Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was a fervent nationalist who would turn in his grave to hear some of the things being said by academics at the Israeli university that bears his name.
There are, of course, radicals at other Israeli universities as well, but they are particularly well represented at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Dr. Neve Gordon of BGU's political science department, for example, has written: "Israel's gravest danger today is not the PA or even Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, but the one it faces from within: fascism." And in a column on the far-Left Counterpunch Web site, he accused General Aviv Kohavi, currently IDF commander in the Gaza Strip, of "blatant violations of human rights" and of being a "war criminal."
Not surprisingly, Gordon's articles have been posted on anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi sites.
Not far behind Gordon in anti-Israeli vilification is Jeff Halper of BGU's anthropology department, who has written: "'Fortress Israel,' as we call it, is by necessity based on a culture of strength, violence and crudity. In the final analysis, it will be the bulldozer that razes the structure that once was Israel."
Other pearls by this author include: "[Israel is using] state terrorism on a scale we have not seen before"; and "A just and lasting peace will not emerge from within Israel; only international pressure can save the Palestinians from being crushed by the iron wall."
Halper heads IACHD (the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions), which openly calls for international sanctions against Israel even at a time when it is preparing for major land concessions.
Then there's Lev Greenberg, director of BGU's Humphrey Institute for Social Research, who has written:
"There is a difference between Israeli and Palestinian acts of aggression – the difference is that Israeli aggression is the responsibility of Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Shimon Peres, and Shaul Mofaz, while individual terrorist acts are done by individuals in despair, usually against Arafat's will"; "Suicide bombings killing innocent civilians must be condemned unequivocally; they are immoral acts, and their perpetrators should be sent to jail. But they cannot be compared to state terrorism carried out by the Israeli government"; "The murder of [Hamas leader] Sheik Ahmad Yassin by the government of Israel is part of a major move... which can be described as symbolic genocide."
Other BGU academics portray Israel – which has already made massive land concessions and offered further ones in a quest for peace, while creating the Palestinian Authority and helping it become the most generously assisted entity on earth – as a brutal oppressor and call for its dissolution as a Jewish state.
Oren Yiftachel of the Department of Geography and Environmental Development writes: "The actual existence of an Israeli state... can be viewed as an illusion... Israel has created a colonial setting, held through violent control"; "The establishment of a binational democratic state... appears more attractive than ever."
For Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, who teaches Jewish history, "the Zionist historical consciousness is based on suppression and the erasure of history"; "there really are Arabs who accuse me of supporting binationalism in order to preserve the Jewish people"– a charge that, apparently, stings.
A 2004 article called "Genocide by Public Policy," BGU's Michael Dahan with Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour, asserted that: "Deliberate and systematic destruction, as the definition of genocide illustrates, does not necessarily mean physical killing of people, albeit Israel is having no problem, and is facing no international outcry, in doing just that."
The value of academic freedom, and the need for expression of a wide variety of views on the problems Israeli faces, is not in question. It is a different matter whether the taxpayers and donors who fund BGU should remain indifferent when this university, responsible for educating its young people, becomes a nest for academics who deny Israel's legitimacy, advocate its dissolution, call its people Nazis, and accuse it of genocide.
Even if academic freedom is construed as being unbound by minimal notions of truth or loyalty, this should not prevent donors from conditioning their contributions carefully, and potential students and their parents from taking heed.
The writer is a freelance journalist and translator living in Jerusalem.
Bir Zeit of the Negev at Ben Gurion University
Bracha Melch Omer Israel ( 3 Mar 2005)
FAYE BITTKER, from the Department of Public Affairs
at Ben-Gurion University, insists her campus is NOT an oasis of anti-Israel extremism, as David Hornik earlier documented in the Post, but instead is a "Hebrew Oxford in the Negev". Given the absence of any academic standards applying to hiring and promotion of anti-Israel extemists there, "Bir Zeit of the Negev" would be a more apt description.
Sir, - Several recent publications in The Jerusalem Post wrongly labeled a
group of critical Israel scholars, including myself, "anti-Zionist." These
included David Hornik's "Radical oasis in the Negev" (February 28) and
Larry's Derfner's "Blacklist at the university" (March 3).
This is a fallacy which is spread without evidence. As far as I am aware,
none of the scholars mentioned in these articles opposes the
self-determination of the Jewish-Hebrew community in Israel. None of them
object to Israel being a national home for Jews.
There are of course many ways to define Zionism, and this is not the place
to enter this rich debate. But there is a vast difference between
criticizing Israeli policies - in the name of social justice, human rights
and building a sustainable future for Israelis and Palestinians - and being
This distortion is far from innocent: the labeling of this group as
"anti-Zionist" is part of a well-orchestrated international campaign of
incitement attempting to scare leftist and critical thinkers in Israel, who
refuse to keep silent in the face of the abuses carried out in the name of
There is a further irony - all the "accused" scholars live here, pay taxes,
serve in the army and raise their children as Hebrew-speaking Israelis. In
other words, they actually fulfill the main goals of Zionism. How can they
be accused as "anti-Zionist"? When this criticism is leveled by Jews living
abroad, it reaches the height of malicious hypocrisy.
PROF. OREN YIFTACHEL