Most JWN readers are probably well aware of the firestorm of controversy that erupted after Neve Gordon, the chair of the Politics Department at Israel’s Ben Gurion University published this op-ed in the L.A. Times August 20, in which he argued that if a two-state outcome in Israel/Palestine is to be won then outsiders must engage in a widespread campaign of Bycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) to this end.
After he published that, BGU president Rivka Carmi circulated a letter saying, among other things,
- “…This kind of Israel-bashing detracts from the wonderful work that is being done at BGU and at all Israeli universities. Academics who entertain such resentment towards their country are welcome to consider another professional and personal home.”
The thinly veiled threat in her letter then aroused much further condemnation from supporters of academic freedom around the world.
Now, Sydney Levy has an excellent update at Muzzlewatch about all the reactions to the Neve Gordon affair.
Gordon has received some good support from fellow-academics at BGU and around the world. Levy tells us that Prof. Uri Ram, that head of BGU Sociology and Anthropology Department, has stated that,
- Should he be fired as head of the Political Science department due to his political opinions I shall call on all department heads in the University to resign as well, in support of Gordon and in protest of the violation of his rights, civil freedom and the University establishment in Israel.”
It is certainly true that BGU has for many years hosted a faculty that is far more open-minded in its views than the faculties at most of Israel’s heavily state-controlled universities. Check out the list of their “Notable faculty members” here.
It includes such voices of conscience as Oren Yiftachel and Danny Rubinstein.
I should add that during the many years when Benny Morris was quite unable to get a job in the history department of any other university in Israel because of the work he had done uncovering Israel’s expulsionist campaigns against the Palestinians in the war of 1947-48, it was finally BGU that offered him a position. (His formerly leftist political views, as we know, later swung radically to the right.)
Yiftachel, Rubinstein, and (the earlier version of) Morris all found a welcome at BGU so long as it was run by the social-justice-minded economist Avishay Braverman. Bt a couple of years ago he left BGU to run for election near the top of the Labour Party’s list. Now he is one of the handful of leading Labourites who have followed Ehud Barak into the Netanyahu government.
Meanwhile, BGU’s presidency was taken over by Rivka Carmi, a physician. Her commitment to academic freedom seems extremely thin– especially compared with Braverman’s.