Top Israeli Academics Censure Bar Ilan for Firing Professor Over Political Beliefs
70 senior Israeli academic signed a letter to the Council for Higher Education denouncing Bar Ilan University for using political considerations in its hiring and firing decisions. Dr. Ariella Azoulay, an international authority on photography and visual culture, was denied tenure after teaching there since 1999. Her appeal too was denied, which motivated the professors to protest that her firing was motivated by political persecution.
The University responded that its decision was solely based on academic considerations without detailing what they were. Critics give the lie to this claim, noting that Azoulay has published ten books, even more articles in scholarly journals, and is a highly sought after speaker at academic conferences in her field in the U.S. and Europe. She has also mentored scores of students and guided them in their careers in this and related fields. In short, she’s a model scholar. One almost any other university would be proud to have on its faculty.
She does have one severe blemish: she is a stout opponent of Israeli government policies. Apparently, it makes some higher-ups at Bar Ilan uncomfortable to have to rub shoulders with such a dissident for the next few decades. They’d rather share meals at the faculty club with like-minded souls than with anyone who might challenge too strongly their cherished illusions.
One of Israel’s most distinguished scholars, Prof. Yaron Ezrahi, criticized Bar Ilan:
Prof. Ezrachi of Hebrew University’s political science department said “Bar-Ilan has learned to conceal political considerations, disguising them as academic processes. We fear the precedent of firing lecturers for radical political views of any kind, despite their international academic excellence. This could contaminate the entire higher education system in Israel.”
Another major important consideration to which the University seems oblivious is its academic reputation. It seems far more interested in having a homogenous faculty which adheres to an imaginary political consensus than having a diverse, free-wheeling academic environment that is open to discourse and the free exchange of ideas.
Not reported in any Israeli news story about this is an alarming incident conveyed to me by an Israeli source that Navi Pillay, UN High Comissioner for Human Rights, was scheduled to address Bar Ilan’s law faculty during a recent visit to Israel. When the Forum for Eretz Yisrael, a far-right settler advocacy group, got wind of the speech it protested at the highest levels of the University and threatened a letter-writing campaign to wealthy donors which would harm the school’s fundraising prospects. The invitation was rescinded and Pillay never appeared.
Does this sound like a University that is playing in the big leagues or the bush leagues? Where major leaguers play, academics aren’t afraid of controversy, nor of rocking the boat. Controversial ideas don’t spook intellectuals who are secure in their faith in their own ability to think for themselves without having a censor to think for them. Apparently, that’s not how it works at Bar Ilan.
I also note that Prof. Menachem Klein was recently denied promotion to professor in the political science department at Bar Ilan. Unlike Azoulay, who did not have tenure, Klein cannot be fired because he does. The decision in Klein’s case also was political in nature since he too has numerous outstanding books, monographs and articles to his credit in his field, which is the study of Palestinian nationalism. In fact, he has a new book out in English which I’ll feature here. But Klein too is a harsh critic of Israeli policies and as such persona non grata in certain university circles.
8 thoughts on “Top Israeli Academics Censure Bar Ilan for Firing Professor Over Political Beliefs – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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O, the irony! As we watch the Arab nations struggle for democracy and transparency, we also get to watch the “Western” nations (which, of course, include Israel) sink ever deeper into corruption and fascism. It’s like watching another docudrama on the fate of the Titanic.
If these two faculty members are so good academically? why wouldn’t any other university recruit them?
If Bar Ilan is such an intolerant environment, and they are so world renowned, why didn’t they transfer themselves to a different university in Israel?
I’m sure Azoulay will find another academic job if she wishes to leave Israel. Hers is a specialized field & I’m certain there are very few, if any jobs open in her field inside Israel.
As for why they wouldn’t leave Bar Ilan, did you ever stop to think that they may feel strongly about Bar Ilan, want to remain there, & wish to stand up for academic freedom and transparency in the hiring/firing process.
You’re not a Bar Ilan faculty member though you are a Rotternik.
Your assumptions about people keep amazing me.
Who told you / decided for you hes one of israels most distinguished scholars?
Ive read the haaretz article twice and didnt see such a saying. Are you familiar with all the scholars in Israel and rate them regullary to tell the distinguished ones?
How do you know any other uni would be so delighted to hire Ariella Azolay? Do you even have the minimal required knowledge to judge her works, or u just assume shes good because shes a left winger, and supported by a bunch of other left wingers (who btw also work at very different fields)?
How do you even know whats going on in Bar Ilan? Have u ever studied or worked there? In the department i study in alone there are 10-15 permament profs/phds lecturing, and its one of the smallest departments in the uni. Do you know all of them/ the majority of them that u allow to urself to assume “They’d rather share meals at the faculty club with like-minded souls than with anyone who might challenge too strongly their cherished illusions”?
Unlike you i actually study there (and please, spare the usual response “prove you do, or ur a liar”. its too pathetic to pretend im a student somwhere just to convince you you are mistaken in ur opinions).
Judging by what ive heard / seen so far the lecturers there have a variety of political views, just like people generally do in Israel.
Yaron Ezrahi is the dean of political scientists in Israel. Widely quoted in the world media, widely published in his field & known throughout the world. I know that. And yes, I’m quite familiar with many of the leading scholars in Israel in the fields I follow, one of which is political science. I didn’t need to read about Ezrahi’s stature in the article. That’s why I write a blog. I add information & knowledge that I have that a reporter might not or might not have thought to add to his story.
Both Ilan Pappe and Tanya Reinhardt were hired by foreign universities after being drummed out of Israeli academia. I have no doubt based on her reputation & publications that Azoulay will do the same if she wishes to remain in academia.
I spent 13 yrs. in undergraduate & graduate educational programs. So yes, I know something about evaluating the reputation of other academics including Azoulay. Besides 70 senior Israeli scholars have confirmed her eminence. Do you know any who refute it beside Bar Ilan’s pres. & members of the promotions cmttee? If so, can you bring their names forward & their basis for denying her reputation? Reputable people don’t assess an academic reputation based on politics. They base it on publications & related factors. I shudder to think that you study at a university & make such nasty, base accusations of other academics based on yr own personal political prejudices.
I know three people who are currently on or have recently been on the Bar Ilan faculty. They all confirm the general stance I’ve taken in my blog posts. They are or were on the faculty so their knowledge & experience trumps yours. Sorry fella.
Ariella Azoulay is widely known abroad. She could surely find a job in a European university and join the dozens of other Israeli intellectuals who now live (and teach) here.
I love the irony here. In America the brainwashing of students to turn them into brain dead liberals (who all wish to see Israel get destroyed in the long run) occurs in college or university or whatever you call it. There is bullying and discrimination against Jews as organizations like the PLO protest pretty much anything the Jewish groups stand for. My brother is in one of the top universities in America and he has had events about supporting Israel protested, while every other Lenin-enthused group like the feminists, LGBT community, Black Lives Matter….all have had rallies supporting Palestine (Why any feminist or gay person in their right mind would be against the one-I admit flawed-democracy in the middle-east confuses me, but that’s just 3rd-wave feminism for ya.).
I’ve read about how conservative college professors can get fired for stating their beliefs; how teachers can grade students on their political views rather than their skills.
I’ve been told that it’s school or my religion by a professor because I observe the Jewish holidays.
So yeah, I understand what you’re saying from the opposite standpoint and I agree that it’s wrong. But as long as liberalism is staunchly anti-Israel, I really don’t want liberals to be teaching there, because everyone has a bias. But the truth is that Israel is full of mixed beliefs, and I have no power to stop the crazy left-wing ideas of today from getting out.
In conclusion, this happens to both political parties and is at least somewhat understandable in Israel. Just remember that you writing this shows that there is free speech in this country(a fascist regime it is not ).
Have a good day.
@ Ellie: Thanks for an unintentionally hilarious comment. It’ll keep us entertained for a least…a few minutes.
BTW, I am not Israeli and do not write this blog from Israel. If I did, I would be in jail (likely). At the very least under continual Shabak monitoring. So much for free speech in Israel!