Israel Has the Right Idea
Universities have become a hotbed of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic activity. Students call Israel a “terrorist state” and encourage others to engage in “intifada” and violence. Professors compare Israel to Nazi Germany and peddle the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, while university officials turn a blind eye to the left-leaning bias and politicization that fill their halls of academia, all under the guise of academic freedom.
When you read about anti-Semitism in higher education, I’m sure a number of big, American universities come to mind. But the schools I’m talking about aren’t in America; they’re in Israel. That’s right, the same anti-Israel propaganda infecting American, Canadian, and European universities is also corrupting Israeli campuses.
Last year Hebrew University scrubbed Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” from its graduation ceremony. When a student asked why, a Humanities Department employee responded that it was to avoid offending Arab students. Israel’s national anthem begins with the words As long as within our hearts, the Jewish soul sings. Some believe “Hatikvah’s” lyrics offend non-Jewish Israeli citizens.
Israeli politicians from all sides of the aisle spoke out against Hebrew University’s egregious decision. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in, saying, “This is the worst kind of groveling. It is the opposite of national pride.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett reminded school officials that Hebrew University is a publicly funded institution and should respect the state that funds it.
Another public university, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheva, received attention when it was discovered that 85 percent of the curriculum in the Department of Politics and Government harbors anti-Israel sentiments, while only 15 percent of the material reflects a Zionist or pro-Israel agenda. These statistics would make David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and the school’s namesake, roll over in his grave.
Oren Yiftachel, professor of Geography and Urban Studies at BGU, converts his courses into political rants against Israel. Yiftachel scowls at the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, teaching his students that Israel is not a democracy; it’s an ethnocracy that’s active in the “Judaization” of Israel and the Palestinian territories. He’s been quoted as saying, “Israel is almost the most segregated society in the world.”
Yiftachel’s so-called ethnocracy argument is built on his “progressive” Left agenda and not the fundamental truth that Arabs, Muslims, Christians, and other non-Jewish minorities have equal rights and participation in the Zionist dream of Israel. While Yiftachel teaches that Israel is an oppressive ethnocracy, it’s a simple fact that Israel is the only functioning democratic state in the Middle East.
Im Tirtzu is the largest Israeli nonprofit organization advancing a pro-Israel voice on Israeli campuses. Founded in 2006 to reinvigorate the founding principles of Zionism for Israelis, it helps university students defend Israel’s Jewish democratic values against the barrage of anti-Israel rhetoric. Im Tirtzu was responsible for publishing reports highlighting the Left’s politicization of BGU and the University of Haifa. These reports helped raise awareness in the Knesset of the indoctrination happening in Israel’s higher education.
After reviewing these reports, Naftali Bennett requested an academic code of ethics be drawn up to prevent higher education from becoming politically slanted in either direction. Israel’s new academic ethics code essentially bans professors from promoting their political views in the classroom. “At the gates of academia, we set politics outside,” Bennett said.
Would an academic code of ethics benefit higher education in America, Canada, and Europe? Statistics show that liberal professors outnumber conservative ones by nearly 12 to 1 in America, which explains why campuses are often full of protests, safe spaces, and trigger warnings—while conservative speakers need security guards.
The Left’s politicization of our colleges could also be one of the reasons 25 percent of university students encounter hostility toward Israel while on campus. Maybe the West should take some cues from Israel on how to provide a balanced education in our public universities and colleges by making sure academics do more teaching and less indoctrinating.
→Go to foiradio.org to listen to our interview with Douglas Altabef, chairman of the board at Im Tirtzu, discuss this topic.