Professor Rivka Carmi, the new president of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, actually views overseas Jewish donors to BGU as the real threat to academic freedom at her school.
She says so in the Hebrew quarterly Academia (number 17, winter 2006-7), which is published by the Committee of University Heads, a sort of lobby group on behalf of the universities.
But let’s back up a little here. Ben-Gurion University is arguably the worst den of anti-Israel campus radicalism, “New History” (meaning pseudo-history) and “Post-Zionism” in Israel, though the competition for that title is keen.
Despite being named after David Ben Gurion, BGU is home to many of the worst academic extremists in Israel, including Neve Gordon, Lev Grinberg, Oren Yiftachel, Amnon Raz-Karkutzkin, and a host of others.
At the initiative of BGU’s past president, Dr. Avishai Braverman, Ben-Gurion University hired “New Historian” Benny Morris back in the days when no other university in Israel considered Morris a bona fide scholar. (To his credit, Morris in recent years has been having second thoughts about his earlier bash-Israel activism, and on some days of the week he is even pro-Israel.)
In some quarters Ben-Gurion University has earned the nickname “Bir Zeit of the Negev.” (Bir Zeit is a Palestinian university on the West Bank known for its Hamas sympathies and role in producing terrorists.)
While some of the departments at BGU are excellent and maintain the highest standards of academic performance, others are definitely not so, especially in some of the humanities and the softer social sciences. In several departments at BGU, turning out malicious anti-Israel political propaganda constitutes scholarship. There, such propagandizing is not only sufficient condition for a faculty member to be hired and granted tenure, it can also be a necessary condition. In some departments at BGU it is simply the case that no non-leftists or pro-Zionists are permitted to teach. In the political science department, the single pro-Israel faculty member was fired because he refused to endorse the dominant Post-Zionist party line. Things are not much better in the history, psychology, and geography departments. BGU lecturers have been involved in promoting frivolous prosecutions of Israeli army officers in Europe as supposed “war criminals.” Several faculty members at BGU openly call for Israel to be eliminated and replaced by a Rwanda-style bi-national state run by the PLO with an Arab majority. BGU geographer Oren Yitachel routinely denounces Israel as an apartheid state. BGU sociologist Lev Grinberg made headlines a couple of years back for his claim that Israel was engaging in “symbolic genocide against Palestinians” when it assassinates arch-terrorists and mass murderers.
For many years, the political extremists were not only coddled and condoned by people running BGU, but were downright celebrated by them. BGU was headed for many years by Avishai Braverman, under whom anti-Israel extremism and in-classroom political indoctrination by faculty members proliferated.
When Braverman left BGU to try to make his way in politics, he was replaced by Prof. Rivka Carmi, a pediatrician and geneticist. Carmi’s appointment was celebrated all over the world because she was the first woman university president in Israel.
While Carmi’s political proclivities are not as well known as Braverman’s, she too is an unabashed left-winger who proudly declares herself a “socialist” (page 34, Academia interview). Under certain extreme circumstances she would endorse international boycotts of Israeli universities, she says (page 36).
Carmi also makes it a practice, she tells the Academia interviewer, to run out and shake the hands of leftist students at Ben-Gurion University when they hold protests against the “conquest” (Carmi’s word). “Conquest,” kibush in Hebrew, is the nonsense term the Left uses to refer to Israel’s presence in the West Bank, Golan, or in Jerusalem outside the 1967 borders. Carmi adds that she would decidedly not
shake the hands of student protesters expressing the opposite point of view (page 34). In other words, she is not in favor of student activism as a general phenomenon – only when it appeals to her own radical and leftist prejudices. Her lack of interest in political pluralism is quite clear from her words in the interview, but not only from them. While every university in Israel has its anti-Zionist leftist radicals, there is a distinct and crucial difference between Ben-Gurion University and all the other schools. Administrators and officials at other universities often quietly tolerate the extremists, turning a blind eye to their activities. In some cases campus heads have openly denounced anti-Israel faculty members.The current rector of the University of Haifa, a Zionist leftist, led an unsuccessful campaign to have anti-Zionist extremist Ilan Pappe’s tenure revoked. The current president of Tel Aviv University, himself a man of the Left, denounced campus radical professors for trying to prevent the opening of an Iranian Studies Center there because they feared it might “serve American interests” and fight Islamist radicalism and terrorism.
But at Ben-Gurion University, the campus heads have a track record of openly celebrating and identifying with their anti-Israel faculty extremists. BGU officials have repeatedly justified the words and actions of anti-Israel radicals teaching at BGU. Carmi herself has proclaimed one of the worst extremists at BGU, whose academic career consists of little more than producing anti-Israel screeds and propaganda, a “distinguished scholar.” BGU has paid a price for its coddling of its faculty extremists. Expressions of outrage against BGU’s anti-Israel extremists are becoming more frequent among American Jews. Some BGU officers and representatives are increasingly complaining that the university has gained a reputation for being a center of anti-Israel radicalism. Evidently, university officials are feeling the heat from overseas Jewish donors. In the Academia interview noted above, Carmi attacks the donors to her own university for supposedly trying to interfere with “academic freedom” at BGU (pages 37-8) when they express opinions about what goes on there.It seems that while leftist faculty members openly calling for Israel to be annihilated are perfectly entitled to freedom of expression at BGU, overseas donors are not. Carmi declares such “pressures” from donors on the university to be unethical (her word). Donors expressing criticism of how their own funds are being spent are out of line, believes Carmi. They are people “trying to dictate the agenda of the university.” American and Canadian Jews have the moral responsibility to use their influence and make donations wisely and selectively. We should make it crystal clear to Israeli university officials that North American Jews are interested in helping build the Jewish state, not in financing academic radicals and traitors seeking to tear it down.Allyson Rowen Taylor is an activist living in Los Angeles. She was one of the founding members of Standwithus.com
and is the mother of two young men, one currently a soldier in the Nachal unit of the IDF.