Education Minister: Any Move Harming Donations to Universities Must Be Stopped

Gideon Sa'ar responds to Im Tirtzu threat to target political science faculty at Ben Gurion University for their 'anti-Zionist tilt.'

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar responded Tuesday to a campaign threatening to block donations to Israeli universities if left wing professors aren't dismissed, saying that any attempt which may hurt the donations must be stopped.

The activist group Im Tirtzu threatened in a letter to university president Prof. Rivka Carmi last month that if Ben-Gurion University of the Negev didn't take steps "to put an end to the anti-Zionist tilt" in its politics and government department, Im Tirtzu would work to persuade donors in Israel and abroad to stop funding the university.

 Gideon Sa'ar
Nir Kedar

It also said it would "advise political science students to stay away from the university."

In response to the Haaretz report on the letter Tuesday, Sa'ar said that "regardless of claims on pluralism in the Israeli academia, I categorically reject any move that could prevent donations to Israeli institutions, or condition such donations on anything."

Carmi also responded to the letter, saying that "our university, like other universities, is subject to supervision. The Council for Higher Education visits us on a regular basis and in most instances we emerge in a very good position."

Carmi added that donors to the university know the pluralistic values of the university and that the Im Tirtzu campaign will not affect the donations they receive.

Minister of Minority Affairs and former Ben Gurion University president Avishay Braverman also criticized Im Tirtzu on Tuesday, calling their move "borderline fascism."

"Academia is a stronghold of ideas and we need to defend it," Braverman said. "Academic freedom is such that it can't be influenced by external sources. If there is a Zionist university, Ben Gurion is it. I am glad that every university president joined together in order to stop this."