By *Ben Dror Yemini, Senior writer and Editorial Board Maariv, Israel Daily Newspaper
Israeli universities were not established with the purpose of promoting any Zionist vision of Israel.
A call for an academic boycott of Israel or a call to dismiss professors from the left or right is worthy of condemnation.
Yet when respected branches of Israeli academia allow themselves to become tools of an anti-Zionist vision and branches of radical left-wing NGO’s – it is imperative to make that known.
The problem arises when the right to publicize and criticize is met with a counter campaign designed to intimidate exposure and criticism, and that is what threatens both freedom of expression and the public discourse.
A case in point:
The official description (http://law.huji.ac.il/merkazim.asp?cat=936&in=610 ) of a course given at an Israeli university reads as follows:
“The course will focus on the controlling techniques which were generated by the context of the Israeli occupation in the territories. We will study the historic sources of these techniques and will attempt to place them within the colonial context, especially that of the British and French.”
Sounds somewhat dubious, nevertheless it is not a crime to teach about the “Israeli Occupation” and it is even permissible to force an artificial connection to Western colonization from previous centuries.
The course description continues as follows: “In addition to Prof. Yehuda Shenhav, attorney Michael Spharad will oversee the course as a guest lecturer and as legal advisor to the Yesh Din NGO – Volunteers for Human Rights. Twice a month the students will participate in activities within the framework of Yesh Din’s “Monitoring the Military Courts Project” and with “Machsom Watch’s” District Coordination and Liaison Aid Project.
“The students, working under the guidance and supervision of the above organizations, will document, advocate and confront IDF
Civil Administration authorities, while keeping a precise, daily record of the activities. Their activities will be overseen by attorney Yael Barda, on the individual level and as a group. The students will receive transportation fare to places of activity in addition to a yearly stipend of NIS 1,450. At the end of the year, students will submit an article based on their activities and experiences relating to the theoretical content of the course. Some of the articles will be included in a booklet edited by Prof. Shenhav, Michael Spharad and Yael Barda and in cooperation with the above organizations.”
Is this an academic course or is it the deliberate brainwashing conducted by three people who have never attempted to conceal their partisan political identity?
Is this an academic seminar, or is it an action workshop of radical left wing organizations?
Should a university be permitted, following a course that masquerades as an academic course, to publish a book written in cooperation with partisan political organizations?
We did not have to go to the university with these questions, since from experience we know their automatic answer is:” Freedom of Expression”.
The Syllabus that followed gets even worse.
A series of articles of which, perhaps apart from one, could successfully serve as an “introduction to political brainwashing for the purpose of delegitimizing the State of Israel”.
There is also a movie included in the syllabus: “The Specialist”, directed by one of the most lethal anti-Israel directors, Ayal Chason.
The movie is based on Hannah Arendt’s, “The Banality of Evil” (http://www.tau.ac.il/~shura1/1/paper1.PDF ). Nazism, according to Arendt, is the result of bureaucratic banality.
There is no need to create the explicit connection and I have no idea whether or not one was made in that course.
However the analogy is obvious. Murderous Nazism and the Israeli Occupation have in common the same bureaucratic banality.
Pravda, from the Dark Age of the USSR could learn a thing or two in this seminar. They can also continue to profess innocence and say, “Us brainwashing? What are you talking about?!”
The movie itself poses as a documentary. In actual fact, a thorough examination proves it to be a work of fraud. Hillel Tryster (http://www.notes.co.il/eshed/32229.asp), who was the director of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, examined the film and concluded that it was a perverse fraud.
It goes hand in hand with the Lie Industry.
In addition, the legal advisor to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University filed a complaint against the movie, claiming that many sections of the “documentary” film were forged (http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/Eichmann/trialfilm_forgery.htm .)
Sivan’s manipulations are indeed worthy of study within the scaffold of lessons in the law of brainwashing in the cinema – not as a seminar course in the Faculty of Law.
This course is obviously not included in the list of requirements at the Islamic University in Gaza, nor in a Political Science course in Teheran.
It is a course that appears on the official listing of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University.
It is doubtful whether one can call it a course.
More accurate would be to define it as a left-wing political workshop with political content coupled with a movie that the same university filed a complaint against as being fraudulent, yet, nevertheless is included in a course masquerading as academic.
In another course taught by Shenhav at the Tel Aviv University, there are no less than 38 referrals to articles published in the blatantly anti-Zionist magazine, “Theory and Criticism” of which. Shenhav is editor. Brainwashing? Of course not! They’ll call it “Critical Discourse”.
“Partnership” (seminar for student activists), another ambitious project of the Hebrew University, is organized by dozens of NGO’s, mostly from the radical left. The “Nakba” is presented there by an activist from the radical left organization, “Zochrot”, which advocates the Right of Return and the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Can such a concentrated brainwashing, blatantly anti-Zionist “course” be termed an academic issue? And where is the Council for Higher Education? Where is the Minister of Education? And why do Israeli taxpayers have to fund such a “seminar”?
And as it was revealed in correspondent Yishai Friedman’s article in the Makor Rishon newspaper, The New Israel Fund grants
NIS 7,400 Scholarships to students participating in the Fund’s NGO’s activities (http://rotter.net/forum/scoops1/22416.shtml).
This takes place at the Politics and Government course at the Ben-Gurion University.
Does this collaboration with a blatant political group, including NGO’s from the radical left fall under the definition of “academic freedom of expression”?
Is there a connection between this collaboration and the fact that the person who heads this class calls for an academic boycott on Israel? Is that what the heads of the academia mean, when they publicize automatic support for any anti-Zionist performance masquerading as academic? Or perhaps they intend to demand that any information on the topic go through a preliminary censure.
The Legitimacy of de-legitimization
Following these words another thing needs to be stated: Despite the fact that Shenhav is very close to Balad – The National Democratic Assembly party [before the elections he hosted Hanin Zuabi at a house meeting in his home (http://www.tajamoa.org/?mod=article&ID=834 )] and despite of the fact that the other two collaborators for the “seminar” are radical left-wing activists, and despite the fact that the above seminar is molded according to their radical views, and despite the fact that the case in point is political preaching and on the ground political activity – the seminar is legitimate.
That is the meaning of academic freedom. It needs to provoke, anger and deviate from the consensus.
Therefore, there is no place for calling for the dismissal of professors or an ultimatum to be given to the university so that it should mend its ways. Threatening with boycotts is ugly and unnecessary whether it emanates from the left or the right.
But there is one more thing that is permitted to do: to publicize the existence of these courses, what they consist of, their motivations and political tilt, their brainwashing. And it is acceptable to reveal the fact that for some reason, under the umbrella of “academic freedom”, there is no chance of finding an academic seminar that refers its students to “practicum” within the framework of, for example, “Arteret Kohanim”, and then to publish a joint booklet in conjunction with the NGO.
It is also permissible to disclose that the vast majority of professors from the Political Science and Sociology Departments hold extreme anti-Zionist views.
Since anyone who says differently, claims that he and his ilk are allowed everything. But anyone who so much as dares to think differently is not permitted to utter a word. Not allowed to criticize, expose or refute. The reason for that is because the sanctity of the academia is reserved exclusively for the radical left. Every word of criticism is met with cries of “McCarthyism”, “Fascism”, and other “isms” from the bla blas of the academic Department of Freedom.
In a soon to be published article, Prof. Amnon Rubenstein states that according to German constitution, academic freedom of expression is a constitution right as long as it is not (and that’s an important condition) exploited to undermine the constitutional foundation of the country.
Thus, the restraint imposed upon the academia, within the context of their role in molding the students’ minds, is even greater than that of the rest of society. This is not a suggestion to adopt the German model, but food for thought for the purpose of the public debate so essential in this area.
Sociology in the Service of Demonization
Over the past years, much data has been accumulated which deals with the anti-Zionist tilt in academic courses, and about “academic conferences”( http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/529/615.html ), that have nothing to do with academia and were sponsored by political groups. Here and there a few examples were publicized.
And that is only the tip of the iceberg.
Dr, Hannan Moses conducted a research for the Institute for Zionist Strategies, about the post-Zionist tilt in the Sociology Faculties (http://izs.org.il/documents/Post%20Zionism%20in%20the%20Academy-Draft.doc ).
The findings were unequivocal. Their research yields an insightful document, a journey into a maze of darkness.
The draft and the draft alone, was sent to the Council for Higher Education and to close to 1,000 academics. Not to protest. Not to silence. For the sole purpose of presenting the findings and receive feedback in preparation for its final publication.
Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Prof, Joseph Klafter, President of Tel Aviv University, asked to have a look at the claims.
He asked to be shown the syllabi of certain courses.
That was the beginning of the “Gevalt” Campaign.
How dare he examine anything?
And once again, like a Pavlovian chain reaction, the refrain of the usual name thrashing, “Fascism!”, “McCarthyism!”
The academic Thought Police adulates freedom, critique, defiance, provocation – on one condition: that this right be the post-Zionists’ monopoly.
The Thought Police achieved their purpose: There will be no investigation.
Predictably, the Ha’Aretz newspaper is leading the campaign to silence the criticism. In an editorial under the title of “Politruks in Academia” (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/politruks-in-academia-1.308486 ), the newspaper teamed up with the one and only Yehudah Shenhav, who of course was screeching “McCarthyism”! The same Shenhav, who is attempting to turn the academia into a branch of “Balad” and who is leading a seminar in brainwashing sponsored by a series of left-wing organizations.
Interestingly enough, the only newspaper in Israel that preached against silencing voices in the academia, was a guest op-ed written in the same Ha’aretz newspaper. (http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1059719.html ), when Pnina Baruch-Sharvit was supposed to give a course at the Tel Aviv University.
Baruch-Sharvit served in the military attorney’s office and as part of her job, she had to authorize certain military activities.
The enlightened newspaper decided to file claims against her for her “war crimes” and rashly hurried to convict and defame her.
And this same McCarthyism newspaper has the audacity to preach about academic freedom!
A World Phenomenon
A study in the United States (http://www.criticalreview.com/2004/pdfs/cardiff_klein.pdf) reveals data, supposedly indicating, that political tilting exists in every university. In certain faculties, the Republican: Democratic ratio was 1:5, 1:10 or 1:20 in favor of the Democrat professors (left-wing in Israeli terminology). Except the difference between the US and Israel is immense. The democrats in the US consist of 50% of the population while in Israel. the post-Zionists are only a small fraction in Israeli society. The problem isn’t the dovish tilting or even the left-wing politics of many professors. The problem lies in the fact that their common denominator is much more far-reaching: Denial of Israel’s right as a Jewish democratic state.
Whoever researches crimes committed against the natives in North America or Australia, does not rule out their right to exist, nor do they demand the “Right of Return” for millions of others.
This is not the case with Israel. Here we have political indoctrination which undermines the very state of Israel which masquerades under the label of “academic freedom”.
Professors or Radical Left-Wing Activists?
Dr. Moses’s research presents the model of Prof. Oren Yiftachel, whom has become one of the post-Zionists’ senior spokesmen. In “academic” articles, Yiftachel rejects the definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in addition to raising a new generation of academics.
Moses points out how Yiftachel’s students mimic what they learn from their teacher:
“The term indoctrination stars in these studies that include a consistent use of terminology and theories from the Post-Zionism School of academia and in particular from the teachings of Oren Yiftachel.
“The repetitive conclusions reached in these papers all prophesize in one voice: The Jewish-Zionist collective created a non-democratic system in order to expand at the expense of the Palestinian People…the Zionist-National ethos represents the basis of the discrimination, disinheritance and exclusion of the Palestinian residents of Israel and the required condition of how to transform the State of Israel into an enlightened and democratic state is to cancel the Jewish nature and Zionism of the state and transform it into a liberal-civilian, multi-cultured and post-national ethos.”
If this were to be one approach among many, so be it.
But when all of Yiftachel’s advanced degree students are a generic clone of himself – this is not about a critical or academic discourse. This is pure political propaganda.
Many of Yiftachel’s students are active in radical left-wing NGO’s. The fact of the matter is, it is doubtful whether there is a separation between their political activities to their academic activities.
The result is frightening: A powerful campaign with one purpose: Revoking the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their own country.
What they don’t Teach
Prof. Ephraim Ya’ar, who is not suspect of right-wing tendencies and who is highly critical of the right, stated in an article he published lately in Ha’aretz newspaper (https://secure.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1176810.html), that “academic freedom is in danger also from the side of the radical left.”
Ya’ar had no problem in what was taught in the required classes. His problem was with what is not taught. He requested a broad and critical dialogue. Some of his colleagues, it turns out, prefer an indoctrination dialogue.
Hence the problem is not in the learning material from the School of post-nationalism, post-colonialization or anti-Zionism. The problem is that against this abundance of anti-Zionism, there is very little alternative study material.
Many of the graduates of the anti-Zionist course are totally unaware that over 50 million people have experienced the difficult process of forced transfer and population exchange in order to create new states and nations (http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archives/009518.shtml); or that the Jewish Nakba was worse than the Palestinian one (http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2009/05/ben-dror-yemini-the-jewish-nakba-expulsi/); or that the “Venice Committee” (http://amnonrubinstein.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=546&Itemid=101), that was founded by the European Union, recognizes the laws that were intended, in certain areas, to give priority for the sake of preserving an ethnic majority or national ambience of a group majority (Benefit Laws); or that the right of self-determination of the nations, includes the Jewish nation, just like the Slovakians, Armenians or Palestinians.
Academia does not have to serve as a mouthpiece for the Zionist vision. And even when parts of the academia become a tool in the hands of the anti-Zionist vision and the radical left NGO’s – there is no place for censorship or banning.
However, it is necessary to expose, critique and demand a public discourse.
The problem is there are those who wish to suppress any of those who wish to engage in such a public discourse
The Vicious Cycle
Advancement of many researchers is dependent upon publication in academic journals in the West, where some are dominantly anti-Zionist.
The chances are higher for publishing an anti-Zionist article. The result of this is, as the research indicates, that post-Zionist academics get far more exposure.
There is a dangerous vicious cycle here.
Since promotion is dependent on publication, the anti-Zionists benefit from an immense advantage.
Anyone exposed to these “publications” knows that it about one article with endless generic mutations.
Their writing is uniform, using identical phraseology such as ethnocracy, Zionist colonialism, oppression, narrative, Nakba, ethnic cleansing, gaining control over territories, exclusion – their publication is assured. They quote one another, justify one another, and radicalize one another, while creating a sticky hotbed of orthodox hegemony, with single-minded thinking of the Bolshevik creed.
Prof. Shlomo Zand from Tel Aviv University published a book about the fabricated invention of the Jewish People.
According to the writer, the Jews of today are descendants of communities that have converted to Judaism and have no connection to the Jews of the past, and they are in fact religious tribes, not a nation. Serious academics – there are some and they are still the majority – refute most of the claims in the book. This did not interfere with the book becoming an international best-seller.
There is nothing like an Israeli academic in the service of the anti-Zionist claim: there is no Jewish People, therefore they have no rights to a state. The tremendous success of the book made it an intellectual terrorist attack. No book refuting Zand’s nonsense, no matter how excellently researched and written, will be met with such success.
The reason for this is because something got messed up. It’s not only the level of the publication that determines its success. It is the political orientation that determines the ticket to success.
Orwell on the Silencing Orthodoxy
It must be clearly stated: the leading universities are not dominantly anti-Zionists. The majority of the professors fulfill their jobs fairly, and most of the professors with radical views do not impose their opinions on their students.
The research is limited to the Sociology faculties and indicates a slant and certain direction. The danger is not that someone exposed the direction, but in the automatic response that does not allow the voicing of criticism.
The disease may well spread. The academic freedom in Israel is indeed in danger, but not because someone dared to expose the high, exaggerated, somewhat crazed anti-Zionist quantities in certain faculties.
George Orwell had already written: “Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness”.
That is exactly what is happening today in parts of the Israeli academia. There is no “critical discourse”, as the whining Kazaks claim, only “Orthodox discourse”.
No need for banning and contacting the university donors and there is no place for dismissing professors. For the sake of free academic expression, it is necessary to expose the unpleasant facts about parts of the academia for the sake of a profound public discourse.
Before publication, I sent this blog for comment to about 60 academics, almost all from the left but not anti-Zionist. From close to 30 who have responded so far, only two claimed that the article was way off mark. Many added intelligent comments and a few volunteered reinforcing examples.
One professor, who teaches in the social-economics field and whose researches are critiqued, sent me the syllabi of the course he gives, where he instructs his students to read articles that disagree with him – and not in a figurative dosage.
That’s how it should be.
Most of the comments have been taken into account and they appear in the present version. The final responsibility, needless to say, is mine alone.
*Ben Dror Yemini, was born in Tel-Aviv , Israel in 1954, on the eve of Passover.
Hence the name, Ben Dror: the son of freedom..
He studied Humanities and History in Tel Aviv University , and later on he studied Law. After his university studies, he was appointed advisor to the Israeli Minister of Immigration Absorption and then became the spokesman of the Ministry.
In 1984, he began his career as a journalist and essayist and published the book “Political Punch” which deals in a critical way with politics and society in Israel. He worked as a lawyer and was a partner in a law firm. Since 2003 he is the opinion-editor of the daily newspaper Maariv and also published many articles and essays in other journals.
In recent years he researched and published “Industry of lies ” about publications against the State of Israel and its Jewish character, which he considers false. In this framework, he published a series of research articles about the Israeli-Arab conflict in which he examined the issues of genocide, refugees, Palestinian and Arab capital, the status of Israeli Arabs , Multiculturalism , and the status of women. All these articles included a comparative study about each topic.
According to Yemini, “the modern Anti-Zionism is a politically correct Antisemitism “. He argued that the same way Jews were demonized, Israel is demonized, the same way the right of Jews to exist was denied, the right for Self-determination is denied from Israel, the same way Jews were presented as a menace to the world, Israel is presented as a menace to the world. In his comparative studies, he presents the huge gap between the myths against Israel, from one hand, and the real facts, from the other hand.