Hundreds of Students Throughout Israel Protest Bennett's New University Ethics Code

Call on Prof. Asa Kasher, who wrote code at Israeli education minister's request, to resign

Students protest Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett's planned academic ethics code at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, June 14, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

About 400 students demonstrated on Wednesday against the proposed new ethics code for Israeli universities. Students from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem came out to protest the new code, written by Prof. Asa Kasher at the behest of Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

The protesters fear that the ethics code could limit freedom of expression of faculty members in institutions of higher education. The students carried signs with slogans such as “Asa resign, silencing people is not kasher” (“kosher” in Hebrew) and “We want funding, not silencing of faculty.”

A number of groups organized the separate demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, including the Students Union in Tel Aviv.

“We are not willing to remain silent in the face of the attempts by students to incite against faculty. We believe that academia is a political place, that everything is political and certainly when you teach and touch on matters in economics, philosophy and history, and we want our faculty to be free to express their opinions while we trust ourselves to be able to use our judgment,” said Uri Ben Shalom, one of the organizers of the demonstration at Tel Aviv University.

Prof. Asa Kasher, who drafted a code of ethics for Israel's universities.
Kobi Gideon/BauBau

Over the past few days, faculty members have continued to publish their protests against the new ethics code. The committee representing the senates of Israeli universities released a statement saying they once again rejected the imposing of such a compulsory code by an official government institution, saying they have opposed such initiatives in the past too. The new code would harm academic independence and freedom, said the committee. The umbrella organization of the heads of Israel’s universities has blasted the code too.

Kasher, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Tel Aviv University, wrote the new code at the request of Bennett, head of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party. The new ethical code is still pending the approval of the Council for Higher Education, which operates under the auspices of the Education Ministry. The code bars professors from expressing political views in class, and Kasher says it mirrors the code of ethics used in American universities, a view that has been disputed.