Daily Israel Report

Zionist Group in Battle with Ben-Gurion University

The Zionist student group Im Tirtzu trades accusations of anti-Zionism, “McCarthyism” with Ben Gurion University.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/17/2010, 12:31 PM / Last Update: 8/17/2010, 1:17 PM

Flash 90

The Zionist student group Im Tirtzu has long expressed concern over the overrepresentation of far-Left political views in social science departments in Israel. Now the group has taken the bold move of threatening a school's funding, leading to a harsh exchange of words.

Im Tirtzu informed President of Ben-Gurion University Professor Rivka Carmi that she has 30 days in which to address the problem of political imbalance in the school's Political Science department. If after those 30 days have passed no action has been taken to change the “bias towards anti-Zionism” in that major, Im Tirtzu will act to end donations to the school, the organization warned.

The organization plans to force Ben-Gurion University to ensure political balance in the department by going to major donors and convincing them to withhold donations “until it is proven that bias in the makeup of the teaching staff will be dealt with.”

The group's plan infuriated Carmi, who released a statement saying that the initiative “has a strong scent of McCarthyism, and stands in stark opposition to the democratic principle on which the State of Israel was founded.”

Carmi said the university would not look into its professors' political views, even for the sake of ensuring balance. “Shall a university, or any other institution in the country, hire or fire workers based on their political views?” she asked.

While Carmi rejected attempts to ensure that teachers display a range of political views, she said the course material itself is already subject to supervision. The Council for Higher Education conducts periodic reviews in various departments, and the university reviews the syllabus of each course, she said.

Carmi denounced Im Tirtzu as an “extremist” group. Im Tirtzu defines itself as a centrist movement, which supports Israel's existence as a Jewish state and also supports a degree of territorial compromise with Arab states and entities.

Carmi has served as president of Ben-Gurion University since December 2005. She was recently criticized for firing a professor who stated that children could be negatively affected by being raised by homosexual parents, while allowing professors who call for a “one-state solution” that would end Israel's existence as a Jewish state or who call to boycott Israel to continue teaching.