The fact that there is an ongoing PR war for Israel on campuses is no secret. A multitude of speakers, social events, editorials, student groups on both sides – all devoted to protecting or harming Israel’s reputation on campus in the West.
Much less known is how tarnished the image of Israel is in Israel itself. During Operation Cast Lead large demonstrations were held in places like the University of Haifa and Hebrew University, waving enemy flags and accusing Israel of committing massacres in Gaza.
If it were simple that then it would not be so alarming. Freedom of speech is an important value, and protesters, comprised of a minority group of enemy sympathizers, will only anger the Zionist majority, thereby undermining their own cause. However, these sentiments are not checked at the door to the lecture hall.
A recent study by Im Tirtzu* illustrates a worrisome picture of higher education in Israel. The study is not short, and is important for the understanding some of the reasons behind the abandonment of Zionism in favor of pseudo-universalism. However, the most important findings concern materials assigned in classes that deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Six well known, and relatively well-represented, scholars were chosen and syllabi from classes at Israeli universities were examined to see which of these scholars’ work was assigned, and how many times. These scholars are, on one side, Baruch Kimmerling (read Benny Morris review, destorying Kimmerling’s book), Uri Ram (proudly “post-Zionist”), and Edward Said (need I say more?). On the other side, are Amnon Rubinstein (legal scholar, former Meretz MK, who has written widely on Zionism), Ruth Gavison (law professor who has also written on the dilemma of Jewish-Democratic state), and Shlomo Avineri (written widely on political philosophy, as well as Zionism).
Of these scholars, Kimmerling’s work was assigned 23 times, Uri Ram’s 10 times and Edward Said – four times. Ruth Gavison, Amnon Rubinstein and Shlomo Avineri’s work, combined, was only assigned seven times.
The study also looked at academic publications by the political science departments of universities, and found that, overall, nearly 80% of studies published are either anti-Zionist or anti-nationalist in general.
Academic freedom is important. Very important. Repressing that freedom is bad. However, if Zionism stands on solid grounds, and is based on historical facts (and it does), then Israel’s students are being taught by professors who harbor more than just a bias against Israel. They are misleading, at best, and at worst – lying.
In any case, the question must be raised – how is it, that in Israel, of all places, this is happening practically unnoticed?
*The link does not work now, because Im Tirtzu’s website is temporarily (I hope) down.