Im Tirtzu, the Israeli brass knuckles hasbara outfit, has expanded its campaign for mind control over the Israeli political debate by assaulting Israeli universities. Until now, it had focussed much of its energy on attacking the New Israel Fund and other Israeli human rights NGOs for their alleged support of the Goldstone Report. Now, they have widened the assault to include the political science departments of Israeli universities, which it views as being rife with anti-Zionist professors teaching left-wing propaganda to students and demanding that they parrot it back in return for good grades.
Among the unsupported (and unsupportable) claims leveled is that 80% of the material taught in political science courses is anti-Zionist or anti-Israeli. The entirely scientific method used was for two Israelis who somehow earned PhDs to divide up the course materials (articles, books, etc) into two categories: “Zionist” and “anti-Zionist” or “post-Zionist.” How did they arrive at this distinction?
‘We used a single criterion,’ said Dr. Ron Bartz, ‘what was the stance of the author regarding the question of whether Jews have the right to a national state in the Land of Israel–yes or no. Articles defined as Zionist were virtually non-existent in course syllabi.’
The report they wrote (pdf) found that of researchers who embraced the model of “a state for all its citizens” as opposed to those who embraced Israel as a Jewish state, articles reflecting the former perspective were found 24 times in course lists and articles reflecting the latter were only found 9 times. Presumably Im Tirtzu views the former perspective as anti-Zionist and the former as Zionist, which of course isn’t necessarily the case.
I’m dying to see specific books and articles and how they categorized them. This should bring a barrel of laughs. Just as a ferinstance, Norman Finkelstein‘s work will of course fall into the anti-Zionist camp even though he supports a two-state solution. You rapidly get an idea of how slanted Im Tirtzu’s methods are.
It’s rather odd to me that the newspaper article to which I link above claims that Drs. Ron Bartz and Uri Lebel “supervised” the report. But their names are not listed as authors. Indeed, no name is listed as far as I can see. Which makes this document authorless and utterly lacking in any credibility. Lebel, by the way, teaches at Ariel College, a settler institution established without academic certification.
An article in Yisrael HaYom, Israel’s Likudist daily underwritten by Shelly Adelson’s billions, also pointed to an seminar taught by Tel Aviv University Prof. Yehudah Shenhav on Government Bureaucracy and Human Rights. What especially irked Im Tirtzu is the participation of Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard in the course and the fact that students would participate in projects organized by anti-Occupation human rights NGOs Machsom Watch and Yesh Din. In another course, students were required to watch a documentary film featuring an interview with (has v’halila) Azmi Bishara and listen to a speech by left-wing Knesset member Dov Chenin. Apparently, according to Im Tirtzu, teaching about these subjects in an Israeli university should be forbidden or at least balanced by an accompanying course that waves the white-and-blue fervently.
This entire exercise strikes me as a rip-off of Daniel Pipes Campus Watch. In its report, Im Tirtzu even tracks student complaints filed against specific courses and professors, which is a tactic patented by Pipes’ crew. I would be willing to wager that the Israeli group has consulted closely with Pipes and/or Charles Jacobs of The David Project. This is yet another example of Israel importing some of the worst polemical tendencies of the American Jewish right.
Im Tirtzu has the ear of the right-wing political establishment. Education Minister Gideon Saar, announced recently that he had a few surprises in store for academics who endorse the BDS movement (Neve Gordon, are you listening?). It’s not clear what the government can do to punish such professors unless it wishes to violate principles of academic freedom; or whether it intends to punish the universities or departments via cutting off governmental subsidies.
A Kadima Knesset member had this delightfully witty analysis of the malady afflicting Israeli academia:
“Israeli academia apparently suffers from ‘Palestinomania,’ a mild psychological illness whose symptoms include self-hatred, an affinity for Israel’s enemies, Jewish anti-Semitism and/or anti-Zionism,” Shamalov Berkovich said in the Knesset. “The spread of ‘Palestinomania’ demands the immediate and painful treatment for all of our sake, and the sooner the better.”
Minister Saar earlier this year gave his papal blessing to the hooligans of Im Tirtzu when he addressed one of the conferences:
“I place great importance in this gathering,” he said. “Campus activism is hugely vital, and this is what you are doing. For this, you will be blessed.” “I very much appreciate this work, which gives expression to an authentic Zeitgeist felt by the public and is much-needed on our campuses,” Sa’ar said of Im Tirtzu. “I came to tell you: God speed.”
These threats against Israeli academia and specific researchers comes on the heels of the death threat sent to Prof. Neve Gordon which I feature here. For those who seek to dismiss the seriousness of such gestures remember that wanted posters graced the streets of Jerusalem just before Prof. Zeev Sternhell was wounded by a pipe bomb likely delivered by accused settler serial killer Jack Teitel. Hate like this is serious. Not that this means the Israeli police will uncover the culprit/s. They somehow often manage not to be able to solve such cases.
I wonder whether it’s getting to the point that Israel is turning into an inverted version of mullah-led Iran, where “dissidents” like Gordon come under a fatwa and need 24 hour security in order to protect them from settler crazies. We’ve had an Israeli prime minister assassinated by such a one before.
bit of a storm in a tea cup, since such attempts to control the “political science” departments in academia have been there since I was student in Heb U, back in the early 80’s.
Apparently, the government needs less fig leaves, and wishes to start a “I am crazy country like my neighbors” campaign, hence the new fanfares. Those “lefties” who have been allowed in Academia so far, received their tenure with the approval/deal of the government central control policies, even if some of them believe they are true “rebels” whose merit alone earned their position.
Nothing new in our kingdom, except the new needs as perceived by those who make the rules. There’s a clear pressure now against any appearance of co existence, but the former official manifestations weren’t spontaneous to start with, so…the project is closing, its still a “project”, not grassroot. Dont forget that the support to co existence/peace in israel comes from arms dealers and not peaceniks…(e.g. the Turkey debate in Israel, or the donors of the NIF).
uncle joe mccarthy says
hope you had a nice fathers day.
but can we please be honest?
in regards to norman finkelstein, his support of a two state solution includes the right of return to all palestinian refugees, basically turning the state of israel into another arab state.
you cant honestly be telling your readers that finkelstein is pro israel or pro zionist…can you?
Richard Silverstein says
I’m completely uninterested in the meaningless terms pro-this or anti-that when it comes to Israel or Zionism. Finkelstein supports a 2 state solution. I don’t know the specifics of his beliefs beyond that, but I’d be willing to bet that he would support something like the Geneva Accords which recognize, but place constraints on the Right of Return to pre-State refugees. BTW, we need to redefine the Law of Return as well if we’re limiting such a fundamental Palestinian right, don’t we? Or do you believe we should only constrain Palestinian rights but not Jewish ones?
uncle joe mccarthy says
you havent read any of norman’s books or listened to his talks?
he has never said anything about constraints
he believes (and has stated as much) in the full right of return, as stipulated by hamas
which is fine…that is his position
but it is not a neutral position
as an aside….what is your standing on the right of return, or compensation, for the close to one million jews expelled from arab lands between 48 and 67?
Richard Silverstein says
Sorry, I don’t take yr word for anything. Provide proof.
One million Jews were NOT expelled from Arab lands. That’s more far right propaganda. YOu’ve been reading too much MEMRI, Palestine Media Watch, Frontpagemagazine & the like. I’d like you to provide an ounce of evidence for this claim fr. a credible source. We’ve already dealt w. this subject in great detail, so I’m going to give you a very short leash. It’d be easy for you to go back & find the discussion on this. Nothing is worse than repeating arguments of others which have already been debunked.
Deïr Yassin says
Norman Finkelstein on the “Right of Return”:
Richard Silverstein says
Wonderful. As I suspected Uncle Joe was full of baloney. I suspected his view might be close to the Geneva Accord & lo & behold it is. There’s so much hocus pocus about Finkelstein’s views. YOu can’t believe most of the claims.
Im Tirtzu are turning into an S.A.-like organization. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple years from now they will be prowling the streets in (blue and white) uniform, vandalizing, attacking and terrorizing lefties, peaceniks, academics, journalists, Tel Avivim and other such scum.
May the book burning commence at Tel Aviv University!
From what I understand (I haven’t bothered to read the full “report”, I admit) They categorized those who never addressed Zionism in any manner as “anti-Zionist” – thus John Rawls, for example, was counted as an anti-Zionist. That’s even worse than Finkelstein.
And it should be said that Kadima is turning out to be a Fascist party (much more so than the Likud, surprisingly) as all of its initiatives in the Palestinian/Zionist issue are utterly Fascist in nature.
“Pro-Israel”, “Zionist”, and “Jewish state” are terms whose meanings are very much in the eye of the beholder. There’s no inherent contradiction at all between “a state for all its citizens” and a “Jewish state”; indeed, one can hold that the former is the sine qua non for the latter.
I sincerely doubt an Israeli-native wrote this note, it’s CLEARLY written by someone who’s Hebrew is NOT his original language. (unless this was written by a 9y/o)
I also doubt they’re stupid enough to connect their own organization with an actual death threat.
This whole deal smells funny, and the tone of this article serves well to distinguish honest journalism (oh hey, how come this ISN’T in the media?) and slanted and biased reporting (Reuters, anyone?) ?!
Richard Silverstein says
Just because it wasn’t written by an Israeli native doesn’t mean the writer of the note isn’t dangerous. Jack Teitel prob. doesn’t know much Hebrew either. There are lots of American settlers who don’t know Hebrew well. And you also forget that this person was deliberately attempting to write a note in cursive so as not to give away their handwriting.
I never said the note was from Im Tirtzu & I doubt it is. I get threats all the time from Stand With Us which appear to have nothing to do w. the group (at least as far as I know). But the fact is that these nutcases latch onto far right groups that seem to reflect their views.
Do you mean the fact that no Israel media outlet has had the guts to report Neve’s death threat means it isn’t a story? So that would mean that the story of Mr. X wasn’t a worthy story either when I reported it, since Yediot had just taken its own article down about it–until the Telegraph decided it WAS a story today. And Anat Kamm wasn’t a worthy story either because no paper in Israel had the guts to report it–until Judith Miller did & then it became a legitimate story. Same w. Ameer Makhoul.
There are a few problems w. yr faulty logic. Other than that, you’re golden.