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Editorial Article

The Assault on Academic Freedom by Tel Aviv University Leftist Faculty Members

by Steven Plaut, University of Haifa
January 26, 2009

The anti-Zionist caucus of far-leftist professors at Tel Aviv University has a new cause. It is the suppression of academic freedom in the university's School of Law. The leftists are upset that the school is considering allowing the woman colonel who heads the Israeli Defense Forces international law division to lecture in its Law School. The far-leftists are opposed to that. Basically they are opposed to anyone teaching in the School of Law who is not a far-leftist anti-Zionist like them.

See this for the full report.

The new assault on academic freedom involves Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, a lawyer in the military. One might think that leftist postureurs for rigorous enforcement of "law" in warfare and in battles would be happy to have such a person speaking in a School of Law. After all, unlike so many of the denizens of the law school, she has been forced to deal with real-world military dilemmas, involving complex tradeoffs and difficulties, not just self-righteous pieties about human rights.

The campus leftists however claim she is herself a war criminal because she gave the okay to bomb the "graduation ceremony" of a group of Hamas terrorists pretending to be police cadets. As you may recall, one of the most successful anti-terror operations in the recent Operation "Cast Lead" was the strike against the "school" for the terrorist cadets. In addition, the academic Fifth Column is angry because Sharvit-Baruch evidently thinks that Jews are legally permitted to defend themselves against genocidal terrorists, and that they may even use weapons in self-defense! They decided that such a point of view must be muzzled!

According to the news report on this assault on academic freedom, published in Haaretz:

'Leading the protest against Sharvit-Baruch's appointment is Professor Chaim Ganz of the university's Minerva Center for Human Rights.

'Ganz wrote a letter to Professor Hanoch Dagan, the dean of the law faculty, claiming that Sharvit-Baruch's interpretation of the law during Israel's Gaza offensive allowed the army to act in ways that constitute potential war crimes. Ganz also said that Sharvit-Baruch harms Israel's values system.

'Dr. Anat Matar, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University's philosophy department, said, "I was shocked to learn that half of the second-year law students will learn the foundations of law from someone who helped justify the killing of civilians, including hundreds of children."

'Dagan told Haaretz that he will not respond to the claims of the original story, but said that the Faculty of Law makes every effort to expose its students to a variety of opinions and encourages discussion, even about questions that provoke disagreement.'

As background to this, it should be noted that the School of Law at Tel Aviv University is already one of the most politicized and extremist academic departments at the university, and is a bastion of far-leftist anti-Israel extremist faculty members. Faculty members at the school misuse their positions to engage in naked political advocacy, some of it in conjunction with openly anti-Israel advocacy and activist organizations. Leftist law faculty in Israel, including at Tel Aviv University, were the main focus of a recent research paper and expose of political bias in Israeli law schools, entitled "Pro-Bono for Palestine: Scholarship, Law, Lawyers. European Government Funding, and the Internal Legal Campaign against Israel." The report was produced by www.isracampus.org.il and copies may be obtained from it (email: isracampus@gmail.com). That expose was written by Dr. Seth Frantzman from the Hebrew University. Chaim Ganz (or Gans) was one of those targeted in the study, including for his support for the mutiny and insurrection of Israeli soldiers refusing to serve because of political ideology. This is the same Ganz now trying to prevent the colonel from teaching.

In particular, in his report Frantzman singles out the Minerva Center, with which Ganz is associated, financed with money from Germany and the EU, as a biased politicized pseudo-academic center, devoted mainly to promoting a radical advocacy agenda.

Here are some citations from Frantzman:

The Minerva Center for Human Rights .... receives funding from the Minerva Foundation in Germany, the Ford Foundation, the New Israel Fund (NIF), the Konrad Adenauer foundation, the United States Institute for Peace, the European Commission and the Faculty of law and the Truman Center at Hebrew University. It partners with the NIF's Shatil 'training program' for NGOs, which principally 'trains' NGOs that denounce Israel, and Bimkom, an organization that primarily supports only Palestinians and Arabs. Through its partnerships it provides 'human rights' training for Palestinian teachers, mostly teaching them how to oppose Israel. It is currently involved with Bimkom in a research project whose goal is to study the Palestinian Arab village of Isawiyeh in East Jerusalem and help it prepare a land use plan for "development." The Minerva Center, it should be pointed out, has never advised a Jewish municipality, even the most poverty-stricken ones like Kiryat Malachi, on planning and land use. Minerva claims that it is involved with "diverse disciplines" and "different sectors." The problem is that they are all far-leftist ones.

On the Minerva website listing those organizations benefiting from the Minvera fellows' volunteer work one finds Adalah (an Arab "human rights" group), the Public Committee Against Torture, ACRI, B'tselem, Hamoked, the "Legal Center for the Arab Minority, and the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Organization for Economic and Social rights. These organizations are not exactly 'diverse' and they cater primarily to helping Palestinian Arabs alone. ...
Clearly Minerva, an organization established in 1997 at the Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities, actively strives to influence the political opinions of its interns through driving them to work with the most radical anti-Israel voices in Israeli society.

Besides Ganz, the other faculty member organizing opposition to the appointment of Col. Sharvit-Baruch is Anat Matar, who is not a lawyer or legal studies faculty member at all. She teaches philosophy, sort of. Matar is one of the most extremist and most openly anti-Israel faculty members in Israel. She openly calls for Israel to be destroyed by means of granting Palestinians a "right of return" to all Israeli territory. She has been arrested for violently assaulting Israeli police and soldiers at a protest against the building of Israel's security wall. She has a long history of illegally promoting mutiny and insurrection among Israeli soldiers.

These anti-Israel extremists are the people who are seeking to destroy academic freedom at Tel Aviv University by creating an ideological litmus test for hiring lecturers, an anti-Israel extremist one.

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Articles appearing on IsraCampus.Org.il are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinion of IsraCampus.Org.il