Prof. Amnon Rubinstein is an interesting guy. These days he is the closest thing to a leftist patriot in Israel, and I say that as someone who maintains that in Israel “leftist patriot” is generally an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.
Rubinstein was one of the founders of Tel Aviv University Law School and its first dean. In the 1970’s he was one of the founders and leaders of the old Shinui party, not to be confused with the centrist Orthodox-baiting party with the same name run years later by Yosef “Tommy” Lapid. That older Shinui party merged with others, including some Marxists from Mapam, to form the Meretz party in 1992.
Meretz, of course, was a left-wing capitulationist party that in large part was responsible for creating (with its Labor coalition partners) the entire Oslo debacle. Within Meretz, Rubinstein and his faction formed a remarkable freer-market cadre, one fighting internally against the Marxists over economic and social issues. Indeed, Rubinstein’s Meretz faction was the closest thing in Israel back then to advocates of true market economics.
Altogether Rubinstein sat in the Knesset for 25 years. He served for a while as minister of education, and as such promoted experiments in public school choice and vouchers. He was one of the senior professors in Israel who jabbed their fingers in the eye of the country’s Ivory Cartel, the Council on Higher Education, defying it in setting up the first private-sector law school and university in Israel, the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, where Rubinstein continues to teach.
While I am not suggesting that Rubinstein be granted moral clemency for his personal role in imposing the Oslo fiasco on the country, he nevertheless is a combative Zionist. He is one of the few people in Israel for whom “leftist Zionism” really still exists. And he has been one of the leading crusaders in Israel against Israel’s Academic Fifth Column.
While Rubinstein still holds to many of his dovish positions, he despises “Post-Zionists” and New Historians, people like Ilan Pappe, Oren Yiftachel, Neve Gordon, and their ilk. Rubinstein regards such people as traitors and often says so. He writes a weekly column in Maariv in which attacks on academic extremists are a recurring and frequent theme. He and Maariv deputy editor Ben-Dror Yemini, who is also left of center, have emerged as the two best commentators on Israeli academic sedition in the Israeli mainstream media.
Rubinstein is particularly effective because he himself is a bona fide member of the Oslo Left – hence, when he attacks academic radicals his criticism is all the more devastating. Curmudgeons such as myself are understood to be anti-Oslo and anti-Left regarding just about everything, and so no criticism by us can make any impression on the left-wing anti-Zionist radicals. But Rubinstein and Yemini draw blood every time they attack, and they are critics whom the Post-Zionists cannot ignore and dismiss.
On January 12, Yemini devoted an entire page in Maariv to a pro-terror “academic” event held at Tel Aviv University, sponsored by its law school. Yemini began his column by pointing out that “rights discourse” is today little more than a weapon used by Israel’s enemies and the enemies of human freedom. He mocked “progressives” who rationalize the murderous behavior of terrorists as part of “understanding the Other” and being sensitive.
He noted that a few weeks before, a group of leftist anti-Zionists on the faculty of Tel Aviv University had conducted an “academic conference” dedicated to the idea that imprisoned Palestinian mass murderers and terrorists are in fact “political prisoners,” deserving of sympathy and support. A Palestinian who blows up a pregnant mother with her toddlers is nothing more than a political protester in the minds of such people.
Restrictions on the misuse of academic freedom, wrote Yemini, should be no different from restrictions on Holocaust denial. That is because Holocaust denial is not an academic or a scholarly theory but merely a political weapon of hate. But so is “academizing” terror and mass murder. A conference like the pro-terror one held at Tel Aviv University law school is, according to Yemeni, little more than an attempt at promoting an anti-Semitic agenda. He asked rhetorically why Tel Aviv University does not conduct a Holocaust denial conference in the name of “academic freedom” or one for those who advocate genocide against Jews.
Yemini’s column was followed in Maariv a week later by an even more devastating attack on the Tel Aviv University Left written by Rubinstein, who began his column by noting that, initially, every participant at the conference was a leftist, mostly of the openly radical and anti-Israel variety, but when public criticism was triggered once the event was advertised, a few token non-extremists were added as speakers.
Nevertheless, there was nothing at all academic about the conference, wrote Rubinstein. No research, no scholarship, no real debate – simply anti-Israel political advocacy. It was an event more befitting a beer hall than a university, he added. It was simply an example of anti-Israel political indoctrination of the sort that takes place every week on Israeli campuses.
Campus conferences sponsored by the social sciences departments, complained Rubinstein, almost never allow any expression of the points of view held by the vast majority of Israelis (meaning Zionism and patriotism).
At the Tel Aviv University conference, Rubinstein noted, the speaker who received the greatest applause was Tali Fahima, a Jewish woman recently released from prison who had assisted her Palestinian boyfriend in planning terror attacks. Another featured speaker at the event was a Palestinian terrorist who had been imprisoned for his crimes (which included throwing a Molotov cocktail at a civilian bus) by Israel for 27 years.
Rubinstein pointed out that the people who run TAU law school never even considered balancing the presence of terrorists with victims of Palestinian terror. At Tel Aviv University, murderers and terrorists of Jews are entitled to “civil rights” – but not Jewish civilians.
The law school is hardly the only campus center at Tel Aviv University in which anti-Israel sedition and “Post-Zionism” dominate. There are entire departments where nearly every faculty member is a radical leftist. For more information on sedition and radicalism at Tel Aviv University, go to the website www.israel-academia-monitor.com, operated by Israel Academia Monitor, the Israeli counterpart to the U.S.-based Campus Watch operated by Dr. Daniel Pipes.