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Israeli Academic Freedom at Risk

By       Message Stephen Lendman     Permalink
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Israeli Academic Freedom at Risk - by Stephen Lendman

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:

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"I supported (it) because I believe that without pressure, Israel will not end the occupation....I believe that things would change only if Israel receives a strong message that as long as the occupation continues it would not be a legitimate member of the international community, and that until then its academics, doctors and authors would not be welcome. A similar boycott was imposed on South Africa. It took 21 years, but it eventually led to the end of Apartheid."

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.

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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:

"complies with the winds blowing in the Knesset and the street....Evidently the report (wants to spread) fear in the universities, further deligitimizing Israeli intellectuals, and undermining" free expression, research and thought, Haifa University Rector/Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi calling it McCarthyist material academia must reject to stay credible.

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:

"No Israeli university has to prove its staff's love of their homeland to any organization, and certainly not to a political one that is trying to present a tendentious, manipulative document as 'research' to advance its own public relations."

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."

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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:

The department's large number of "anti-Zionist" faculty "arouses grave suspicions that the main basis for acceptance into and promotion within the department is not professional, but political."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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