a recording of his class became public. 
The statement occurred in a Politics and Government course as part of a preparatory college program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
One of Cassif's students objected to the comparison, but the political science professor continued with his analogy stating that it is comfortable to deny the situation in order not to come to terms with reality, but that it would very dangerous to do so. 
He also explained to his students that the comparison is a matter of fact rather than opinion. His personal thoughts on the matter are even far more reaching.
Cassif further criticized the current state of of affairs in Israel saying, "those who refuse to see the similarities between what is happening in Israel, specifically in the past two years, and Germany in the 1930s, has a problem and will be responsible for the potential situation of the state."
Cassif drew specific parallels from recent Israeli legislature regarding Arabs and Jews, to policies of Nazi Germany.
The Hebrew University professor stated that the proposed Israeli nation-state law is similar to 1930s Germany's methods of creating a hierarchy of citizens according to classes. 
Cassif also criticized recent legislation passed legalizing 4,000 homes in the West Bank, stating that this this law, "allows Jews to take over Palestinian-owned land for themselves, just like Aryans in 1930 Germany were allowed to kick Jews out of their homes."
Cassif's next comparison was regarding the recent legislative proposal pushed by Netanyahu to ban funding from foreign NGOs. Cassif explained to his students that this bill is similar to laws passed in Nazi Germany limiting organizations that criticized the regime. 
The Israeli Right was furious about the teachings of Prof. Cassif. 
The Likud party defended the nation-state law, explaining that it "is based on the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and therefore this professor the very creation of the state is racist."
“Comparing the State of Israel to the most wicked regime in the history of mankind is not only a disgusting display of anti-Israel propaganda, but something more severe than Holocaust denial,” said CEO of right wing NGO Im Tirtzu, Matan Peleg.
In response to the criticism surrounding the publication of his lesson, Cassif stated that, "the purpose of a classroom is to hold discussions and I did not prevent any of my students from speaking, therefore I will not give in to the attempt to silence me and prevent an open and constructive discussion."
He also added that he stands behind his Israel-Nazi comparisons. 
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem responded by saying that Cassif's "discussion took place during the class 'Fascism- past and present,' and it is unfortunate that certain students chose to record their professor when not agreeing with his stance, instead of conducting an open discussion based on facts and opinions."
This is not the first time Cassif has been criticized for making Nazi comparisons regarding Israel. 
In late 2015, the Hebrew University professor called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked "neo-Nazi scum."
In a similar occurrence Cassif took to social media last year, tweeting that Facebook blocked him for making a Hitler reference as a reaction to a pro-Netanyahu comment.
    Ofer Cassif @ofercass     Facebook blocked me after writing "Sieg Heil" as a reaction to someone who endorsed Netanyahu as "the best Israeli prime-minister ever". 17 May 2016
This comes after Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed a new ethics code for universities, banning professors from expressing their personal political stances in the classroom earlier this month. 


Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas
The Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities
Tel Aviv University

home page > Faculty > The Cohn Institute > Studies > Completed PhD Dissertations

PhD Dissertations:

Year: 2012
Advisors: Prof. Adi Ophir;  Prof. Yehuda Shenav
Name of work: Borders Beyond Territory: Population Management through Border-Making and the Borders of Israel
Name: Merav Amir

Year: 2011
Advisor: Prof. Adi Ophir;  Prof. Tovi Fenster
Name of work: The Movement Regime in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: Historical, Technological and Sociological Aspects
Name: Ariel Handel

Year: 2009
Advisor: Prof. Adi Ophir
Name of work: Witnesses in Action: Ethics and Politics in Humanitarism without Borders
Name: Michal Givoni

Year: 2009
Advisor: Prof. Adi Ophir
Name of work: Marxist Discourse and the Question of its Addressees
Name: Anat Rimon Or

Year: 2009
Advisors: Prof. Adi Ophir;  Prof. Anat Biletzki
Name of work: The Political Body: The First Wave of Liberal Feminism
Name Hagar Kotef

Year: 2008
Advisors: Prof. Adi Ophir;  Prof. Anat Biletzki
Name of work: A Post-structural Reading of a Logico-Mathematical Text
Name: Roy Wagner

Year 2008
Advisors: Prof. Adi Ophir;  Dr. Orly Lubin
Name of work: Death In the Cinema
Name: Boaz Hagin

Year: 2002
Advisor: Prof. Moshe Zuckerman
Name of work:  Hegemony and Counter-Hegemony in the Israeli Medical System
Name: Daniel Filc

Year: 1997
Advisors:  Prof. Moshe Zuckerman;  Dr. Gila Blas
Name of work: On the Possibility of Critical Art in Israel (1970s & 1980s)
Name:  Ariella Azoulay

Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel

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