Earlier this week, it was revealed that many students at Tel Aviv University are afraid to speak out in class for fear that they will be punished for holding Zionist or right-wing views. Erez Tadmor, director of the Zionist student group Im Tirzu, believes that all Israeli universities are suffering from a similar problem, leading to a situation in which Israel lacks true academic freedom.
Tadmor spoke to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service, and began by praising Professor Nira Hativa, who revealed the issue at TAU. “She is a very courageous woman,” he said.
Hativa based her findings on feedback forms provided by students upon completing courses, Tadmor said. The forms revealed that students who found that their own political views were to the right of those of their instructors were intimidated into keeping their opinions to themselves.
The problem did not affect only students who identify themselves as politically right-wing, Tadmor noted. Those who found themselves afraid to discuss their political views included “the moderate left, the political center, the right – everyone who does not reject the existence of Israel as an independent state, whoever doesn't automatically attack Israel.”
Anti-Zionist professors have created an informal “thought police,” he said. Those academics who hold different political views are passed over for promotion, he charged. “This is cynical exploitation of the system by professors... there is a general atmosphere meant to frighten those with different views.”
The situation must change in order to bring true academic freedom to Israel, Tadmor believes. Israel must ensure that there is room for all views in academia, he said, as universities are publicly funded and must serve the entire spectrum of society.
Another problem created by the existing situation is that of poor public relations, he noted. When many Israeli academics are openly critical of the state of Israel, their views become fodder for anti-Israel activists abroad, and the result is harm to Israel's image in the international community.