Sunday, August 22, 2010

Academic Terror - Not a safe environment

Way back when I was in College, I went to a relatively non-politicized university, but it was always easy to tell who was politically right, and who was politically left. Those who kept their political views to themselves were presumably right, while those on the left made it openly clear what their views were, and often enough your grades were a reflection of how closely you toed their line.

I was young and naïve at the time, and didn’t understand how significant and dangerous this was.

With one professor, a few of us decided as a joke (and an experiment) to hand to hand in a series of essays that were very similar enough in content and subject. Some reports were accurate, factual and politically neutral, while others modified the facts and conclusions to match this professor’s worldview. You can guess which reports got the A’s, and which ones didn’t.

I had another professor that regularly started spouting leftwing political nonsense in class and essentially dared anyone to disagree with her. At the beginning of the semester I started to make the mistake of raising my hand to point out her errors in economics and politics when the looks of everyone around me made it clear that silence was going to be a virtue in this class.

There are those that espouse that professors can say what they want and it’s about Academic Freedom, and creating a safe intellectual environment.

But college campuses are not safe intellectual environments. If you dare disagree with a left-wing professor in your political science or history courses, your grades might well reflect that mistake (of disagreeing with them). That was true then, and is very true now, particularly in Israel.

This is academic terror. This stifles academic freedom and intellectual honesty.

If I had known then what I understand now, I would have reported this treatment. But this wasn’t considered a burning issue back then (as far as I knew).

Last week I was embarrassed by what I read in the papers.

I read that Im Tirtzu threatened Ben-Gurion University, that if they don’t fire some of their professors, Im Tirtzu is going to go to BGU’s donors and tell them all about the University's political bias. This message that they said BGU should fire the teachers was making the rounds everywhere (Ha'aretz to their credit, was the exception, and actually did not say Im Tirtzu said BGU should fire their staff).

From what was reported in the papers, it sounded like Im Tirtzu got a little full of themselves and decided to flex muscles they don’t really have.

Im Tirtzu did not look good.

But, I also knew that if I waited just a bit, something is going to come out that will make this all make sense.

Before Im Tirtzu became famous and put the spotlight on Naomi Chazan and the New Israel Fund they were involved in another interesting project. They researched and rated teachers at various universities based on student reports and curriculum material (what textbooks each class required). They published reports on which teachers were post/anti-Zionists and which aren’t.

(For "anti-Zionist", they only took the most extreme definition, so there wouldn't be questions about borderline anti-Zionist, or LW "Zionists").

A similar study was also done by an independent research organization.

Leftwing professors are calling this McCarthyism and a threat to Academic Freedom. But as someone who experienced their kind of Academic Freedom, I could only wish I had had this report available in my college days.

But I digress.

So let’s get back to the facts that Makor Rishon published in this weekend’s paper.

The first is that Im Tirtzu did not tell BGU to fire its professors.

Im Tirtzu said that BGU needs to “put an end to the Anti-Zionist tilt” in its classrooms. If BGU didn’t end the open anti-Zionist agitation in the classrooms, then they would expose this incitement to BGU’s donors.

But what “anti-Zionist tilt” was Im Tirtzu talking about, and who were they talking about?

Well it seems that at BGU, 9 out of it’s 11 professors in the Political Science department openly express anti-Zionist opinions in the classroom, are members of radical-left organizations, and the department head, Neve Gordon, has called for (wait for it...) a full economic, cultural and academic boycott against the State of Israel.

(This department head wants funding cut off to his own university to protest the whatever!)

If that was all of it, you could always just write it off as typical leftwing academia and nonsense.

But that isn’t all there is.

You're probably saying to yourself, if we’re writing about this and Im Tirtzu is involved, then how are we going to bring the New Israel Fund into the picture here.

Hold on to your seats, because this is going to blow you away.

Ben Gurion University offers a course called “Societal Change in the Periphery”.

Ben Gurion University receives NIS 7,300 for each student that attends this course from… the New Israel Fund.

But the connection hardly ends there.

By taking the course, the students must also volunteer/intern in one of the various “societal change” organizations on the BGU list.

BGU gives course additional course credits to the students who volunteer in these various organizations (commonly known as the Easy A).

But some (most?) of these social change organizations (always LW of course), while claiming to be involved in social issues, have also been involved in radical left political issues such as trying to get arrest warrants against General Doron Almog and calling for senior IDF officers to be brought to international trial.

But it gets better (you're probably asking yourself, “How much more can their be?”, and won’t you be surprised).

You get one guess who funds these organizations.

It turns out that all these organizations on the BGU intern list for this program receive NIF funding and are connected to the NIF’s activist arm Shatil.

But it gets even better than that. (!)

Some of these organizations that receive NIF funding, that students who take the “Societal Change in the Periphery” course are required to volunteer/intern in, and that BGU receive NIS 7300 per student for... these organizations are currently (or were, in one case) headed up by professors and lecturers at BGU, such as Neve Gordon (that name again) who ran “Physicians for Human Rights” and Haim Yakobi (who teaches the “Societal Change in the Periphery” course) who heads up “Bimkom”, and Yishai Menuchin who heads up “The public committee against torture”.

Getting back to the start of the post, it seems that the NIF has it claws deep inside the BGU Political Science department. One can only imagine the brainwashing and academic terror that happens when 9 out of the 11 political science professors have radical leftwing outlooks that they aren’t afraid to share.

I am sure that Im Tirtzu will be good at convincing BGU’s donors that a donation to BGU hurts the Zionist cause, because they have enough materials and studies to prove it.

But I also wonder if there is another way.

Every week we learn more and more about how the NIF works and how they use their connections and funding.

For instance, last week a picture was publicized with Supreme Court Dorit Beinisch participating at an NIF event two years ago when they received a $20 million dollar grant from the Ford Foundation.

Presidential Summit: Justice Dorit Beinisch (center right), President of Israel’s Supreme Court, meets with Ford Foundation President Susan Berresford (center left). In the back row from left to right are Israel Executive Director Eliezer Yaari; NIF Board VP in Israel Neta Ziv; Ford Foundation Deputy Vice President, Program Management David Chiel; Ford Israel Fund Director Aaron Back; and NIF CEO Larry Garber.


Maybe it’s time we on the right learn from the NIF.

Maybe it’s time for organizations on the right to duplicate the activities of the NIF.

Openly funding courses and professors who express and teach Zionism and love for Israel.

Training and supporting the next generation of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors with a Zionist and Jewish perspective.

Funding, training and support for activist organizations. Particularly the small one or two person organizations.

Enough NIF activities and methodologies have been exposed (and continue to be exposed) that can be copied by a True Israel Fund and then we can fight fire with fire, instead of with just spilling buckets of water on various hot-spots.

Obviously, it will be more difficult without the millions of dollars that come in from foreign governments who want to influence Israel from within, but there are still rich Zionist Jews out there who could match at least some of this massive foreign funding.

This is a fight over the long haul, and if we also don't start actively influencing the next generation in the schools and in the field instead of always playing defense, then we're fighting a losing battle.



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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You'll find this link on BGU interesting.

Anonymous said...

You do not want a corrupt funding war.

It does nothing but balkanize the country.

JoeSettler said...

We already have a situation where foreign governments are funneling millions of dollars through the NIF to promote and their foreign political and ideological goals from within the state of Israel.

That, by the way, is what the NGO-funding bill is trying to expose. How much money each foreign government funnels into Israel and for what projects.

Anonymous said...

Israel needs a FARA law.

Concerned Spectator said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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