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Editorial Article

The Assault by the Totalitarian Left against Academic Freedom on Israel

Sharp criticism of the "Solidarity with Ben Gurion University" movement

In recent weeks the very worst assault upon academic freedom in Israeli history has transpired in the form of a growing campaign of "solidarity" with the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University. This "department" is nothing more than an anti-Israel far-leftist propaganda and indoctrination center, containing pseudo-academics, misrepresented and disguised as a university academic department. It is also a department in which freedom of speech and academic freedom are brutally suppressed.

The department is the epitome of the ideal of the Far Left regarding what they think universities should be, namely totalitarian indoctrination centers in which students are brainwashed into Marxist and Far-Leftist ideology, in which no non-leftist dissent is tolerated.
…
The nature of the Department of Politics as a pseudo-academic
taxpayer-funded anti-Israel agitation center is well known by now. An international panel set up by Israel's Council on Higher Education investigated things and recommended that the department be shut down altogether. Since then, the anti-democratic totalitarian Left in Israel and abroad has been circling the wagons in solidarity with the department and denouncing the Israel Council on Higher Education as a fascist oppressive tool of the "Right." In typical Orwellian inversion, these enemies of academic freedom and freedom of speech demand that the BGU department of politics be preserved as a totalitarian anti-democratic indoctrination center, one in which no pluralism or diversity or dissent from leftist dogma is permitted.
…
Anyway, today (5/10/2012) the Deputy Editor of Maariv, Ben Dror Yemini, who is himself left of center but is a bona fide Zionist patriot, takes on the "Solidarity with Ben Gurion University" movement. He does so in Hebrew here:

The academic world has found itself in the heart of yet another storm in response to the recommendations to end all registration of new students in the degree programs of the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University. Hundreds have signed petitions demanding that this "assault against academic freedom" be stopped. As usual, the outward impression is supposed to be of the forces of enlightenment battling against the forces of darkness, meaning those seeking to silence "critics." This impression is worth a closer look!
…
While failures exist in many departments, the only one for which the panel issued a call that it be shut down was the politics department at Ben Gurion University, at least unless major changes and reforms were to take place in it. The CHE unanimously adopted the panel's recommendations. It is worth noting that the members of the CHE are NOT political hacks or apparatchiks and they were NOT appointed by the Right or even by the Minister of Education. The panel included two prominent and distinguished political scientists from Germany….The "reforms" were supposed to be two-fold, first in the area of recruiting faculty who could teach sub-disciplines not currently taught in the department [meaning anything other than Marxist leftism – SP] and introduction of diversity of points of view, so that not only "critical" [meaning Marxist – SP] ideology was being taught.

The department did hire three new people. [All three were also far-leftists; what grand diversity!! – SP]. No one checked up on their political opinions or challenged their credentials. The problem was with regard to the second goal. Two of the three [Yemini is wrong – actually all three – SP] were hired in direct defiance of the instructions of the CHE. The panel had criticized the fact that most of the existing departmental faculty members belong to the "critical" [meaning Marxist – SP] strand of political science, considered fringe in academia. These are people who toss out conjectures that cannot be tested or disproved in a scientific manner. The CHE ordered the department to diversify away from its monolithic "critical" makeup. So what did Ben Gurion University do? It hired MORE "critical" faculty members. One of these is not even a political scientist at all… Meaning that the department simply defied the CHE.

This is the background to the recommendation by the CHE to shut down the department! But that recommendation served as the spark for a new campaign (by the anti-Israel far Left). So instead of carrying out the CHE instructions, BGU and its department of politics launched a political campaign.
…
Those are the facts, but the "campaign" has been launched, impervious to facts and truth. Academics and journalists from around the world are sending swarms of angry messages to the CHE. Petitions inside and outside Israel are being collected. The signers are unaware of the fact that this is a battle by the CHE AGAINST those who seek to suppress pluralism and restrict academic freedom [the department of politics at BGU and its supporters – SP]. The CHE is the agency SEEKING diversity and pluralism! But it is always such fun to proclaim that Israel is a reactionary backward primitive entity that censors and silences its leftist academic critics. This is an unprecedented campaign of intimidation and distortion directed AGAINST the members of the CHE by these who would coerce them into adopting the political agenda of the Far Left. This is no academic campaign. …

 

 

The Assault by the Totalitarian Left against Academic Freedom on Israel

by Steven Plaut
7/10/2012

In recent weeks the very worst assault upon academic freedom in Israeli history has transpired in the form of a growing campaign of "solidarity" with the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University. This "department" is nothing more than an anti-Israel far-leftist propaganda and indoctrination center, containing pseudo-academics, misrepresented and disguised as a university academic department. It is also a department in which freedom of speech and academic freedom are brutally suppressed.

The department is the epitome of the ideal of the Far Left regarding what they think universities should be, namely totalitarian indoctrination centers in which students are brainwashed into Marxist and Far-Leftist ideology, in which no non-leftist dissent is tolerated. Every single member of the department of politics at BGU is a far leftist and most engage in anti-Israel agitprop such as calling for world boycotts of Israel. The functioning of such an indoctrination center at BGU is defended in the name of academic freedom and freedom of speech by Rivka Carmi, the president of BGU. She is the very same person who fired Professor Yeruham Leavitt for daring to express an opinion of disapproval in a classroom regarding children being raised by homosexual couples.[See
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/06/yeruham-leavitt-ben-gurio_n_636927.html]
 So you get the idea of what is regarded at Ben Gurion "University" as academic freedom. Suffice it to say that the single non-leftist Zionist faculty member who once taught in the department of politics was fired for incorrect thinking.

The nature of the Department of Politics as a pseudo-academic taxpayer-funded anti-Israel agitation center is well known by now. An international panel set up by Israel's Council on Higher Education investigated things and recommended that the department be shut down altogether. Since then, the anti-democratic totalitarian Left in Israel and abroad has been circling the wagons in solidarity with the department and denouncing the Israel Council on Higher Education as a fascist oppressive tool of the "Right." In typical Orwellian inversion, these enemies of academic freedom and freedom of speech demand that the BGU department of politics be preserved as a totalitarian anti-democratic indoctrination center, one in which no pluralism or diversity or dissent from leftist dogma is permitted. And all this "solidarity" is supposedly in the name of preserving academic freedom. In reality, what they want defended is the power of radical pseudo-academics to indoctrinate students in extremist ideology and to prevent all dissenting non-leftist opinion from being heard!

Anyway, today the Deputy Editor of Maariv, Ben Dror Yemini, who is himself left of center but is a bona fide Zionist patriot, takes on the "Solidarity with Ben Gurion University" movement. He does so in Hebrew here:
http://www.nrg.co.il/app/index.php?do=blog&encr_id=f2b4c1b55be76d1e6d7b777256ea0370&id=4085

Here is my translation of the relevant segments in his column:

Academic Silencing of Dissent?

By Ben Dror Yemini
5/10/2012

Here is how valid on-target criticism of the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University morphed into yet another campaign to villify Israel as a monstrosity

********

The academic world has found itself in the heart of yet another storm in response to the recommendations to end all registration of new students in the degree programs of the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University. Hundreds have signed petitions demanding that this "assault against academic freedom" be stopped. As usual, the outward impression is supposed to be of the forces of enlightenment battling against the forces of darkness, meaning those seeking to silence "critics." This impression is worth a closer look!

Reminder: The Israel Council on Higher Education (CHE) appointed an international panel of experts to examine the department in question, as part of the examination of all departments of political science in Israel. The report was submitted a year ago. Regarding the department at BGU, the panel reported finding extreme weakness in three critical areas: course content [which is academic politeness to say the courses are anti-Israel agitprop and indoctrination -- SP]; faculty [a polite way of saying they are all far-leftists and Marxists -- SP], and research [a polite way to say they engage in anti-Israel hate propaganda and not in scholarly research – SP].

While failures exist in many departments, the only one for which the panel issued a call that it be shut down was the politics department at Ben Gurion University, at least unless major changes and reforms were to take place in it. The CHE unanimously adopted the panel's recommendations. It is worth noting that the members of the CHE are NOT political hacks or apparatchiks and they were NOT appointed by the Right or even by the Minister of Education. The panel included two prominent and distinguished political scientists from Germany….The "reforms" were supposed to be two-fold, first in the area of recruiting faculty who could teach sub-disciplines not currently taught in the department [meaning anything other than Marxist leftism – SP] and introduction of diversity of points of view, so that not only "critical" [meaning Marxist – SP] ideology was being taught.

The department did hire three new people. [All three were also far-leftists; what grand diversity!! – SP]. No one checked up on their political opinions or challenged their credentials. The problem was with regard to the second goal. Two of the three [Yemini is wrong – actually all three – SP] were hired in direct defiance of the instructions of the CHE. The panel had criticized the fact that most of the existing departmental faculty members belong to the "critical" [meaning Marxist – SP] strand of political science, considered fringe in academia. These are people who toss out conjectures that cannot be tested or disproved in a scientific manner. The CHE ordered the department to diversify away from its monolithic "critical" makeup. So what did Ben Gurion University do? It hired MORE "critical" faculty members. One of these is not even a political scientist at all… Meaning that the department simply defied the CHE.

This is the background to the recommendation by the CHE to shut down the department! But that recommendation served as the spark for a new campaign (by the anti-Israel far Left). So instead of carrying out the CHE instructions, BGU and its department of politics launched a political campaign. The university hired lawyers and a public relations firm, one specialized in the political campaigns of the Left. Ben Gurion University, and please excuse my non-academic characterization, simply went bananas.

It is true that most devotees of the "critical studies" doctrine are leftists who are not particularly fond of Zionism. But the need for pluralism and diversity was bona fide academic, par excellence, and not a political initiative. That is what the international panel demanded. SO then along come the screaming rabble leaders of the "campaign" to "defend" the department at BGU, such as Prof. Zeev Sternhell
[see
http://isracampus.org.il/third%20level%20pages/Editorial%20-%20Steve%20Plaut%20-%20Sternhell%20Attack.htm
and http://www.isracampus.org.il/third%20level%20pages/HebrewU%20-%20Zeev%20Sternhell%20-%20defends%20Leftist%20McCarthyists.htm],
who have no interest in serious academic diversity of ideas. They are trying to dictate to the CHE uniformity in thought, while ignoring the panel's recommendations. …

Those are the facts, but the "campaign" has been launched, impervious to facts and truth. Academics and journalists from around the world are sending swarms of angry messages to the CHE. Petitions inside and outside Israel are being collected. The signers are unaware of the fact that this is a battle by the CHE AGAINST those who seek to suppress pluralism and restrict academic freedom [the department of politics at BGU and its supporters – SP]. The CHE is the agency SEEKING diversity and pluralism! But it is always such fun to proclaim that Israel is a reactionary backward primitive entity that censors and silences its leftist academic critics. This is an unprecedented campaign of intimidation and distortion directed AGAINST the members of the CHE by these who would coerce them into adopting the political agenda of the Far Left. This is no academic campaign. …

It is possible that the campaign by Sternhell and his ilk will succeed. If so, this will be the death of academic freedom in Israel.

========================================

Articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il