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Hebrew University
Learning Conference Organizers Respond to the IAM Post Concerning HUJ Prof. Nurit Elhanan-Peled

01.08.18

 

Editorial Note

IAM received a response concerning the post on a lecture by Prof. Nurit Elhanan-Peled, of July 5, 2018, from Dr. William Cope and Dr. Thomas Babalis, the organizers of the International Conference on Learning which took place in Athens, Greece. Cope is the co-founder and president of Common Ground Research Networks and Babalis professor of Teaching Methodology and Dean of School of Education at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the host of the conference. 

Cope and Babalis argue that Elhanan-Peled’s paper was rigorous in its theoretical premise with methodologies of empirical analysis and that "Academic Israeli Monitor evidently represents a different ethico-political perspective from Prof. Elhanan-Peled."  Contrary to IAM's assertion, they added, "Elhanan-Peled is entitled to present an argument at the conference, no matter how unpalatable it may seem from the point of view of AIM" and that, we will continue to welcome diversity of perspectives "even if AIM does not welcome such diversity in Israel."  Last but not least, they added that "we are disturbed by the nature and tenor of AIM’s reporting. We wonder what it means to question state or university sponsorship of critical scholarship—surely critical dialogue is to be valued in a democracy? We also wonder what the effects of 'monitoring' are intended to be in a democratic society?” 

While IAM praises Cope and Babalis for accepting only papers that are "solidly grounded in scholarly principles and practices," yet, Cope and Babalis should be aware that in some cases in the social sciences scholars falsify research and invent findings, something unacceptable in rigor research. It is IAM's purpose to investigate when a research in question is fabricated. 


For example, IAM has written extensively on the neo-Marxist, critical trend which often ignores evidence contradicting its findings.  This trend is normative rather than positivist which is not accepted by mainstream social science presses.  IAM is not the only one to make this determination.  In 2011 the Israeli Council for Higher Education appointed an International Evaluation Committee to look into the Department of Politics and Government of Ben Gurion University which is known as a hive of neo-Marxist, critical scholars.  The Evaluation Committee which included leading scholars such as, Prof. Thomas Risse of the Institute for Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin; Prof. Benjamin Jerry Cohen, Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara; Prof. Ellen Immergut, School of Social Sciences, Humboldt University Berlin; Prof. Robert Lieber, Department of Government, Georgetown University; among others, concluded that the offering of the Department and the scholarship of several of its faculty were not empirically grounded. 

With regards to Elhanan-Peled, IAM has examined her scholarship on numerous occasions over the yearsThis time, to make the case, IAM has turned to two scholars that have researched the topic of Israeli and Palestinian perception of the 'other' in school books. 

Dr. Yael Teff-Seker, researcher at Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), recently wrote the chapter "Textbooks for the State and State-Religious Jewish Sector in Israel". The abstract states the following,

Despite official Israeli government statements to the contrary, Israeli textbooks have repeatedly been accused of being prejudiced, stereotypical and racist towards Arabs, Muslims and, most of all, Palestinians. However, some significant improvements regarding peace and the Arab Other were noted in textbooks published in the later 1980s and in the 1990s by most scholars of Israeli curricula. One would perhaps assume that these positive trends would diminish with the deterioration of Arab–Israeli relations—and particularly Palestinian–Israeli relations—over the past few years (especially since the 2000 Al Aqsa Intifada). However, it is this chapter’s claim not only that these trends towards peace and tolerance have persevered but that they were even improved in the Israeli textbooks authorised by the Israeli Ministry of Education for the academic years 2009–2012. With this general trend in mind, the Israeli state-approved textbooks still foster something of a victim mentality in regard to the Arab–Israeli conflict, although more recent textbooks do include the Palestinian point of view regarding the events leading to the 1948 war, and even criticise or take responsibility for some of the harsh consequences for the Palestinian people.

Teff-Seker commented on Elhanan-Peled's scholarship that, "In the past, I have found that Nurit Peled Elhanan's work ignores general trends in Israeli textbooks supported by other reports and academic publications (e.g. support for coexistence, aspiration for peace) and focuses on a few examples, often taken out of context." 

IAM also contacted Dr. Arnon Groiss, a scholar of Middle Eastern studies and a retired journalist of Israel's Arabic Radio service, who has been studying, since the year 2000, the attitude to the 'other' and to peace in various Middle Eastern curricula, including the Israeli one. He wrote that,

 


I have been following Prof. Peled-Elhanan's work for fifteen years. I first met her in 2003 at a European Council panel where I presented the case of Palestinian schoolbooks' attitude to the Jewish-Israeli 'other' while she talked about the Israeli schoolbooks' attitude to Palestinians. Having spent 12 years in Israeli schools I was astonished to hear that the books I had learned from were promoting the massacre of Palestinians. I was further amazed of her accusation that Israeli schoolbooks were teaching territorial expansion while ignoring the Hebrew text of the very source she presented, which described Israel's agreements with its neighbors regarding the determination of their mutual borders. Three years later I decided to trace her sources and got the seven Israeli schoolbooks she had based her findings on and read them thoroughly. I found out that she had created a picture of a racist and murderous Israeli curriculum based on 1) distorted source material - that is, leaving out all pieces of evidence that contradicted her thesis, 2) invented "data" and 3) illogical interpretation of the evidence.
Following are some examples:
1) She claimed that the 7 books she studied were denying Palestinian peoplehood and nationalism. I found over 20 examples to the contrary, including an assignment requiring students to describe the development of Palestinian nationalism in the years 1919-1939. She claimed the Israeli schoolbook never showed Palestinian figures and I found 15 photographs of Palestinians in those 7 books. She said that the Palestinian Arab city of Nazareth did not appear on the map and I found 16 such appearances. She further claimed that Israeli textbooks condoned massacres of Palestinians, in sharp contrast to the books' condemnation of the massacres of Deir Yassin and Kafar Qassem.
2) Peled-Elhanan accused the Israeli schoolbooks of having a racist Euro-centrist perspective, because one of them used the expression "far-away Yemen" when comparing to Russia and the Balkan, wrongly assuming that Yemen was the closest to Israel.
3) She further accused the Israeli textbooks of racism because they used the term "Arab" for the minority population in Israel, suggesting it was derogatory, notwithstanding the fact that that population itself used that very term. She also interpreted a decorative picture of two Israeli soldiers on top of a map as a sign of expansionism since one of them aimed his weapon towards Syria [but the other soldier pointed his rifle at his fellow soldier!]. Finally, she claimed that the Israeli schoolbooks' "positive" view of the massacres against the Palestinians was proved by their discussion of those massacres' benefits to Israel's cause, and she brought as an example the ruling against obeying unlawful orders that was issued following the Kafr Qassem massacre in 1956. But the wide discussion of that ruling in the books contradicts her very thesis of massacre indoctrination!  
In short, Prof. Peled-Elhanan's thesis proved to be falsely-based and, accordingly, should not be considered a scholarly work. She stated her preconceived thesis based on her personal political agenda and tried hard to find evidence to support it. She failed, for the simple reason that Israeli schoolbooks do not contain significant racist material, let alone massacre indoctrination. But she was not deterred and made formidable efforts to create evidence.

Both Teff-Seker and Groiss published chapters in the 2018 book Multiple Alterities: Views of Others in Textbooks of the Middle East, (eds.) Elie Podeh and Samira Alayan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).  

It is not surprising that Elhanan-Peled's research is not included in this respectable compilation of academic articles which deals with her research topic.   





---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: billcope@illinois.edu <billcope@illinois.edu>
Date: Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 4:48 PM
First Name : William Cope

Dear Board Members and Readers of the Academic Israeli Monitor, We write in relation to your blog post of July 5, 2018, “A Complaint against HUJ Prof. Nurit Elhanan-Peled:” http://www.israel-academia-monitor.com/index.php?type=large_advic&advice_id=9154&page_data%5Bid%5D=173&cookie_lang=en

We are the organizers of the International Conference on Learning, Common Ground Research Networks, and the host university, the University of Athens. We want to tackle your post at two levels. The first is the principle of free speech in a university setting. Prof. Nurit Elhanan-Peled is entitled to present an argument at the conference, no matter how unpalatable it may seem from the point of view of AIM. Our sole criterion in accepting Dr Elhanan-Peled’s paper was the rigor of its theoretical premises and its methodologies of empirical analysis. We do not judge papers on the social conclusions they draw if they are solidly grounded in scholarly principles and practices. Academic Israeli Monitor evidently represents a different ethico-political perspective from Prof. Elhanan-Peled. We would equally welcome the perspective of AIM’s supporters in the conference so long as they were well grounded theoretically and empirically. On these principles we were also pleased to have had Dr. Julia Muchnik-Rozanov attend the conference, whose views are evidently more in sympathy with those of AIM. However, at a second level, we are disturbed by the nature and tenor of AIM’s reporting. We wonder what it means to question state or university sponsorship of critical scholarship—surely critical dialogue is to be valued in a democracy? We also wonder what the effects of “monitoring” are intended to be in a democratic society? One minor empirical detail: for her critique to be adequately informed, Dr Muchnik-Rozanov should not have left, as she says she did, a few minutes after the start of Dr Elhanan-Peled’s presentation. Moreover, one of our conference organizers reports that nobody left the session after it had started. Dr Muchnik-Rozanov’s and Dr Elhanan-Peled’s voices were both welcome at our conference. We will continue welcome a diversity of perspectives at our conferences, even if AIM does not welcome such diversity in Israel. 

 Sincerely, 

 Dr William Cope Director, Common Ground Research Networks NFP Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
 Dr Thomas Babalis Professor of Teaching Methodology Dean of School of Education National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Hosting University of Conference 

 IN THE INTEREST OF BALANCED REPORTING, PLEASE POST THE ABOVE RESPONSE ON THE PAGE OF YOUR WEBSITE THAT RAISES THESE QUESTIONS 



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