Hebrew University’s decision to include the right-wing movement Im Tirtzu – a key mission of which has been persecuting professors for their political views – among the groups where students can volunteer and earn two academic credits constitutes moral bankruptcy. It’s hard to overstate the nature of the decision or the error in judgment by the university’s leaders.
Last year the university began awarding credits for volunteering for social causes and listed 140 groups where students could take part. Credits are given, for example, for volunteer work with welfare groups, hospitals and projects helping society’s weaker segments. Recently the university decided to put Im Tirtzu on the list and grant credits to students volunteering there, even though the university’s regulations state that political groups or parties won’t be recognized as social action groups for the purpose of academic credit.
Even worse, the university completely ignored the long history of Im Tirtzu, whose activities include persecution of left-wing movements and human rights groups and incitement against them, as well as political persecution on campus. For example, the organization has established a hotline as well as a website called Know the Lecturer to receive reports on faculty members who express left-wing views.
According to the university, Im Tirtzu was approved based on the organization’s commitment that the activities in question would assist the needy and not include political activities. The university added: “Organizations were selected with different approaches – liberal and conservative, secular, religious and multicultural.”
Following this shameful decision, the university’s response to the justified protest was to add insult to injury. The only value in the response was educational – we received a useful lesson in political debasement and a living example of collaboration in the negative sense.
It’s hard to believe that responsible adults stand behind such an obvious act of collaboration, certainly not people heading a respectable institution with a long history like Hebrew University.
If Im Tirtzu isn’t a political organization, and if organizations that are “liberal and conservative, secular, religious and multicultural” can be considered the equals of an organization whose purpose is political persecution and silencing others, the meaning of the word “political” is unclear.
Whether the university’s leaders don’t understand that Im Tirtzu is a political organization, even if “the organization is not associated with a political party,” or whether they’re in denial due to cowardice, neither they nor the university’s rector, Prof. Barak Medina, are worthy to head an institution of higher education. The university must immediately reverse this shameful decision to legitimize and support an organization that symbolizes the opposite of what a university stands for and educates toward.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel