(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that the recently revealed academy ethics code is just a draft, which will serve as a basis for future negotiations with the professors.
Speaking at the Israel Democracy Institute’s Eli Hurwitz Conference on Monday, Bennett stressed that the proposed ethics code is “not the Ten Commandments.”
“The document that Prof. [Asa] Kasher handed to me is a draft,” said Bennett. “It will be a starting point for a dialogue in the Council for Higher Education. I think that Prof. Kasher did a great job [in drafting the code]. I agree with most of what he has written.”
According to the proposed code, professors will be banned from expressing their political opinions in class. It is also suggested that units would be established on campuses to enforce the ban, and students could complain to them about violations. The code would also forbid academic institutions from cooperating with NGOs that are politically affiliated.
In order to pass, the code should be approved by the Council for Higher Education.
A date has not yet been set for a vote.
Bennett noted that the council is the most effective platform where such initiatives can be debated, as it is composed by representatives from different universities and colleges.
He also stressed that he has no intention to harm the vibrant public discourse in Israel.
“I’ll be as clear as I can,” Bennett said, “a society is measured by its creativity and by the stormy debates it holds.”
“This component is so deep in Israel’s and the Jewish people’s DNA. This is a debating and arguing culture... The whole Gemara (Talmud commentary on Oral Torah) is debates. There is no other cultural code that leans so much on debates.
“We are kicking off the process now,” he concluded. “We are trying to get the widest consent on this matter and we will do so until we reach an agreement.”
In response to Bennett, MK Yossi Yona (Zionist Union), who is a professor of philosophy of education at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, expressed his satisfaction with the minister’s new approach to the code.
“I hope that Bennett’s announcements indicates that he had a change of heart regarding the advancement of this ethics code,” said Yona.
He added: “I welcome all those who expressed their deep displeasure with [how the proposed ethics code would reflect on] the faith in democracy and the future of the academic freedom. Kasher’s ethics code should never have been suggested, but since it came, it is best that Bennett decided that it shouldn’t be advanced [in its current form].