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EXCLUSIVE: Report on politics department at Ben Gurion University

Last week, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth broke a story about a draft report by an evaluation committee commissioned by Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE), recommending closing the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University if changes are not made, including to the perceived political leaning of the department. The department has been the target of a campaign by the radical rightwing movement Im Tirzu for its “lefty” political leaning.

Despite pleas from dozens of academics that protested this attempt to supervise the political opinions raised in classrooms, the Council for Higher Education voted to adopt the report yesterday.

Haaretz has revealed that before the committee was formed, one of its members was replaced with a rightwing professor. Furthermore, committee member Prof. Galia Golan refused to sign the report, claiming it was politically-motivated. Instead, Golan  wrote a Minority Opinion (can be read at the end of the report below), in which she wrote that the demand “for a balance (of views) in the classroom… runs directly counter to the principle of academic freedom.”

Here is the full report, made public for the first time:

BGU Report

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    1. Henry Weinstein

      I’m praying
      For an international committee for the evaluation of politics and government of the present Israeli Minister of Education
      Roger Waters or Noam Chomsky as chairman, your choice
      My Lord
      I’m praying, don’t let me down

      Reply to Comment
    2. Piotr Berman

      I read an article in “Texan monthly” (?? I am not sure) about prayers for rain organized by the governor of Texas (without success). Members of Texan clergy were asked for opinion. A rabbi noted that in Judaism it is a sin to pray for a miracle, so, rain can be prayed for only if it is somewhat probably, like at spring in Israel.

      I guess there will be flood in West Texas before Chomsky will become a committee chair.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Noam W

      Out of context this reads very bad. But in context it actually raises some of the illnesses of Israeli Academia (and I am not talking about political leanings).

      I doubt that the ratio of students to faculty is any better in Tel-Aviv university where I got my B.A. (albeit ten years ago). I know that Haifa University’s tenured to adjunct faculty ratio is worse across the board (this is the Israeli Universities’ way of “saving money”).

      Also in Tel-Aviv university, when I was a student there, there was only one second year course in methodology. But whether to conduct quantitative as opposed to qualitative curricula is a very faculty specific choice, and depends greatly on the faculty’s outlook of political “science”. To critique a faculty for choosing one method of instruction over another is, in my opinion, border line unprofessional.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Henry Weinstein

      Of course I’m a sinner, Piotr!
      I’m even worse than that, I’m a Leftist!!
      Curse on the Rabbi who considered that in Judaism it is a sin to pray for a miracle as if praying for something impossible was like paying online without credit card or hoping to win at the lottery without buying a ticket!
      May he be reincarneted into a Sicilian Catholic nun to understand the true healing power of prayer!!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mitchell Cohen

      @Piotr Berman, I don’t think it is a sin to pray for a miracle in Judaism; I believe it is a sin to RELY on a miracle. Jews daven all the time for family members and/or friends who have illnesses that anything short of a modern miracle they will not survive (lo’ aleinu!!!!)….The key is not to say, “I won’t go see a doctor because G-d will cure me”….

      Reply to Comment
    6. AYLA

      I’m writing about rain in the desert, and actually first lived in the Negev four years ago when I came exactly for the days we pray for rain (shemeni atzeret through Pesach), and there is something about how we only pray for rain when rain is possible. this has something to do with our relationship/collaboration with God. We had out of season rain last year, and I called my dear friend who’s Muslim and also lives in the Negev to thank her; they pray all year :).
      @Noam–I teach at BGU and I’m considering drafting a petition for professors to sign in support of intellectual discourse. I know this kind of thing isn’t the norm in Israel, and often when I hear americans coming in with american-activist ideas, I roll my eyes a bit, knowing how different things are here. but. I really don’t see why that form of activism couldn’t be effective here (also, in different circumstances such as with the NGO Bill: why not Move.on-style petitions to the knesset from citizens?). Regarding the BGU situation, I’m trying to learn more about it first. I’m investigating via some BGU officials. Thanks to you and Dahlia for the reporting.

      Reply to Comment
    7. AYLA

      p.s. I’m off the grid now til Sunday. Take care, all. Pray for rain :).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Debbie

      All of the reports, for all of the departments, are published on the CHE website and are freely accessible to the public.

      Reply to Comment
    9. […] הפעולה הבסיסית שאף כלי תקשורת מהזרם המרכזי בארץ לא עשה ופירסם את הדו"ח במלואו. בניגוד לרוב התגובות של האקדמיה ושל אנשי […]

      Reply to Comment
    10. Guy Ben-Porat

      Noam, thank you for an important service.


      Reply to Comment