In a new low for academic freedom in Israel, Bar Ilan University’s President Moshe Kaveh called for the firing or resignation of any faculty members who advocate the academic boycott (BDS) of Israeli institutions. He did so in a political, rather than academic setting–as part of a panel on Jewish identity at a Jewish culture festival–which tells you quite a bit about Kaveh’s intended audience and how unmoored his view is from any academic protocol. Joining him on the panel was Education Minister Gideon Saar, who also advocates such stupidity and is a bosom buddy of the anti-intellectual campus critic, Im Tirzu.
Here are some of his remarks (Hebrew):
It’s easy to muster the courage to criticize. But he who has the courage to criticize the institution where he teaches should also have the courage to resign. And if not, I will make this happen myself.
How can it be that a teacher can stand before his students in class and say: “Boycott the State of Israel?” Someone who calls for a boycott of his place of employment from a moral point of view is required to resign.
Though Bar Ilan is known as an Orthodox-oriented academic institution, until now it had its credentials intact and was a respected member of the Israeli university community. This little escapade by its president should cost it dearly in that department. Can any faculty member, whether right or left, who values academic freedom willingly work at such an institution? Is a university president to be granted the right to fire faculty solely for their political views? Lest any of you who support the Israeli right feel like cheering for Kaveh, think twice. Now, it is the left’s ox that is being gored. But your turn will undoubtedly come next. Do you think that Israeli universities, once permitted the firing of those on the left will stop there? Remember Martin Niemoller’s dictum about the Nazis: eventually they will come for you and by then it will be too late.
Thank God, there are Israeli academics who took strong issue with Kaveh. Galey Tzahal quotes a faculty member anonymously:
Kaveh’s words sound like the onset of a regime opposed to freedom. Even if lecturers might not express their private views before their university students, the language of threat used by Kaveh is unacceptable.
As with much of Israeli politics, Kaveh’s statement is pure political grandstanding. He couldn’t do what he’s proposing and if he did his faculty would likely tar and feather him. But that’s almost beside the point. The point is that a respected member of Israel’s academic community has crossed the moral Rubicon and spoken out for a position no one has previously advocated–at least no one in a position comparable to his.
This represents the further moral decline of Israeli academic life and the nation’s democracy. There is an ever-deepening demand for political consensus within Israel and a growing intolerance for those who violate the norms. Those in Israel who support BDS are the canaries in the coal mine. Their criminalization will speak volumes about the widening disintegration of Israeli democracy.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Boycott Backfire? (syds-blog.blogspot.com)