Hebrew University lecturer Dr. Ran Baratz, a highly respected and very popular lecturer in the university's Department of Philosophy, was recently informed that he would not be employed at the institution in the next academic year. 150 students from all parts of the political spectrum have signed a petition calling on the university to reconsider its decision and keep Baratz on its staff, and 50 of them sent letters to the same effect.
The Knesset's Education Committee will convene a special session to discuss the Baratz affair. Committee Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) said that the university's decision was “strange” and said that a “dark cloud” hangs over the university.
Many of Dr. Baratz's supporters claim that the university's decision is motivated by the leftist establishment's desire for revenge against Baratz, who is a research fellow at the conservative Shalem Institute and co-authored a 2003 report on the New Israel Fund. The report served as the basis for Zionist student group Im Tirtzu's report on the Fund, which has created international uproar.
Baratz also contributed to a more recent Im Tirtzu report concerning the silencing of Zionist opinions by leftist academics. He teaches at the Jewish Statesmanship Center for Strategic Planning, and regularly writes in daily Yisrael HaYom, and in the internet magazine Maraah, which describes itself as “politically incorrect.”
Interestingly, however, a Facebook group formed in support of Baratz was created by Yoni Buchsbaum, a student who is described by lecturers as a Communist. In his comments he made on the group's homepage, Buchsbaum confirmed that he belongs to the political left and explained that the issue at hand is not political, but relates to the quality of instruction in the university.
The Department of Philosophy denied there were any political considerations behind the decision to discontinue Baratz's employment. It said that the university had issued a tender for a permanent position on the Department's staff and that based on purely academic criteria, three different committees preferred another candidate over Baratz.
A co-author of the report on the NIF, Dr. Moshe Ifargan, appeared on Channel 1 television Wednesday and said that even if another candidate was more suited for the permanent post, the university could have kept Baratz on its staff in his present status as a teaching fellow. Baratz's doctoral thesis was cited for “special excellence,” he noted, and the fact that so many students had come out in support of Baratz was testimony to his talent as a lecturer.
Ifargan said that a senior professor had told him that another excellent lecturer was denied a post in the Department of Philosophy last year only because he resided in a community within Judea and Samaria.