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Opinion: Academic Pluralism?

Teachers seek to limit academic pluralism by declaring that they will not take part in educational tours of Hevron.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 2/8/2012, 2:14 AM

Hevron
Hevron
Flash 90

The Israeli Education Ministry's initiative, announced in March 2011, to fund educational tours of Hevron, has become the target of harsh criticism from the radical Left.

The program aims to educate students, from both religious and national schools, about their heritage by taking them on tours of the area and teaching them about the city's Jewish roots, which date back over 4000 years. 

Over 200 teachers signed a petition, refusing to take part in such school trips, declaring that, “introducing the program to schools is a manipulative use of pupils and teachers, who will be forced to become political pawns.” The teachers contend that since they are “dedicated to education, [their] conscience prevents [them] from becoming agents of such a policy.”

Apparently, educational programs that seek to provide an alternative to the anti-Israel and post-Zionist agendas that have become prevalent and popular in educational circles are now considered “manipulative” and coerce teachers into becoming “political pawns.” It seems that learning about Hevron and even considering the fact that the Jewish people have deep historical ties to the area, is simply blasphemous.

The petition continues to state that, “the educational system is under attack by extremist political forces, aiming to trade education for indoctrination. We won't allow that to happen.”

The above statement is certainly true. The educational system is, in fact, “under attack by extremist political forces, aiming to trade education for indoctrination.” It has been proven, even admitted by the Israeli Council for Higher Education (ICHE), that there is severe bias in certain academic circles and university campuses. 

In fact, after a campaign spearheaded by the Israeli student movement of Im Tirtzu, a report was commissioned by the Council for Higher Education in 2011, evaluating the political science and international relations departments at Israeli universities, most notably that of Ben Gurion University. The ICHE stated that it was "concerned that the study of politics as a scientific discipline may be impeded by such strong emphasis on political activism." Furthermore, on August 20, 2011, Prof. Neve Gordon, of Ben Gurion University, published an op-ed in the LA Times supporting a boycott of Israel and calling it an apartheid state.

Radical Leftist factions of society, adhering to an anti-Zionist and post-Zionist ideologies, almost completely dominate the realm of academia limiting, and often silencing, dissenting student opinions.  Educators and teachers, at an increasing rate, voice the belief that Zionism is a form of colonialism, that Israel is an apartheid state, and endorse movements like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), all of which aim at completely de-legitimizing and demonizing Israel in the eyes of the international community. 

It is absurd that Jews, like Haaretz’s Talila Nesher, proudly proclaim that, “for the first time in Israel’s history, more than 200 teachers signed a letter declaring that they would refuse to participate in an Education Ministry program to take pupils on ‘heritage tours’ in Hebron.” 

Luckily, though, there are still advocates on behalf of the Jewish people. Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar rightly stated, “it’s to the discredit of the education system that this hasn’t happened in the last 40 years.”

The radical Left in Israel has come to dominate the sphere of influence of academia, media, culture, and continues to seep into the Israeli social consciousness, attempting to strip Jews of all nationalist and Zionistic ideals upon which the State of Israel was founded and upon which the Jewish people thrive. 

Academia prides itself on “intellectual pluralism” and “freedom of expression,” only, apparently, not when it comes to teaching about Zionism. If education is meant to broader students’ horizons and expose them to different opinions, views and beliefs, why, then, do teachers, the very individuals who are supposed to espouse such ideals, seek to silence dissenting opinions?