Leftwing Israeli Academics Shouldn't Be Complaining


A spectre is haunting the far-left fever swamps to be found in certain corners of Israeli universities: "Israel Academia Monitor," Israel's new cousin to the "Campus Watch" web site that operates in the U.S., directed by Dr. Daniel Pipes. Campus Watch has long been controversial because of its practice of publishing some of the loopier citations and statements of faculty members in the U.S. who pose as Middle East "experts." It has outraged the academic left wing, and now its cousin in Israel is arousing similar outrage and denunciations. Israel Academia Monitor is mainly a record of the more outrageous statements of Israel's own academic extremists, organized by campus, and making no secret of its desire to see the information reach donors to the universities and others.

Campus Watch has long been denounced for its "McCarthyism" by those who object to its activities. Similar denunciations of critics of the Israeli Academic Left have become common, including the article by David Newman in THES on April 30, 2004. Newman, who sits in a university department in which no non-leftists are on the faculty, denounces critics of the Israeli Left as "McCarthyists" attempting to suppress academic "diversity." Political correctness on campus needs to be protected from its unenlightened besiegers, a la people like Newman.

And free speech is precisely what the hysteria is all about. The attacks on Campus Watch and on Israel Academia Monitor are coming from people insisting they have the right to endorse terror, promote anti-Semitism, promote law breaking, use their podiums to impose their extremist political agenda on their hapless students, and demand that Israel be annihilated, all within the rubric of free speech and academic freedom, but at the same time people who criticize those same leftists should be denied free speech and silenced, using all means possible, including malicious legal harassment. Free speech for progressive me but not for thee.

Those being documented by these website watchdogs claim that it is all an attempt to deny them free speech. Poppycock! These websites are little more than collections of direct citations published by the extremists in question. True, the monitors express the desire for donors to the universities to review the material and make their views heard regarding the misbehavior and political activities of faculty members. What is wrong with donors also having freedom of speech?

Let us be clear. No one is denying freedom of speech nor academic freedom to the extremists, even though there are serious questions as to whether their activities always fall within the category of protected speech. Israel's academic extremists include those openly endorsing terror attacks against Jews, participating in and promoting law breaking and mutiny by Israeli soldiers, endorsing calls for the dismemberment of Israel and international boycotts against Israel, a ll this in time of war. Oswald Mosley and his people were not granted academic lectureships in the UK when Winston Churchill was PM, and Lord Haw-Haw was never granted an honorary PhD as a celebration of free speech. I doubt there are any European countries in which an open Holocaust Denier could hold a university lectureship. So academic freedom does seem to have its boundaries, even though that is not the question on the Israeli table.

Many European countries have laws making expressions of anti-Semitism a crime. Israel has a law against open endorsement of terror violence, and an "anti-racism" law. No leftist has ever been indicted under it. Many of the leftist extremists on Israeli campus have embarrassing academic records, consisting of little more than political propaganda misrepresented as scholarly research, yet they enter the system and stay around thanks to the political solidarity by other academic leftists.

Israeli leftist extremists on campus have never had their speech curtailed. But there is a difference between affirming their rights to free speech and insisting that taxpayers and others have to foot the bills for their politicalization. Israeli universities are all (with one exception) state-financed, with foreign donors covering what the taxpayer does not. Taxpayers and donors have the right to demand accountability and resist being coerced into financing sedition and radicalism. Departments like Newman's and Neve Gordon's, wishing to function as leftist propaganda machines, are free to secede and operate independently without taxpayer support.

Until then, critics of the far left should be as entitled to express their opinions as the extremists and radicals themselves.


This article was first published in the Times Higher Education Supplement and is reprinted with permission of the author..

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