[News] Academic Witchhunts in Israel
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 16 12:13:02 EST 2009
November 16, 2009
Academic Witchhunts in Israel
Campus Watch Copy Cats
By JONATHAN COOK
Right-wing groups in Israel want to create a
climate of fear among left-wing scholars at
Israeli universities by emulating the
witch-hunt tactics of the US academic
monitoring group Campus Watch, Israeli professors warn.
The watchdog groups IsraCampus and Israel
Academia Monitor are believed to be stepping up
their campaigns after the recent publication in a
US newspaper of an Israeli professors call to boycott Israel.
Both groups have been alerting the universities
external donors, mostly US Jews, to what they
describe as subversive professors as a way to
bring pressure to bear on university
administrations to sanction faculty staff who are critical of Israeli policies.
I have no hesitation in calling this a
McCarthyite campaign, said David Newman, a
politics professor at Ben Gurion University, in
Israels southern city of Beersheva. What they are doing is very dangerous.
Last month, in what appeared to be a new tactic,
IsraCampus placed a full-page advertisement in an
official diary issued to students at Haifa
University, urging them to visit its website to
see a rogues gallery of 100 Israeli scholars
the group deems an academic fifth column.
The goal is to transform our students into spies
in the classroom to gather
information and intimidate us, a senior Israeli
lecturer said. Its a model of policing
faculty staff that has been very successful in
stifling academic freedom in the US.
Both Israel Academia Monitor, established in
2004, and the later IsraCampus, model themselves
on Campus Watch, a US organisation founded by
Daniel Pipes, an academic closely identified with
the US neoconservative movement.
Campus Watch has been widely accused of
intimidating US scholars who have expressed views
critical of US and Israeli policies in the Middle
East. The organisations goal, according to
critics, is to pressure US universities to avoid
hiring left-wing lecturers or awarding them tenure.
The advertisement placed by IsraCampus, and seen
by Haifa University students as they returned
from their summer break, warned that a number of
their professors openly support terrorist
attacks against Jews, initiate an international
boycott of Israel, exploit their status in the
classroom for anti-Israeli incitement and
anti-Zionist brainwashing, collaborate with known
who publicly call for Israels destruction.
Publication of the advert was supported by the
head of Haifas student union, Felix Koritney:
Students who study here need to know who their
lecturers are, and if there are lecturers who
oppose the state of Israel it is important to publish their names.
In a statement, Haifa University officials also
defended the advetisement after receiving a
complaint from a student who called the
advertisement incitement justifying it on the grounds of freedom of speech.
IsraCampus is associated with Steven Plaut, an
economics professor at Haifa University, who was
reported to have paid for the advertisement. On
the groups site and on his personal blog, Mr
Plaut has lambasted many Israeli left-wing academics.
IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor have
targeted professors for criticising the
occupation, joining protests against Israels
separation wall, signing petitions or attending
conferences critical of Israel, defending the UN
report of Judge Richard Goldstone on last
winters attack on Gaza, or calling for a boycott of Israel.
Both groups have focused their efforts on the
staff at Ben Gurion and Haifa universities, two
regional campuses that have attracted more outspoken dissidents.
Ilan Pappe, a former history professor at Haifa
University and the author of The Ethnic Cleansing
of Palestine, admitted he abandoned his academic
career in Israel and relocated to the UK after a campaign of vilification.
But, according to Mr Newman, Ben Gurion
University had become the groups public enemy
No 1 after publication by Neve Gordon, a
colleague of Mr Newman, of an article in the Los
Angeles Times calling for a boycott of Israel.
Despite having tenure, observers say, Mr Gordon
has come under increasing pressure from the
university to resign his position as chair of the
universitys politics department over his published views.
Rivka Carmi, president of Ben Gurion University,
issued a statement shortly after Mr Gordons
article was printed, condemning his opinions as
morally repugnant and warning that he was
welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere.
Dana Barnett, founder of Israel Academia Monitor,
has launched a petition demanding that Mr Gordon
be sacked from his position as chair, that his
courses be treated as elective rather than
compulsory for his students, and that he be denied travel and research funding.
Mr Newman said decisions about hiring and
retaining staff at Ben Gurion were still being
taken on academic grounds but that the monitoring
groups were seeking to change that by calling for
donor boycotts of universities seen to be harbouring anti-Zionist professors.
Yaakov Dayan, the Israeli consul in Los Angeles,
sent a letter to Ben Gurion University after
publication of Mr Gordons article, warning that
private benefactors were unanimous in
threatening to withhold their donations to your institution.
Although the universities are chiefly backed by
government money, external donations account for
about five per cent of their funding. With
universities struggling with large debts,
donations can be seen as leverage over the universities.
Mr Newman said the monitoring groups hoped to
redirect donations to right-wing academic
institutions and think tanks, such as the Shalem
Centre in Jerusalem, whose founding president is
the US neoconservative scholar Martin Kramer, and
Ariel College, located in a West Bank settlement near Nablus.
On his website, Mr Plaut credited IsraCampus with
forcing Tel Aviv University last week to
investigate claims by one of its professors, Nira
Hativa, that some right-wing students were afraid
to speak out in class because of fears that they
would be penalised by their lecturers.
Under questioning from the Haaretz newspaper, Ms
Hativa admitted that her allegations were based
only on intuition and personal impressions.
Both IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor have
been incensed by the support offered to Mr
Gordons call for a boycott of Israel by a small number of Israeli academics.
One such professor, Anat Matar, who teaches
philosophy at Tel Aviv University, said the
atmosphere both within the universities and more
widely in Israeli society was changing rapidly
and becoming increasingly intolerant of
dissent. Weve become a little more fascistic as a society, she said.
Mr Plaut has been at the centre of a libel battle
with Mr Gordon since 2002 after he called him a
Judenrat wannabe a reference to Jewish collaborators with the Nazis.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in
Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are
and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and
the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press)
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair
(Zed Books). His website is <http://www.jkcook.net>www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in
(<http://www.thenational.ae>www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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