Academic freedom is under assault in Israel. And it’s being funded by the United States.
Neve Gordon describes the escalating attacks on academic freedom in Israel, associated with the defense of human rights and the divestment campaign, and characterizes it as the expression of a “protofascist logic.” Two right-wing organizations, the Institute for Zionist Studies and Im Tirtzu (If You Will It), have initiated campaigns to discredit individual professors and to cut off funding to the universities where they teach.
lthough the recent scuffle seems to be about academic freedom, the assault on the Israeli academe is actually part of a much wider offensive against liberal values. Numerous forces in Israel are mobilizing in order to press forward an extreme-right political agenda.
They have chosen the universities as their prime target for two main reasons. First, even though Israeli universities as institutions have never condemned any government policy—not least the restrictions on Palestinian universities’ academic freedom—they are home to many vocal critics of Israel’s rights-abusive policies. Those voices are considered traitorous and consequently in need of being stifled. . .
Second, all Israeli universities depend on public funds for about 90 percent of their budget. This has been identified as an Achilles heel. The idea is to exploit the firm alliance those right-wing organizations have with government members and provide the ammunition necessary to make financial support for universities conditional on the dissemination of nationalist thought and the suppression of “subversive ideas.” Thus, in the eyes of those right-wing Israeli organizations, the universities are merely arms of the government.
Gordon also reveals that the attacks are being funded from the United States, by such organizations as Christians United for Israel and the Hudson Institute.
As in all attacks on academic freedom, the issue is the larger one of whether or not liberal values will be allowed to continue.
While in politics nothing is predetermined, Israel is heading down a slippery slope. Israeli academe is now an arena where some of the most fundamental struggles of a society are being played out. The problem is that instead of struggling over basic human rights, we are now struggling over the right to struggle.