Israeli University to Give Credits to Students Who Work With Far-right Group

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People walk on the Ben-Gurion University campus in Be'er Sheva, January 2020.
People walk on the Ben-Gurion University campus in Be'er Sheva, January 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will be giving two academic credits to students who volunteer with the right-wing movement Im Tirtzu.

The university said the group meets the criteria for organizations who can have volunteers work with them for credit, which includes the organization’s commitment that its activities are not political. The university has also recognized 30 other organizations for such credit this year.

The granting of academic credit for social involvement began in 2018. The law to encourage students to volunteer in the community states that academic institutions will give credit for social and community work of at least 30 hours a year, or for at least 14 days of reserve duty. The law says the community work must be done with organizations that are not political or party affiliated.

Last year Im Tirtzu’s request for recognition by Ben-Gurion University was turned down on a technicality: The university explained that under the regulations, the community work had to be regular and continuous, while the movement was suggesting a program based on one-time activities.

This year the organization submitted another request for recognition. According to sources, the issue was taken up by the university’s legal adviser, who came to the conclusion that there was no grounds for invalidating the organization because the proposed activities were not political but focus on community assistance such as helping the elderly or children at risk, or painting shelters.

Last year the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recognized volunteering with Im Tirtzu for academic credit, but canceled its recognition this year on grounds that it had decided to significantly reduce the number of groups it recognized for volunteer work, limiting it to groups with “clear social welfare identities.”

Im Tirtzu was founded in 2006 with the aim of strengthening and promoting “Zionist values in Israel.” In operates 15 branches in academic institutions. A significant part of its activity is battling lecturers with left-wing views.

In 2015 the movement’s activity on campus at the Hebrew University was suspended for a month, after members interrupted a class by a lecturer who compared them to Nazis. In 2017 Im Tirtzu set up a hotline to report on lecturers who expressed left-wing views, and two years later published the details of some 80 lecturers at several institutions about whom the group had received complaints.

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