Ben Gurion UNiversity 311.
A petition has been circulating asking to cancel a Council of Higher Education
sub-committe’s decision not to allow students to register in Ben-Gurion
University’s politics and government program starting in the 2013-2014 academic
The council’s decision is pending approval by its plenum. Students
enrolled for the academic year about to begin will continue their studies as
“Israeli academic freedom is under severe attack,” the petition,
signed by faculty from universities and colleges around the country,
Prof. David Newman, dean of the Faculty for Human and Social
Sciences at BGU in Beersheba, said on Sunday, “As a person who spends half his
time involved in combatting boycotts in Europe, I can tell you that from
responses we are receiving from friendly academics throughout the world, the
Council of Higher Education is doing more damage and harm to name of Israel’s
universities than all of our enemies put together.”
Claims that the
politics and government program was left-wing oriented were “just not based on
reality,” Newman, a Jerusalem Post
The program was very
popular and was now accepting only one out of four applicants for a class of 150
students, he added.
Newman also said the faculty at the department was of
varied personal political positions. He himself is an advocate of Israel in the
battle against European boycott of the country. “This is clearly a question of
political interference in academic freedom,” he said.
Although he was not
involved with the petition initiative, Newman said that to his knowledge
students felt they were receiving a balanced education.
The Im Tirtzu –
Rebuilding a Zionist Society NGO has been involved with the issue for a few
years and has continued to push for a change within the politics and government
program. The NGO has been very critical of its faculty’s teaching methods,
describing them as “unbalanced” and “very disturbing.”
Im Tirtzu said
that in researching the matter, it found that two years ago, nine out of 11
professors in the department had signed radical left-wing
“David Ben-Gurion is turning in his grave,” Ronen Shoval,
chairman and founder of Im Tirtzu, said in an explanatory video.
added: “It’s okay to teach the view that Zionism is a form of racism. Even
though I don’t agree with it, it’s all right to teach that. What is not okay is
to teach only that view. There needs to be balance and pluralism.”
should be political science studies at Ben-Gurion, but “changes have to be
made,” Shoval said. In his opinion, students are not being exposed to varied
enough points of view on the subject of Zionism.
MALAG, the Council for
Higher Education, released a statement on Sunday saying: “The university should
be correcting the deficiencies which have been pointed out by our international
committee and insuring that the department’s work will be based solely on
academic criteria rather than on running a campaign.”
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