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