A new ‘code of ethics’ commissioned by Israel’s education minister seems to target left-wing politics in universities.
The Israeli Education Ministry, headed by far-right politician Naftali Bennett, recently commissioned an ethical code for political conduct in higher education in Israel. The resulting document (Hebrew) is a highly invasive set of political thought controls portrayed as high, dry ethical norms.
Following years of campaigns against left-wing academics, most famously by hyper-nationalist group Im Tirtzu, the new ethical code declares that its aim is to “protect students” from the political activity and views of academic faculty.
Penned by the same man who wrote the IDF’s controversial code of ethics, philosopher Asa Kasher, the code details “the limits of academic freedom,” touching on faculty and student political activity, and all other aspects of academic pursuits.
For example, on student political activity: “Freedom of expression” or “creative freedom” do not justify political activity if it harms the “dignity or political expression” of another group.
Translated in the current Israeli context, this unambiguously refers to the idea that boycotts in protest of Israel’s occupation policies could be interpreted as offensive to the dignity of students – and therefore can be prevented on campus. It could refer just as well to the commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba at Israeli universities, or questioning Zionism. It is hard to imagine the author considered right-wing activism, IDF support, or Im Tirtzu thought-bullies when drawing up that item.
The document also spends extensive space advocating “diversity” within disciplines. A chapter titled “cultivating diversity” states that an academic department — or conference or journal — that selects only a “narrow range” of “subjects or streams” (of thinking), must explicitly publicize that fact. For the uninitiated, this means: if too many faculty members are deemed left wing, they are to put up a sign. The concept closely resembles Israel’s NGO law, which seeks to shame left-wing NGOs through public markings on all their material.
At the same time, the code warns academics to teach and research only within their disciplines, through chapters with communist-sounding names: “preserving the distinctness of disciplines and their boundaries.” Another section admonishes lecturers to teach strictly according to the syllabus, which is “like a contract.” It rambles on with wordy chapters about every aspect of academia, from faculty hiring, to conferences, clinics and seminar courses, and a chapter on “other academic activity” for...Read More