Politruks in Academia

The preoccupation with syllabi at Tel Aviv University is nothing more than a cover for a dangerous worldview, which says academic research must comply with the winds blowing in the Knesset and the street.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

It is to be hoped that Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter's decision to examine senior researchers and lecturers' syllabi was indeed intended - as Prof. Yehouda Shenhav was quoted by Or Kashti as saying (Haaretz English Edition, August 15 ), "to protect academic freedom from McCarthyism," and does not indicate a surrender to the Institute for Zionist Strategies.

University libraryCredit: Nir Kedar

Those who issued the report titled "Post-Zionism and Academia" (which deals only with sociology courses ) can only be defined, to put it mildly, as "politruks" (Russian for political commissars ). The report, which was distributed to university heads and senior lecturers, is a sanctimonious paper, apparently a tedious expansion of a previous, no less shameful report, submitted by the Im Tirtzu movement to the Knesset and education minister.

Implementing the report - by examining syllabi - would be foolish and troubling. It will make it impossible for academics to do any research unless it is in line with the representation determined by the report, which resembles something taken out of an old Jewish National Fund propaganda movie. This narrow-minded demand could damage Zionism research even more.

But the preoccupation with syllabi is nothing more than a cover for a dangerous worldview, which says academic research must comply with the winds blowing in the Knesset and the street.

The report claims there is a prestigious, influential academic elite that trains generations of young researchers and personnel for public administration, and that maintains and runs research centers with considerable influence on the state's decision-makers. "This elite, which represents Israel in the international academic community, advocates radical leftist positions that would doubtfully pass the broader (Jewish ) public test - in the polls," says the report.

These crude statements expose the principles of the new politruk activity and make its intentions clear. Evidently the report has the goal of spreading fear in the universities, further deligitimizing Israeli intellectuals, and undermining the freedom of expression, research and thought. It aims to do these things by means of populistic denunciations and an irrelevant, illegitimate ethnocratic distinction ("the Jewish public" ).

As the rector of the University of Haifa said, this is a McCarthyist report, which academia must reject out of hand.

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel

ISRAEL-VOTE

Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism