Home Page >
Key Documents and Resources

BEN GURION U. POLITICS DEPARTMENT NEEDS TO CLOSE

     Shut it Down, Don’t Try to Make it “Balanced”!!

 

 

By Professor Israel David, Ben Gurion University Ope-ed in Maariv, January 30, 2012 (translated by Steven Plaut, Isracampus)

 

 

Complete closing down of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University is Now Essential

 

 

  Ben Gurion University has found itself at a fork in the road, where it is being required to provide clear and non-evasive answers to Israel’s Council on Higher Education, the public body that oversees higher education in Israel.   As the reader no doubt recalls, this Council earlier appointed an international panel of professional evaluation for the department of politics at BGU, and that panel recommended shutting down the department of politics altogether, unless the severe academic and professional shoddiness and incompetence there would be cured.   Numerous academics publicly endorsed the panel’s criticisms and recommendations.   There was some dissent however regarding the panel’s sharp criticism of the BGU department of politics for its absence of any balance or pluralism.

Complaints about the absence of balance have been voiced by many, including the “Im Tirtzu” Zionist student movement.   Even the President of Ben Gurion University, Prof. Rivka Carmi, published her own announcement in the media with reference to the recent politics departmental “conference,” in which she expressed disappointment at the lack of balance and pluralism there.

 

   Anyone with any sense of how academia works will understand at once that the members of the panel were trying to avoid explicitly addressing the heart of the problems here, and preferred to prettify

them by attributing them to the absence of “balance.”    Let us say

upfront that there is no real basis for mandating that “balance” be maintained at academic conferences.   A conference of physicists describing the roundness of the earth need not grant equal time to those insisting the earth is flat.   So just what sort of “balance” is deemed desirable and who should establish the rules for it?

 

    There are indeed quite a few “imbalances” at Ben Gurion University.   Take for example the fact that nine out of the eleven tenured faculty members in the department of politics at BGU, as well as a great many of the non-tenured faculty members there, are radical extremist seditious far-leftist activists.   (Actually, all 11 are –

Isracampus)    The chance that such a department could have emerged by

chance is far lower than the chance of winning millions in the lottery.   It should be noted that no similar “coincidence” can be found at any other university!   Therefore there can be no doubt that this department was constructed intentionally using the “One friend brings in another friend” method of nepotism, and that in turn is the source of the absence of professional and scientific standards in the department.   When the international panel complained about the absence of core subjects in the curriculum and research of the department of politics, the department members themselves not only conceded that the point was correct but expressed pride in it!   The result is that the Arab-Israeli conflict (or the leftist anti-Israel take on it) occupies over 90% of the focus of attention in the department of politics at BGU.   At no university in the world would you find a situation where 90% of the faculty in physics are all dealing with a single sub-topic within the discipline.   There are oodles of topics in physics deserving of attention. Nor would a basic physics course consist only of citations of a single scientist because the instructor happened to have studied that scientist, even if that scientist were Einstein.

 

   The imbalance of interest when it comes to the department of politics is the imbalance of purpose.   The bulk of faculty members in the department have no idea what the mission of an academic institution is.   The current chairman of the department, Dr. Dani Filc, responded to the recommendation of the international panel, speaking on   Israel’s Channel Two television.   “It is a plot to silence us,” he said, and here we see the nucleus of the problem.

Filc believes the mission of the department is advocacy, whereas the proper mission of an academic unit is research and instruction.   Much more serious is Filc’s inability to understand that it is NOT a proper function for an academic department to persecute and harass Israeli army officers, smearing them as “war criminals,” nor to vandalize Israeli military security points and checkpoints, nor to infiltrate illegally into Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah and there get photographed in warm embrace with Arafat (which a faculty member in this department has already done), nor to organize violent illegal “protests” (some of which have already been the subject of prosecution in BGU disciplinary committees).   Such circus activities have no place in academia.   They interfere with and distort all efforts at education and research.   Moreover, the shenanigans of the department of politics at BGU undermine the reputation of every one of us at BGU.   Those indeed were the very words of President Rivka Carmi in a statement issued in response to the calls by Neve Gordon (who was department chairman at the time) in the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian (UK) for an international boycott against Israel!

 

    Shutting down the department of politics at BGU is a matter of great seriousness. There are precedents in Israel for doing so.   Where there was significant student demand for studies in such a department, then in those precedent cases the department was completely rebuilt from scratch after a respite.   And that is what has to be done at BGU!

 

 

Israel David teaches mathematics and operations research at Ben Gurion University