The Respectable Right in All Its Ugliness

In the last week of the Jewish calendar year 5772, the right wing finally took off its gloves.

In the last week of the Jewish calendar year 5772, the right wing finally took off its gloves. It isn't entirely by chance that within just a few days, two moves led by the minister of education came to fruition along with a third presided over by the minister of justice - the two pillars of the smiling, cultured, soft-spoken but rapacious and violent right, as much so as the Likud central committee of yesteryear.

And what can be said of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman who demands that the High Court of Justice transfer to the settlers privately owned Palestinian lands that were seized for the military purposes of the occupation, as indeed international law allows? The occupation, as everyone knows, is a temporary circumstance.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is behaving in a similar way, both in regard to the college in Ariel and to the threat to shut down the political science department at Ben-Gurion University. Indeed, declaring the obscure, mediocre institution - one that is inferior to quite a number of other colleges - to be a university would have been a joke had it not reflected the official outlook of the education minister and his cabinet colleagues concerning the quality threshold required of Israeli research. By its decision, the government declared that henceforth the level of Ariel's scientific achievements is the standard for a research university.

Sa'ar also knows that the academic procedure at the Judea and Samaria Council of Higher Education, a body subordinate to the military administration that exists only for the sake of this one college, was nothing but a disgraceful farce. Now along comes the final nail in the shape of the proposal to shut down the department in Be'er Sheva.

These moves are being taken just as an international examining committee appointed by the national Council for Higher Education itself has submitted its findings, and Ben-Gurion University has accepted them and is acting accordingly. This behavior has no parallel in the democratic world. From the outset the purpose of the examining committee was to apply pressure to the Be'er Sheva academics.

The committee devoted to the Ben-Gurion department two or three times the time it did to each of the other universities. Though the makeup of the committee was rather dubious, it found that there were a number of subjects missing in the political science core curriculum. These shortcomings, which are natural in a small and under-funded department and which can be found anywhere, have either already been rectified or are in the process of correction through the hiring of additional faculty.

The university has done everything possible to fulfill the demands that were presented to it. But all this did not satisfy the rightists on the Council for Higher Education, who have now gone back to their initial aim: to eliminate the department they hate because of the political stances of some of its members, and at the same time to strike fear into the other universities and their faculty members. From now on everyone will know who is in charge in this country.

This bullying behavior, which is threatening to eliminate the institution of tenure, an essential condition for the freedom of academic research and teaching, can be stopped only by the use of countervailing force: If the proposal is adopted by the Council for Higher Education plenum, there will be no alternative but to declare a strike at all the other political science departments, to enlist colleagues abroad and to involve the international institutions: the International Political Science Association, the various national associations and the relevant committees of the European Union institutions, with which Israel has agreements in the area of research and science.

In this way it will be possible not only to save the department in Be'er Sheva but also to thwart the potential for the destruction of Israel's academic institutions. Beyond this, there is no doubt the education minister is aware that the move underway will not only contribute greatly to the nurturing of Israel's international legitimacy, but also attract outstanding researchers from the United States. After all, who would want to miss out on the opportunity to work at an institution that will be able to expel him the moment he does not find favor in the eyes of the domesticated marauders on the right?