Israel Academia Monitor, an organization devoted to monitoring anti-Israel academics, hosted a conference in Tel Aviv with the goal of drawing attention to the fact that anti-Israel academics exploit their positions of influence in order to promote an anti-Israel agenda.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not lie solely within universities abroad, but also exists within Israel. These professors utilize their position as a means to prove the justness of their cause while the fact that they are Israeli adds a sense of legitimacy. The danger is tremendous. As Cicero once wrote, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.”
The first speaker to address the conference was Prof. Ofira Seliktar, who noted the orchestrated campaign to delegitimize Israel utilizing soft asymmetrical conflict.
“Soft components of this conflict are designed to delegitimize the target country and improve the image of the challenged group” as well as the “causes they represent,” Seliktar said.
The founders of the Neo-Marxist critical perspective, according to Seliktar, were the first to adopt soft asymmetrical conflict, which Edward Said in turn applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Michael Gross, another speaker at the conference, pointed to professor Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University, saying that Gordon has “a long track record of calling for boycotts of Israel” and has referred to “Israel as a so-called fascist Nazi apartheid-like state.”
In addition, other professors at Ben Gurion University behave similarly, including Oren Yiftachel, who devoted “most of his career to misrepresenting Israel as an apartheid regime;” Lev Grinberg, who is best known for “accusing Israel of committing symbolic genocide” when Israel killed the leader of Hamas and compared Hamas terrorists to the “Maccabee heroes”; and Eyal Nir, who teaches chemistry at BGU and “is not only anti-Israel but was in the media in the past year for openly calling for critics of the left to be murdered.”
Panel at Israel Academia Monitor Conference, Tel Aviv
In the concluding session of this conference, I participated and spoke about how soft asymmetrical conflict was applied at Ben-Gurion University, where anti-Israel activism was quite widespread as part of an orchestrated campaign to educate international students to view Israel negatively.
Examples of this included the social coordinator at the time, Noah Slor, organizing anti-Israel trips, professors teaching about Israel in an anti-Israel propagandist style; and instances of pro-Israel students, such as myself, facing intimidation for having the chutzpah to speak out against the anti-Israel activism that was taking place on campus.
For example, Professor Yiftachel was teaching international students that “Israel is in a colonial situation with the Palestinians,” “the whole Israeli state is what you call an ethnocracy,” “Ashkenazis colonize the Mizrahim,” “Israeli Arabs have ghetto citizenship,” “Israel is like Sudan in ethnocratic structure,” and that “Israel imposes Judaism on her Palestinian citizens.”
When I attempted in the past to write exposés on this, Yiftachel arranged to have me intimidated by the then head of the Middle Eastern Studies department, Dr. Avi Rubin, who threatened “possible ramifications” and the involvement of the university’s legal department. While every thing turned out fine for me in the end, due to Israel Academia Monitor providing me with legal representation, not all students who are outspokenly pro-Israel at BGU are this lucky.
Here’s a brief portion of my concluding remarks:
When you combine people like [Professor] Yiftachel… [and] a social coordinator who, by the way was the one who organized the demonstrations on the campus in favor of the Gaza Flotilla … it has an indoctrinating effect.
I emphasized that choosing to speak out against this intimidation wasn’t an easy decision. Nevertheless, what the international students are taught is important, for many of these students will return to their countries and may hold prominent positions within the government as experts on the Middle East.
[I]t is important to study the Middle East; but not in the way that it is currently being done. It needs to be done in a way that you actually learn; that you actually gain some insight, a marketplace of ideas,” I explained. “It shouldn’t be only one opinion. And oh, you can’t challenge it if you don’t have a Ph.D. That’s not how it works. Students also have academic freedom and my academic freedom should be respected just as much as anybody else.
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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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