Photo Credit: Alon Schvartzer, courtesy Im Tirtzu
Special meeting of the Knesset Education Committee to debate the BDS at BGU, May 24, 2017

The Knesset Education Committee on Wednesday convened an emergency session to discuss concern that Ben-Gurion University is promoting the BDS movement.

The meeting was initiated by MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), Anat Berko (Likud) and Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu), following the University’s recent promotion of a controversial workshop run by extreme-leftist NGOs and sponsored by the European Union, which taught students how to effectively film protests.

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Ben-Gurion University has come under fire in the past for its affiliation with anti-Zionism and BDS. In 2011, Israel’s Council for Higher Education recommended shutting down the University’s Department of Politics and Government unless changes were implemented.

Education Committee Chairman MK Yaakov Margi (Shas) said: “It is outrageous that such a phenomenon is occurring within Israel. We need to deal with whoever is promoting it.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich added: “You cannot talk about freedom of expression when [the professors] are signing in their name and in the name of the University on petitions against the State of Israel.”

“You cannot invoke freedom of expression on the one hand and protect the professors, yet not allow a member of the Board of Governors to express his opinion,” said Smotrich, referring to an alleged attempt of the University to kick out a member of its Board of Governors who spoke out against this issue.

Ben-Gurion University President Rivka Carmi was present at the debate and rebuffed the claims that the university is involved in promoting BDS.

“The University is spearheading the battle against BDS,” said Carmi. “Again and again empty allegations arise [against the University]. The organizers of this discussion will not frighten us.”

Carmi rejected the accusation that the University was trying to silence a member of its Board of Governors: “It has been said that we are silencing Michael Gross. We have listened to all of his comments. Michael Gross called me personally a ‘Kapo,’ and that’s the way he treats the University.”

Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg issued a statement saying, “It is impossible to deny the involvement of Ben-Gurion University and its faculty in the delegitimization of Israel and IDF soldiers, and in the promotion of boycotts and international pressure against Israel.”

Peleg called on Carmi to “take responsibility” and immediately deal with this issue.

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) shot back at Peleg, calling Im Tirtzu a group of “hooligans.”

“You have been pestering the Knesset for a long time now. Everyone works for you. You are engaging in a witch hunt,” said Zandberg.

At the conclusion of the session, Chairman Margi remarked that he was pleased that the discussion had been convened: “We must fight against anyone who calls for harming Israel.”

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