Zionist and unpatriotic
Im Tirtzu tainted itself when it committed the crime that it originally accused its opponents of, namely, trying to stifle academic discourse.
The Im Tirtzu movement is a student group established a few years ago on campuses across the country. At first, its members claimed that the political atmosphere in their lecture halls had made them feel silenced and excluded. My personal impression is that this claim is incorrect, but it was legitimate and should have been examined. Any student who claims he is silenced and excluded because of his opinions deserves to have his claim checked, because the campus is supposed to be a place where freedom of opinion rules.
Once they had attracted enough attention, Im Tirtzu's leaders apparently realized that they had an opportunity to gain power. From then on, the movement became a political one. This is also legitimate and welcome. The question is, what is the movement's political aim, and do its ends justify its means?
The movement claims its goal is to strengthen the Zionist aspect of student education in the social sciences faculties. At first, the struggle was over curriculum content, and here, the movement made a pathetic move: It wrote a pseudo-scientific report alleging that a certain percentage of social science courses were anti-Zionist.
The results were meant to strike fear: 80 percent in one university, 70 percent in another. But the report was baseless. Neither Zionism nor anti-Zionism has anything to do almost any of these courses. That is why the criterion is absurd. To this day, I don't know if Im Tirtzu considers statistics courses Zionist or anti-Zionist. That is how the movement fell into its own trap.
The following example demonstrates this well: A course that deals with social justice was cataloged as anti-Zionist. What does one have to do with the other? Or perhaps the course runs counter to Im Tirtzu's positions on social issues?
But the public, including Knesset members (both the naive and the less so ) and the education minister, learned about the report from the headlines, without being familiar with its details or methodology. Thus a fact was established: The vast majority of courses in the social science faculties are anti-Zionist.
But now the cat is out of the bag. Im Tirtzu is no longer calling for changes in curriculum content; it is waging an ugly political battle over staffing: It wants the lecturers replaced.
The movement's campaign has thus undergone an enormous shift. At first, it complained of (leftist ) political considerations in the appointment of lecturers and said this must not be permitted. Now, it says (rightist ) political considerations should govern the appointment of lecturers.
Woe to us if political positions ever become the consideration guiding lecturers' appointments. The impressive achievements of Israeli scholars (it was recently reported that Hebrew University's social science faculty ranked 49th in the world ) stem in part from the fact that the only consideration in appointing researchers is excellence, not Zionism or anti-Zionism.
Moreover, Im Tirtzu prides itself on its Zionist orientation. This writer is also a Zionist, and proud of it. But Zionism, like any national movement, has different shades and expressions. And Im Tirtzu's shade appears to be blatantly anti-patriotic. Instead of being proud of the scholarly achievements of Israeli researchers, the movement is threatening to stop donations by Jews abroad.
Maybe this is a Zionist act, according to their understanding of Zionism, but it is certainly not a patriotic one. In practice, Im Tirtzu is joining those who call for a boycott of Israeli universities.
The writer is dean of the faculty of social sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem