Menachem Klein - Emil Salman
Menachem Klein Photo by Emil Salman
Text size
Gabriel Baharlia
Ariella Azoulay Photo by Gabriel Baharlia
David Bachar
Bar-Ilan President Moshe Kaveh Photo by David Bachar

Bar-Ilan University's committee for tenure and appointments last month declined to discuss the promotion of a senior lecturer in political science who is known to be active in various left-wing organizations.

This is not the first time that Dr. Menachem Klein, who teaches in BIU's department of political studies, was denied a promotion by the administration. Five years ago, the promotions committee ruled against elevating Klein to the rank of professor.

Last week, the university also rejected an appeal submitted by Dr. Ariella Azoulay, a philosophy instructor also known for her leftists political views, against the decision to deny her tenure and a promotion. As a result of the decision, Azoulay will no longer teach a course on visual culture and contemporary philosophy, which she has taught since 1999.

These recent developments have prompted lecturers in various departments, particularly in the political science department, to complain of a "thuggish atmosphere" that has permeated the university "and has politically tilted it to the right, to the point where it does not allow for an intellectual discussion and openness to those who hold other opinions."

An official at Bar-Ilan University said in response: "The hiring committee's considerations regarding the promotion of lecturers are of an academic and professional nature only. At Dr. Azoulay's request, she will soon receive a detailed letter explaining the panel's decision not to promote her. In the matter of Dr. Klein, the reasons in this case are also academic in nature. His political opinions are of no concern to the panel."

The official said that "Dr. Klein's statements [alleging political persecution] are devoid of any basis" and that Bar-Ilan rejects claims "made by anonymous sources of a supposedly right-wing atmosphere in the political science department."

Speaking to Haaretz, Klein said that "right-wing and conservative forces have taken over key positions in the university. Some of these people believe that it is their duty to cleanse the place of 'subversive' elements, and they are taking all the necessary measures to do just that. Whoever is labeled as a leftist, a liberal, or someone who speaks of 'the other' in the university, suffers from oppression and muzzling. There is no place for such politically motivated intervention in academia."

Azoulay, who is currently abroad, expressed similar sentiments. In a recent email addressed to her students and friends, she wrote: "Given the local and international recognition of my work, my rich history of published works, the number of doctoral theses which I have counseled, some of which earned special citations of excellence, one cannot summon a logical explanation for the university's decision not to grant me tenure and a promotion aside from my well-known political stances."

Klein and Azoulay are two of the few lecturers who have been publicly critical of recent events at Bar-Ilan. Others who wished to remain anonymous claim that in recent years the institution has taken a rightist lurch. One lecturer even went so far as to compare left-wing academics with "Marrano Jews of Spain" who were forced to convert during the Inquisition.

"People are afraid to express their genuine opinions for fear that they will be denied promotion," said one instructor.

Klein began lecturing in the political studies department in 1993. Five years later, he received tenure and was promoted to the position of senior lecturer. He wrote numerous books and essays, in both Hebrew and English, which were published in prestigious journals worldwide. His area of expertise includes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, divided cities, culture and politics in Egypt, and religious and nationalist radicalism in both Judaism and Islam.

Azoulay has written 10 books and authored numerous articles. In addition, she has also directed documentaries and written books about Israel's policies in the West Bank.