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WINGNUTS SHOW THEMSELVES:
Israeli Academic Freedom at Risk
McCarthyism taking hold in Right-wing Israel
Saturday, 21 August 2010
A hostile environment is threatening Israeli academics who oppose policies they don't accept, nor should anyone respecting the rule of law, democratic freedoms, and equal justice.
Born in Haifa, the son of German-Jewish immigrants who fled during the Nazi period, noted historian Ilan Pappe left Israel in summer 2007, telling London Guardian writer Chris Arnot he began "feeling for a while like public enemy No. 1" for his anti-Zionist views and supporting a boycott against Israeli universities, saying:
Now chairing Britain's Exeter University's history department, he explained by the time he left, the Knesset publicly condemned him and Israel's education minister, Yuli Tamir, wanted him sacked.
In addition, death threats came by mail, email and phone, and his picture once appeared in Israel's "biggest-selling newspaper at the centre of a target," the caption reading: "I'm not telling you to kill this person, but I shouldn't be surprised if someone did."
An environment this hostile got him to leave, the same one today afflicting other Israeli academics, opposing policies they don't accept, nor should anyone respecting the rule of law, democratic freedoms, and equal justice, endangered species in Israel for Jews - non-existent for Occupied Palestinians and Israeli Arab citizens.
On August 17, a Haaretz editorial headlined "Politruks (Russian for political commissars) in academia," citing a report submitted by the extremist hard right Im Tirtzu movement to the Knesset and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar wanting research prohibited unless it:
On August 10, Haaretz writer or Kashti headlined, "Im Tirtzu threatens boycott of Israeli university over 'anti-Zionist' bias," saying:
It threatened Gen-Gurion University of the Negev President/Professor Rivka Carmi in July "to put an end to (its politics and government department) anti-Zionist tilt" or face a donor boycott and campaign to "advise political science students to stay away from the university." Im Tirtzu (IT) gave Carni one month to comply.
Heads of all Israeli universities responded saying:
Ben-Gurion's Professor David Newman, a tireless Israeli academic boycott campaigner, said IT's threat is "a clear attempt to threaten the university in an era of diminishing financial resources," calling its accusations "very far from the truth."
IT charged 11 permanent faculty members for their "radical left-wing" political activities, six for signing a letter supporting refusal to serve in the military, and two research fellows for their "anti-Zionist worldview." Professor Neve Gordon was included for advocating a "social, economic and political boycott of Israel."
In addition, IT called the department's course syllabi heavily (tilted) toward "anti-national and anti-Zionist content," adding:
Further, Carni was accused of "apathy that has enabled an academic dictatorship to overpower academic freedom."
Ben-Gurion University didn't respond directly, but called the accusations "scandalous," saying they violate "everything that is sacred to academia. The very act of responding to (Im Tirtzu) would give this right-wing organization legitimacy." It deserves condemnation instead.
On August 19, Haaretz writer Or Kashti headlined, "Right-wing groups join forces to fight 'anti-Zionist bias' in Israeli academia," saying:
Democratic freedoms have greatly eroded under Netanyahu's extremist government, including by the Knesset's proposed Loyalty Oath bill, requiring all Israeli citizens, including Israeli Arabs, swear allegiance to a "Jewish, Zionist, and democratic State," its emblems and values, and perform military or civic service as a condition for a national identity card signifying citizenship.
On July 20, Israel's cabinet approved it, Netanyahu praising a way to maintain Israel's "Jewish and democratic character." The Israeli Association for Civil Rights condemned it, calling it "racist (and) dangerous." The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said it would impede family reunifications and pressure non-Jews to support Zionism, effectively renouncing their heritage by doing so.
Other human rights groups and independent observers call Netanyahu's government Israel's most extremist ever, governing far to the right of center, partnered with Yisrael Beitenu, Israel's ultra-right party under Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an untranationalist/revisionist Zionist, a man Haaretz called "unrestrained and irresponsible."
A July 18 Haaretz editorial called the loyalty oath "an attempt to light a societal fuse," saying forced allegiance amounts to "tarring several large communities with disloyalty (unjustly) and opening a dangerous channel for revoking citizenship," repressively and arbitrarily, "though that may be precisely what a number of coalition lawmakers would like most."
It may also target dissident academics, Jewish ones, unwilling to pledge loyalty to lawless Israeli practices or relinquish their right to condemn them - to freely express opinions, bedrock democratic values, without fear of recrimination, including loss of citizenship.
Expressing concern, Tel Aviv University's Professor David S. Katz said "we are entering a McCarthyite phase - and I do not exaggerate....There is legislation being discussed that would limit freedom of expression in universities. The education minister has expressed satisfaction with a report that looks at the course content of professors, sniffing out 'anti-Zionist' ideology. The Knesset Education Committee (backs it). It is very bad indeed, and the universities have done little to reject this, apart from" Haifa University Rector Yossi Ben-Artzi, "who was very forthcoming."
Many academics are at risk, like Tel Aviv University's Rachel Giora for strongly supporting the Global BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement, backing Palestinian liberation, and being vocally critical of Israeli lawlessness. Others like her include Hebrew University Professor Nurit Peled-Elhannan, peace activist recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech, and one of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine's founders.
Also Professor Jeff Halper, co-founder and Coordinating Director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) who's organized and led nonviolent direct protests and civil disobedience against Israel's repressive occupation.
Ben-Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon got death threats for supporting BDS, more still for criticizing the Gaza Flotilla massacre, saying "When I walk on campus people ask in jest if I am wearing a bullet proof vest." Regarding loyalty, he says "the appropriate chant is not 'No citizenship without loyalty!' but rather 'Loyalty to every citizen!' "
He and many others defend speech and academic freedoms, hundreds of professors petitioning against Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar intention to punish university lecturers and institutions for freely using them, stating:
State measures subverting them violate core democratic principles, inviolable ones essential to defend, preserve, and challenge anyone acting against them.
Among those signing were Haifa University Rector Professor Ben Artzi, Israel Prize laureates Professors Benjamin Isaac and Yehoshua Kolodny, and former education minister, Professor Yuli Tamir. Netanyahu's extremist government opposes them, intolerant of internal opposition, even scholars, intellectuals, and universities demanding speech and academic freedoms.
Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on August 21, 2010.