An open letter to the president of Ben-Gurion University

ByAMIT BARAK
December 5, 2011 22:35

Im Tirzu challenges Prof. Rivka Carmi to implement the CHE commitee's recommendations or resign.

Professor Rivka Carmi

Professor Rivka Carmi 311. (photo credit:Wikimedia Commons / Ben-Gurion University)

Dear Professor Rivka Carmi,

In May 2010 Im Tirtzu submitted to the Knesset Education Committee its findings of severe political bias on a number of university campuses throughout Israel, particularly Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.



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Following our appeal, the Knesset Education Committee asked the Council for Higher Education (CHE) to examine these allegations.

Thereafter, the CHE appointed a committee of international experts which evaluated our findings.


The international committee determined that the Department of Politics and Government is politically biased, does not meet the required standards of professionalism and fails to promote intellectual pluralism. The international committee, therefore, decided that if the department does not undergo extensive modifications, which include replacing lecturers, adding classes and amending class syllabi, the university would be required to shut it down.

With the publication of our study, we implored you to be attentive to this criticism.

We asked you to increase intellectual pluralism in the Department of Politics and Government, and we called you to improve the poor academic level resulting from the department’s policies.

Apparently, such policies are based on ideological affinities, rather than standards of academic excellence.

In addition, many university donors also reject the anti-Israel incitement that has become prevalent at the university. As a result of your incompetence, many donors have already decided to withdraw their contributions and others are considering doing the same.

We (and now, evidently, world-renowned scholars) demanding that you turn your attention toward the evident connection between the strong political bias in the Department of Politics and Government and its poor academic levels of achievement.

Unfortunately, you prefer to roll your eyes, ignore criticism, and do everything possible to cover up these charges, while backing those responsible. Moreover, under your guidance, the university administration responded with unrestrained attacks against Im Tirtzu, in an attempt to kill the messenger rather than deal with these substantive claims.

Now, a year-and-a-half after your initial attempts to evade, cover up and discredit these allegations, the truth has finally emerged.

Although you blatantly accused us of McCarthyism and of silencing adverse opinions, and despite your claim that our grievances are ideologically biased and methodologically problematic the international study supported our findings. In fact, compared to the conclusions drawn by the international committee, ours were temperate.

LAST YEAR, eight out of 11 lecturers in the Department of Politics and Government signed anti-Israel petitions and engaged in other forms of unabashed anti-Israel activities.

They accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and called for economic boycotts against the state.

Furthermore, 31 out of 39 participants at the annual meeting of the Department of Politics and Government are members of, or express ideas and positions representing, the radical Left. We noted that when a student studies Zionism at Ben-Gurion University, in most cases he or she is presented, exclusively, with theories of Zionism being a form of colonialism.

All that we demand is pluralism of opinions.

We said before, and I will say it again today: we do not seek to prevent the study of critical attitudes. All we want is to stop the marginalization and silencing of nationalistic and Zionistic approaches.

Unfortunately, however, the university, under your guidance, has chosen to completely disregard these demands and continues to silence the student body, while enabling the professors in the Department of Politics and Government to continue their uniform, anti- Israel teachings.

Professor Neve Gordon recently announced that the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit was not terrorism, while, at a conference held by the Department of Politics and Government last week, terrorists sentenced for the murder of Israeli citizens were termed “political prisoners.”

Professor Carmi, under your guidance Ben- Gurion University of the Negev has been the subject of a report containing severe criticism, degrading the reputation of Israeli academia.

Today, you have a unique opportunity to begin leading the university back to prominence by choosing to adopt the recommendations of the Council for Higher Education and completely revamping the structure of the Department of Politics and Government, including lecturers, courses and syllabi. We implore you to follow this path, in order to restore the status and reputation of the university.

If, on the other hand, you refuse to accept the decision of the CHE, you should take responsibility for these failures and resign immediately. Whichever choice you make, the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University will be assured of forging a new path in the direction of change, toward professionalism and pluralism, in accordance with the recommendations of the international committee.

The writer is spokesman of Im Tirtzu.
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