Daily Israel Report

Bar Ilan Reins In Radical 'Gender Studies' Doyennes

Rackman Center's Ruth Halperin-Kaddari and Gender Studies' Tova Cohen dealt setbacks over political extremism.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/12/2011, 11:10 PM / Last Update: 5/13/2011, 6:09 PM

Bar Ilan campus
Bar Ilan campus
University website

Two of the leading gender-feminist figures in Bar Ilan University, Prof. Tova Cohen and Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, have suffered setbacks over the past week, and allegations of radical politics are involved. 

Prof. Cohen, head of the Gender Studies program, has reportedly resigned her position after the university's Central Committee decided not to extend her term, which is presently in its eighth year. 

A high-level source within the university told Arutz Sheva that a central reason for the decision is Cohen's extreme left-wing political radicalism. The Gender Studies program regularly sponsors conferences that feature extreme leftists and anti-Zionists, who couch their Israel-bashing and anti-IDF lectures in "gender" terminology.

Dr. Halperin-Kaddari, who heads the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status within the Faculty of Law, was reportedly prevented from bringing a virulently anti-Israeli United Nations official to the university.

According to Makor Rishon, Halperin-Kadari had invited the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, to participate at a round table discussion. 

A Zionist student group on Bar Ilan's campus, "The Forum for the Land of Israel," asked the university administration to cancel the invitation. The group's head, Ranen Shvartzman, cited harsh anti-Israeli quotes from Pillay, including accusations that Israel "cold-bloodedly murdered" Arabs, bombed hospitals "for no reason," carried out extrajudicial killings and used "unbridled violence" against the "humanitarian" Gaza flotilla.

Judge Richard Goldstone, whose anti-Israeli report had been commissioned by the body Pillay heads, is "a lover of Zion" compared to her, the students said acidly.

Besides heading the Rackman Center, Dr. Halperin-Kaddari is one of the 23 members of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Shvartzman told Arutz Sheva that while the gender feminists are known to be extremely radical politically, he believes they are tolerated because "the center brings in large amounts of money" to the university.

Those supporting the center out of respect for the late strongly pro-Zionist Rabbi Rackman, a respected American Rabbi who made a name for himself in Israel and the US for trying to find halakhic ways to ease divorce issues for women, are not aware of the direction the center has taken.

The university accepted the students' appeal and canceled the invitation. The decision was championed by Prof. Elisha Haas, a member of the university's senate and chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel.   

"Radical tendencies characterize all of the gender programs in Israel's universities," Haas said, "However, Bar-Ilan, a university with a connection to Judaism, must not follow others' lead but offer a serious intellectual alternative."

The problem, he explained, is that "the demand for 'political correctness' silences all opportunity for criticism."