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Ben Gurion University

  • Is academia the last bastion of progressive thought in Israel?

    Israeli universities have long been viewed as a bulwark against extremism. A new database, compiled by a group of Israeli dissident academics, reveals how the academy works in concert with the state. It's no secret that the Israeli government’s crackdown on freedom of expression in recent years has extended into the academy. Through far-right student groups such as Im Tirzu, proposed ethical codes that would bar professors from voicing political opinions in class, and attempts to shut down entire university departments deemed too left-wing, the government has in many ways framed the very idea of academic freedom as subversive. [tmwinpost] Nevertheless, Israeli academia…

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  • Creeping censorship in a southern Israeli town

    Verbal attacks by right-wing groups and politicians in Be'er Sheva are threatening both NGOs and the local university. By Daniel Beller Over the past year various entities, including right-wing movements, have been trying to close down a joint Jewish-Arab cultural institution in the southern Israeli town of Be’er Sheva. The Multaqa-Mifgash Center, founded by the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF), operates out of a municipal bomb shelter and stages activities and events focused on coexistence. It’s a unique institution in Be’er Sheva, and — aside from Ben-Gurion University — is the only place in the city that holds discussions on fundamental, sensitive…

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  • What it means when occupation is the consensus

    A major Israeli university revokes a prize intended for Breaking the Silence claiming that its work opposing the occupation 'isn't in the national consensus.' What does that say about Israel as a nation? Breaking the Silence, an organization of former IDF soldiers who oppose Israel's occupation of the Palestinians, was supposed to receive the Berelson Prize for Jewish-Arab Understanding from Ben-Gurion University this week, a NIS 20,000 ($5,100) award that the university's Middle East studies department has given out annually for a quarter century. [tmwinpost] However, university president Professor Rivka Carmi decided to overrule the decision and vetoed Breaking the…

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  • What was different about this war?

    Beyond an unprecedented degree of destruction in Gaza, Israel's latest offensive on the Strip brought with it unrivaled levels of racism and incitement back home. By Elizabeth Tsurkov The war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza would appear as the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas; however, this war was different from previous rounds of fighting on both sides. The level of destruction in Gaza was unprecedented, while in Israel anti-democratic and racist forces gained much more prominence and influence compared to previous wars. As in all other nations during times of war, the Israeli public rallies…

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  • Israel's other war: Silencing Palestinian citizens

    Despite all my years of coexistence camps with Jewish Israelis, I’m starting to lose sight of peace. How can there be peace when Israel does nothing to stop the violent attacks against its Palestinian citizens? By Shadan Jabareen I had just finished my second year at Tel Aviv University and wanted to remain in the city for the summer to work, so I applied for a job at a bookshop in Ben Gurion Airport in late June; they needed employees. The operations coordinator was impressed with my fluency in Arabic, Hebrew and English, so we scheduled an interview. After explaining the requirements…

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  • The burden, and wall, of Zionism

    Zionism has come to refer not to the many ways of building Israel, but to a litmus test. Any answer other than ‘I am a Zionist,’ is akin to being un-American in the 1950s. I didn’t join a Labor Zionist youth movement at 14 because I thought of myself as a Zionist. Actually I shied away from group identities, bouncing among social cliques at school and staying away from team sports. My parents just didn’t know what to do with me one summer and they heard about a nice Jewish camp, not too expensive. The Habonim-Dror camp turned out to…

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  • Gaza: Time for real men?

    Israeli viewers are currently under attack - not only by rockets, but by a legion of serious, gruff, tough, men's-man manly commentators manning the studios and explaining why the war makes sense to any reasonable… man. A text by Idan Landau.    "And once again the screen is awash with men, battalions, battalions of men, swarms of men; commander men and commentator men, calming men and threatening men, men with a rich past in positions of command, men with greying temples, men with a rich past in position of command and greying temples, Ashkenazi men and Mizrahi men, men who…

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  • How the Israeli right conspired to shut down 'lefty' department at BGU

    The crackdown on Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Politics and Government may seem unprecedented, but a closer look reveals an ongoing campaign to challenge academic freedom in the university and beyond. By B.N.* While the attacks on the Department of Politics and Government of Ben-Gurion University are being viewed by many as an unprecedented measure, infringements of academic freedom in Israeli-controlled areas are common. They are often part of the regime of military occupation in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. Today, such infringements in the occupied territories include limitations on students’ and faculty’s access to academic institutions through checkpoints and…

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  • Eroding liberties: The 'witch-hunt' against Israeli academia

    By Todd Gitlin Why should Americans care about political interference in the universities of a far-off country? Because the far-off country is Israel, one of our closest allies, a nation that features intimately in our own political life; and because Israel’s domestic affairs have a way of morphing into subjects of America’s never-ending culture wars. So it is of considerable importance that as Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu turns up the volume on claims that Israel is at risk from barbarians, his government persists in illicitly expanding its powers and eroding liberties. In July, Israeli universities were shaken when a…

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  • State council seeks to shut down 'leftist' department at BGU

    In an unprecedented move, the Council for Higher Education will vote on shutting down the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University, which has been the target of right-wing propaganda for the last several years. 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…

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  • Clampdown on campus politics in Israel feeds social apathy

    By Issa Edward Boursheh Let me start by making a few essential points: I believe that academic work should not be politically influenced, pressured or manipulated, and any argument that is discussed in class must be supported by methods, terms, tools and criticism that fit the world of research methods. I am against professors promoting their political agenda in class, based on emotions or so-called facts, which are not supported scientifically. Having said that, I think it’s the role of students to bring politics into universities and campuses by any legitimate means necessary. The main demand of the Free Speech…

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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…

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  • EXCLUSIVE: Excerpts of leaked report on BGU's Politics Dept

    Last week, Yediot Ahronot broke a story about a draft report by an evaluation committee of 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. I have obtained a copy of the draft report. Below is a selection of what I view as the key excerpts and some comments about them. All emphases are mine. I am proud to repeat my disclosure as a member of this department, where I teach as an adjunct lecturer. In a…

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