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Professor bullied for criticizing nationalist group Im Tirtzu

Im Tirtzu – the movement behind the ongoing intimidation of progressive lecturers in Israel provided us this week with a textbook example of political bullying, after taking offence at disparaging comments made in their address by  Tel Aviv University’s Yehouda Shenhav. It should be noted the comments were made in the classroom and the video clip referred to in the letter is password-protected; someone in the class must’ve snitched to the bully squad.

The letter is a document of its time – Israel, 2012. But the self-righteous violence, indolence and pig-headed dogmatism make it sound like a memento from the American 50’s, German 30’s, or any old time in the USSR. I preserved the pompous style of the original and, to sweeten the pill, propose readers to imagine the contents read out by Field-marshal Herring from The Great Dictator.


10 January 2012

Dear Professor Shenhav,

Re: Your contemptible statements against “Im Tirtzu”

A few days ago, the Student Union network posted a video clip a lecture you gave as part of the Introduction to Sociology course, an obligatory course in the Sociology and Anthropology department. In the course of the lecture, the footage shows, you relieved yourself of the following drivel:

“When this whole story with this stupid organisation called Im Tirtzu was taking place, which attacked the fact, the stupid fascist, which attacked the fact, by the way sponsored with American evangelist Christian radical money, which is ready to support this as part of its war against the Arabs in Israel, a complicated story, they claimed, that in the political science departments, they did a report in the political science departments, and claimed that most of the faculty there is left-wing. This connects to your question. Most of the faculty isn’t left-wing, it’s liberal in its way of thinking. Because social sciences are inherently liberal. So to say that most of the staff is left-wing, liberal, is nonsense, because the repertoire on which you draw is liberal. Otherwise you’ll shut these departments down. Because the term “left-wing” is very problematic in that context, because what exactly is left wing? I think, and this is to confuse you a little more, that someone supporting two state for two peoples is a right-winger. Left winger? I’m opposed to t‪wo states for two peoples. So I’m left-wing?”‬

‪We preserved the garbled style of the original. ‬

‪Comments of such nature, made before an audience of students on an obligatory course, betray shameful ignorance on your part. As a “great liberal” you clearly violated instruction 1109/11 (21.12.2010) of the Higher Education Council, which clearly state that “any attempt at politicisation of the academia should be rejected.” In this decision, the Higher Education Council ruled that the lectures should strive to expose the students “to as varied a survey as possible of the areas which they teach.” Which, of course, failed to take place. In this last lecture you unilaterally abused your standing, expressing one-sided political opinions while barefacedly ignoring the Higher Education Council’s decision. ‬

‪You claimed that Im Tirtzu attacked the face that faculty members in political science are left-wing, or, according to your interpretation, liberals. This is blatant misrepresentation of our reports, and, graver still, the concept of liberalism. The report we released on the developments in the political science didn’t assault the “left-wing” political opinions of faculty members, but displayed the lack of variety in the content materials, along with the exclusion, elimination and silencing of researchers and research approaches that are not anti-Zionist or anti-national. You can read it on your own in the following hyperlink. ‬

Another report commented specifically on the make-up of the faculty of the Politics and Government department at Ben Gurion university, noting that 8 out of the 11 lecturers at the time, and today 8 out of 9, are signatories of anti-Israeli petitions or have expressed radical left-wing position, such as supporting conscientious objection, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing, or supporting Tali Fahima and Azmi Bishara. You can read this in the following hyperlink. In other words, your interpretation of the term “liberal” is a person supporting conscientious objection to service in the IDF or accusing Israel of carrying out ethnic cleansing. To your mind, someone who doesn’t support conscientious objection or the dissemination of anti-Semitic blood libel, is not a liberal. This is probably the most pathetic and miserable definition of liberalism. It is regrettable to see a lecturer of your standing, chosen by a distinguished university to teach as course as important as “Introduction to Sociology”, displaying such profound ignorance on the issues he comments on. ‬

‪It would appear you have forgotten there are important academic and ideological movements that see no contradiction whatsoever between nationalism and liberalism. There are approaches and social sciences that have complete faith in individual rights and liberalism and simultaneously oppose the pseudo-liberal model, the automatic support of which for dark regimes and the assault on the values of the Western world has in fact turned it into completely anti-liberal.

‪It seems the fact that the Higher Education Council unanimously endorsed the conclusions of the international committee that looked into the academic level and the claims about political bias in the political science department, and which completely vindicated the reports we publish, fails to impress you. ‬
‪In the future we recommend you think, if even a little, before commenting in a manner that shames you yourself first and foremost. Silence befits the wise men, and even more so it befits the fools. ‬

‪A complaint regarding your despicable behaviour has been filed with the Higher Education Council. ‬

‪Kind regards,‬

‪Ronen Shoval, Chairman, “Im Tirtzu”‬
‪Erez Tadmor, head of the hasbara and policy department. ‬

‪CC: ‬
‪Members of the Higher Education Council‬
‪Prof. Aharon Shai, Rector, Tel Aviv University ‬
‪Prof. Yoav Ariel, Student Dean, Tel Aviv University ‬
‪Mr. Amit Barak, Spokesman, Im Tirtzu ‬
‪Mr. Matan Peleg, Head of Human Resources, Im Tirtzu ‬
‪Mr. Uri Reshtick, Chair, Tel Aviv University Student Union ‬


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    1. The human mind apparently evolved–to crush itself.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Carl

      I think it’s time for Im Tirtzu to up their game. Students spying on their teachers is all well and good, but if they’d just study the USSR a little harder they’d arrive at the genius idea which is ‘children spying on their parents’. I mean why confine it to the classroom? Why even wait until their old enough to go to a classroom? Think big Im Titzu: get them while they’re young!

      Reply to Comment
    3. directrob

      Im Tirzu logic:
      You claim to be liberal and you eat ice cream. In other words YOU claim that all liberals eat ice cream. To your mind anybody who does not eat ice cream is not a liberal. That is untrue so your definition of liberal is faulty as there are liberals that eat chocolate…
      It is creepy that nobody is laughing.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Piotr Berman

      I suspect that some phrases in the letter reflect an imperfect translation. In any case, if the Prof. Shenhav is quoted correctly, he was rude and sloppy while answering a rude question in class. And it was indeed a good opportunity for the best minds in Im Tirzu to show their mettle.

      They could make a tightly focused case that Prof. Shenhav deprived his students of a variety of materials and viewpoints by baselessly labeling Im Tirzu as a “stupid organization” ignoring a wealth of sources that would furnish an opposite opinion.

      However, after promising start they seem to ramble. It seems that one of the goals of the letter is to explain that the report of Im Tirzu on a political science departement at BGU was a very good report and it is high injustice to call it stupid. In particular, the petitions signed by faculty members there lacked variety. So now the point of the letter seems to be not the violation of variety requirement but that Prof. Shenhav presented a wrong opinion, that Im Tirzu is stupid, as a fact, while nothing could be further from the truth. This is still within a bound of a story line.

      Afterwards Im Tirzu writers seem loose track of the original thoughts in the letter. For example, they dwell on some unnamed ideological movements that do not see a contradiction between nationalism and liberalism. I started to wrack my brain for an example but then there was most distracting reference to “blood libel”. The full phrase is “conscientious objection or the dissemination of anti-Semitic blood libel”. It reminds me a cartoon on organizations made to fit pre-existing acronyms like Cooperative of Cellists and Carpenters of Palestine, CCCP. Apparently, the purpose of the compound was to create “the most pathetic and miserable definition of liberalism”. But who, how and why endorses that definition is at that point impossible to determine.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Igor

      At the next Party Committee meeting, Prov. Shenhav will be expelled from the Party.

      Reply to Comment