More examples of Israeli government interference in academia. →
These recent upgrades, in the case of Ariel, and now shutdowns, as with Ben-Gurion, appear to demonstrate a disturbing trend toward government repression and control of higher education. This not only poses difficulties for the Israeli left, but raises some questions about the free expression of ideas within that state.
State council seeks to shut down ‘leftist’ department at BGU
Noam Sheizaf | 24 September 2012
A major political battle is taking place this autumn within Israeli academia: the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHE), a government-appointed body charged with the supervision and financing of universities and colleges in Israel, is attempting to shut down the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University (BGU). In recent years, the Department of Politics and Governments has been labeled by right-wing organizations as “the most leftist in Israel,” and leading academics have been subject to boycott call and demands not to renew their contracts. Yet, never before has the fate of the entire department been threatened.
Earlier this month, a sub-committee for quality control, which was appointed by the Israeli Council for Higher Education, recommended that the Department of Politics and Government at BGU be prevented from registering new students in the coming academic year, due to the failure to implement a report regarding “professional failures” in the department, issued last year. The recommendation, which effectively means closing down the department, will be voted on by the CHE on October 23rd.
Both the original report and the recent decision not to allow the Department of Politics and Government to register new students were leaked to the press before they were made known to Ben-Gurion University.
The attempt to shut down the BGU department cannot be separated from the government’s recent decision to turn a college in the West Bank settlement of Ariel into Israel’s eighth university. After packing the Israeli courts with right-wing judges and weakening the independent media, Netanyahu’s government is now attempting to politicize academia and silence dissenting voices. As a result, the nature of the public debate in Israel is rapidly changing.
In a public letter to all members of the Israeli academic and research community, Prof. Rivka Carmi, President of Ben-Gurion University stated:
The sub-committee’s decision was reached without any factual base to back it up; it is unreasonable and disproportional and most notably, it does not in any way reflect the opinion of the international committee which oversaw the process. We therefore wonder what is actually behind this decision.
Ironically, Professor Carmi has been known for years as a leading voice in criticizing the Israeli academics at her university who have expressed radical left-wing positions. But the attack on the university was so brutal and extreme, that it left the president no choice but to lead the campaign against it, several sources involved in the affair told me.
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