Woodrow Wilson, when he addressed Congress urging it to commence hostilities with Germany, declared that the war would “make the world safe for democracy.” Apparently, the pro-Israel neocons at the Shalem Center are engaging in a war of a different sort.
Concerned that Israeli universities are a hotbed of Israel-hatred and unwilling to develop a ideological cadre of sufficiently pro-Israel students, the Center has applied to the Israeli educational authority for approval to launch its own rightist undergraduate program, Shalem College:
The Shalem Center, a conservative-right wing research institute…initiated the establishment of an elite college for the humanities. Last week, the Shalem Center filed an application with the Council for Higher Education in Israel for the opening of an institution of higher learning that would be authorized to grant B.A. degrees in liberal arts. The academic degree would be a multi-disciplinary program in the humanities and economics, and sources familiar with the initiative described the teaching staff as “representing the entire political spectrum of Zionism.”
“The entire spectrum of Zionism?” Really. What they really mean is they’ll represent the “entire spectrum” of pro-Israel thought. Anyone insufficiently ideologically pure need not apply. Why would any student interested in Zionism not want to study non- or anti-Zionist thinkers? Wouldn’t you think you’d want to learn what critics of Zionism have written so you could develop your own critical thinking on the subject?
Here is a passage from the College’s mission statement:
Shalem College is designed to be a long-term investment aimed at bringing about a strategic change in the position of the Jewish state and the Jewish people as a whole. Our goal is the establishment of an elite institution of higher education that will serve as a “College of the Jewish People,” a college which will be devoted to nurturing an entirely different kind of Israeli and Jewish leadership…
Though the College manifesto compares itself to Ivy League schools like Princeton, it is closer in elitist ambition to Milton Friedman’s University of Chicago especially the more right-wing of its programs like economics.
Though the College’s website is extremely careful about disguising its ideological prejudices, you can glimpse them here:
Expanded attention to Western texts and traditions that permit a more fruitful dialogue with Jewish tradition. The college will relate to a wider selection of Western traditions than has become fashionable in many leading universities, including: treatment of the tradition of Western nation states as a legitimate alternative to expressly internationalist goals and values…
Calling it Shalem College is much too prosaic. Since undoubtedly they’ve tapped their major funder, Shelly Adelson (I guess he’s not entirely bankrupt yet), they could call it the Adelson School for Right-Thinking Pro-Israel Zionists. And since I find it hard to believe there will be students breaking down the door to enroll, they might have to ask Shelly to pay them to do so. That would be an interesting reversal of the traditional college relationship in which students generally pay for the education they receive.
Let’s take a look at the faculty who will represent the “entire spectrum of Zionism:”
One characteristic of the lecturers listed as the college’s founders is that they are all known to be highly critical of the ‘leftist’ academia and ‘leftist’ intellectual approaches, such as those of post-colonialism and post-modernism. Among the narrow list of lecturers intended to be part of the institution are Professor Yoav Gelber, a historian who opposes the ‘new historians’ in Israel; Dr. Martin Kramer, who wrote many books and articles against the influence of Edward Said; and Professor Yosef Gorni, a historian of the Labor movement and a well known critic of post-Zionism in Israeli academia.
“The idea is to create an elite institution in the humanities and social sciences,” Professor Gelber, who currently teaches at the University of Haifa, said on Friday. “I look at the condition of humanities in the universities and the situation is very bad. Humanities are in crisis.”
The post-modern inclinations in academia are a main reason for the drop in the popularity of humanities, according to Gelber. “They teach all the post-modern silliness, and therefore no one is interested in it. If you are talking about a drop in the standing of humanities, then this is also part of it.”
Actually, I think they’re missing a few necessary faculty additions: David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and Norman Podhoretz really must be included to attain a balanced ideological spectrum running from the mere right to the beyond-Pluto right.
The academic mission of this institution seems a pipe dream:
The plan is for a select group of candidates to be accepted to the college every year – ‘cream of society’ is how those behind the project describe the future students, who are intended to serve as the future leaders in business, governance and social initiatives. Students will be selected on the basis of their exams, intellectual capabilities and motivation to influence.
In other words, they’re attempting to create an academic version of Aipac. The ambition is breathtaking, astonishing and foolhardy beyond belief. Though they certainly will receive accreditation from the current rightist government.
We should keep our eyes open for announcements about which academic propagandists have accepted positions at this new Zionist indoctrination program.
By the way, there are two words you will never see in this institution’s website or curriculum (unless it’s in a derisive context): Arab and Islam. They will introduce their students to western civilization and its great books. Ditto for Jewish tradition. But not a word will be spoken about Islam or Arab civilization–at least if you can believe the website. This will be an interesting stretch when they have to study Jewish civilization in medieval Spain, since the cross-fertilization between the two cultures was extensive and you can’t understand Jewish Spain without understanding Moorish Spain. And how will they approach Rambam, a product of such cultural co-mingling who served an Egyptian caliph as court physician and wrote in Judeo-Arabic?
I suppose they could somehow erase any Jewish interaction with Arab culture and Islam. It would be quite a feat, but certainly not beyond someone of the academic skills of Martin Kramer.