by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
groups in Israel want to create a climate of fear among left-wing
scholars at Israeli universities by emulating the “witch-hunt” tactics
of the US academic monitoring group Campus Watch, Israeli professors
watchdog groups IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor are believed to
be stepping up their campaigns after the recent publication in a US
newspaper of an Israeli professor’s call to boycott Israel.
groups have been alerting the universities’ external donors, mostly US
Jews, to what they describe as “subversive” professors as a way to
bring pressure to bear on university administrations to sanction
faculty staff who are critical of Israeli policies.
have no hesitation in calling this a McCarthyite campaign,” said David
Newman, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University, in Israel’s
southern city of Beersheva. “What they are doing is very dangerous.”
month, in what appeared to be a new tactic, IsraCampus placed a
full-page advertisement in an official diary issued to students at
Haifa University, urging them to visit its website to see a “rogues’
gallery” of 100 Israeli scholars the group deems an “academic fifth
goal is to transform our students into spies in the classroom to gather
information and intimidate us,” a senior Israeli lecturer said. “It’s a
model of ‘policing’ faculty staff that has been very successful in
stifling academic freedom in the US.”
Israel Academia Monitor, established in 2004, and the later IsraCampus,
model themselves on Campus Watch, a US organisation founded by Daniel
Pipes, an academic closely identified with the US neoconservative
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Watch has been widely accused of intimidating US scholars who have
expressed views critical of US and Israeli policies in the Middle East.
The organisation’s goal, according to critics, is to pressure US
universities to avoid hiring left-wing lecturers or awarding them
advertisement placed by IsraCampus, and seen by Haifa University
students as they returned from their summer break, warned that a number
of their professors “openly support terrorist attacks against Jews,
initiate an international boycott of Israel, exploit their status in
the classroom for anti-Israeli incitement and anti-Zionist
brainwashing, collaborate with known anti-Semites … who publicly call
for Israel’s destruction”.
of the advert was supported by the head of Haifa’s student union, Felix
Koritney: “Students who study here need to know who their lecturers
are, and if there are lecturers who oppose the state of Israel it is
important to publish their names.”
a statement, Haifa University officials also defended the advetisement
– after receiving a complaint from a student who called the
advertisement incitement – justifying it on the grounds of “freedom of
is associated with Steven Plaut, an economics professor at Haifa
University, who was reported to have paid for the advertisement. On the
group’s site and on his personal blog, Mr Plaut has lambasted many
Israeli left-wing academics.
and Israel Academia Monitor have targeted professors for criticising
the occupation, joining protests against Israel’s separation wall,
signing petitions or attending conferences critical of Israel,
defending the UN report of Judge Richard Goldstone on last winter’s
attack on Gaza, or calling for a boycott of Israel.
groups have focused their efforts on the staff at Ben Gurion and Haifa
universities, two regional campuses that have attracted more outspoken
Pappe, a former history professor at Haifa University and the author of
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, admitted he abandoned his academic
career in Israel and relocated to the UK after a campaign of
according to Mr Newman, Ben Gurion University had become the groups’
“public enemy No 1” after publication by Neve Gordon, a colleague of Mr
Newman, of an article in the Los Angeles Times calling for a boycott of
having tenure, observers say, Mr Gordon has come under increasing
pressure from the university to resign his position as chair of the
university’s politics department over his published views.
Carmi, president of Ben Gurion University, issued a statement shortly
after Mr Gordon’s article was printed, condemning his opinions as
“morally repugnant” and warning that he was “welcome to search for a
personal and professional home elsewhere”.
Barnett, founder of Israel Academia Monitor, has launched a petition
demanding that Mr Gordon be sacked from his position as chair, that his
courses be treated as elective rather than compulsory for his students,
and that he be denied travel and research funding.
Newman said decisions about hiring and retaining staff at Ben Gurion
were still being taken on academic grounds but that the monitoring
groups were seeking to change that by calling for donor boycotts of
universities seen to be harbouring anti-Zionist professors.
Dayan, the Israeli consul in Los Angeles, sent a letter to Ben Gurion
University after publication of Mr Gordon’s article, warning that
private benefactors “were unanimous in threatening to withhold their
donations to your institution”.
the universities are chiefly backed by government money, external
donations account for about five per cent of their funding. With
universities struggling with large debts, donations can be seen as
leverage over the universities.
Newman said the monitoring groups hoped to redirect donations to
right-wing academic institutions and think tanks, such as the Shalem
Centre in Jerusalem, whose founding president is the US neoconservative
scholar Martin Kramer, and Ariel College, located in a West Bank
settlement near Nablus.
his website, Mr Plaut credited IsraCampus with forcing Tel Aviv
University last week to investigate claims by one of its professors,
Nira Hativa, that some right-wing students were afraid to speak out in
class because of fears that they would be penalised by their lecturers.
questioning from the Haaretz newspaper, Ms Hativa admitted that her
allegations were based only on “intuition and personal impressions”.
IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor have been incensed by the
support offered to Mr Gordon’s call for a boycott of Israel by a small
number of Israeli academics.
such professor, Anat Matar, who teaches philosophy at Tel Aviv
University, said the atmosphere both within the universities and more
widely in Israeli society was changing rapidly and becoming
increasingly “intolerant” of dissent. “We’ve become a little more
fascistic as a society,” she said.
Plaut has been at the centre of a libel battle with Mr Gordon since
2002 after he called him a “Judenrat wannabe” – a reference to Jewish
collaborators with the Nazis.
Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest
books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the
Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His
website is www.jkcook.net.