Thursday, February 18, 2010

Does "freedom of academia" mean freedom of treachery?

From a Jerusalem Post op-ed, February 16, 2010 Tuesday 2, by JOSEPH KLAFTER, professor of theoretical chemistry, president of Tel Aviv University and the former chairman of the Israel Science Foundation. (Continue reading after the excerpt to also read responses to this op-ed) :

...As the new president of Tel Aviv University, the country’s largest and most comprehensive institution of higher education, I find myself caught in an agonizing double bind.

On the one hand, my university and other Israeli academic institutions are the subject of an odious boycott campaign...that seeks to delegitimize Israel – and ultimately eliminate it – by unfairly casting it as the new racist South Africa. Regrettably, some of the campaign’s advocates include a handful of the university’s own faculty and students. In fact, one of the most vocal leaders of the campaign is a current post-graduate student.

On the other hand, the university is subjected to vehement calls for another kind of boycott – a financial one – by loyal and long-term donors. This latter campaign is designed by well-intended friends of Israel who seek to coerce us, the Tel Aviv University leadership, into acting against the very small minority of our faculty and student body that is critical of Israel and government policies. They demand that we fire dissident faculty and expel politically wayward students.

It is between these two forces that I operate.

...The boycott campaign opposed on a single universal principle alone – the right to academic freedom.

...many people expect, and a few insist, that my university and its management punish [faculty members who clamor for an academic boycott] and students by expelling them.

To do so, however, will subvert the very same principle by which we oppose the boycott and will undermine our best efforts to thwart it. If we impose severe sanctions against dissident faculty and students, we will play into the hands of those who lead the boycott drive by compromising on our own core value of academic freedom.

Moreover, if donors decide to withhold funding from TAU because of the views of a few faculty members or students, they will inadvertently strengthen the boycotters’ position by politicizing and destabilizing our universities. I believe that those who love and believe in Israel should do the exact opposite – they should increase their support for the universities. They should make a strong public statement against boycotts of any kind by providing greater, not fewer, resources for Israel’s high-achieving academic community, and by strengthening, not weakening, the universities’ national contribution.

It helps to think of education as a tree. In our case, investment in higher education in the early years of the state’s existence yielded incredible fruits for the people of Israel and, indeed, for the world – including medical discoveries and hi-tech innovations. I hope that current and future supporters will invest more in the wonderful tree that is the Israeli research enterprise. The double bind we face is that one group exhorts felling this tree to hurt Israel through boycott and exclusion, while another would stop watering the tree by withdrawing funding and support.

Either will hurt my university and my country.

Responses to Professor Joseph Klafter's op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, titled "The double boycott challenge":

1) From Mark Tanenbaum, Board Of Governors, Tel Aviv University; Board of Directors, American Friends of Tel Aviv University; Board of International Overseers, Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University

...Professor Klafter is mistaken if he feels members of the Board of Governors, such as myself, have a problem with free speech at the University. We don't. Even when the anti-Israel polemics are repugnant to our pro-Israel sensibilities.

I DO however have a problem with these professors hiding behind the University's skirt of "free speech" while in essence, actively working to harm the State of Israel. This insidious and dangerous activity must be dealt with firmly by the TAU Administration.

Allowing the professors to actively advocate and promote the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions ("BDS") Movement in general, and the academic boycott of TAU in particular is unacceptable.

A red line is crossed when a professor transitions from stating his or her opinion on certain political matters within an academic environment, to actively pursuing and promoting the international boycott of Israel in non-academic spheres. The latter activity should not be protected or condoned by Professor Klafter and his Administration.

Furthermore, by these faculty members stating at their international Israel-bashing forums that they are TAU professors, it gives undeserved credence to their nefarious views. At the same time, it harms the University's reputation. TAU now appears as a hotbed of anti-Israel activity in the eyes of it's donors, thanks in part to the president facilitating this behavior through his inaction.

Rachel Giora and Anat Matar are the two most high profile faculty extremists that fly all over the world, encouraging the academic boycott of the very university (TAU) that pays their salaries. How whacked is THAT?

Both have made publicly recorded statements to the press that TAU is complicit in the "criminal", "racist" and "illegal occupation of the Palestinian's land" due to it's military research activity. Yet not a peep from the Administration defending the University against these slanderous and libelous remarks. Plus total silence from the University when Matar wrongly accused an IDF soldier of murdering a Palestinian and blasted his picture all over the Internet. The State Attorney is now looking into that incident.

Matar will be speaking on February 17th at University College in London to promote the academic boycott of Israel. She made sure she was listed in the program as a faculty member at TAU. Plus there was a recent Jerusalem Post article on Matar calling for a worldwide boycott of Tel Aviv University. And again,no statement from TAU's Administration about their esteemed faculty member's efforts to destroy their beacon of academic freedom.

If Matar were not such an obvious hypocrite, she would quit her job at the University she so despises, and apply for a position in Ramallah. Let's see how long the Palestinian Authority would tolerate her "right to free speech".

State employees such as these faculty members at TAU, should not be able to receive a paycheck from the government with one hand, while signing anti-Israel boycott petitions with the other.

One must remember that TAU is a State supported institution. As such, the president bears a fiduciary responsibility to the Israeli taxpayers and the Ministry of Education that professors at his University do not actively promote and work toward the financial destruction of their country through the BDS movement.

A South Africa-like boycott, which is being promoted by these TAU faculty members, will swiftly bring Israel to it's knees by the crushing economic damage it shall inflict. Our enemies will defeat us without firing even one shot.

Professor Klafter does not realize that Israel is fighting against her annihilation in a new type of war.

It is a war where no tanks, or airplanes, or rockets are involved.

It is a war where Israel's military might is of no avail.

It is a war of delegitimization fought by our sworn enemies.

It is a war to crush us through economic and political isolation.

It is a war fought against us from within our borders by the these faculty members.

They are aiding our enemies.

And foolishly protected by Professor Klafter and his Administration.

2) From Dana Barnett, executive director of Israel Academia Monitor:

Dear Prof' Joseph Klafter,
We can certainly understand the predicament you are in with regards to those faculty in your university who misuse their academic freedom. But didn't you make your life too easy by saying that the best answer is to ignore these people and continue with the important work of the university? You can initiate some simple steps which may lead to cessation of anti Israeli activities emanating from your university, without compromising academic freedom.

As a starter, why don’t you write a letter to your faculty, explaining to them that this type of behavior hurts the university and that you personally ask them to cease from their anti-Israel activity?

Second, why don't you warn them that any political activity which enters the classroom will be dealt with harshly? If you would take a close look at the curriculum of some of the courses in your university you would see that they are political and ideological, rather than scientific. Don't you think that such misuse of academic freedom at the expense of students should and can be stopped?

Third, why don’t you cut off all financial support for the type of bogus research that some of these people undertake? You can make it clear that beyond the bare salary, you will stop any financial support especially for so called "research" that is used by your faculty in their war against your university and the State of Israel. You have the right to set funding priorities, you do this every day with regards to bona fide research and do not consider this to be detrimental to academic freedom. So why not use the same criteria for the bogus "research" of these people?

Fourth, you do not have to support their travel abroad. You can make sure that beyond their travel funds given to them as part of their employment contract, they do not get any support from your university for travelling. You can disallow their travel if it is on account of their teaching, you may prevent other teachers from filling in for their courses, when these people try to go abroad during the academic year.

Fifth: You can make sure that these people do not serve on any professional committee or other position in your university. Surely they should not be department chairpersons, or responsible for students in any capacity.

Sixth: Let your university know who the offenders are, make sure that all your students know their identities. Just as students will not go to a poor lecturer, they may opt not to go to courses given by someone who is trying to undermine their university.

Seventh: You need not be helpful when it comes to setting your teaching schedule. Their allotted hours should receive the lowest priority, just as you would give low priority to someone who is known to be a poor lecturer.

The bottom line, these people have the right of free speech, but not anything beyond that. Academic freedom means that one has the right to free speech and to pursuing academic interests freely, without being persecuted by the law. Academic freedom does not mean your university has to support action which it deems to be detrimental. You can set clear guidelines, stating that anyone who calls for a boycott of Israeli Universities shall be treated accordingly. Your present stand, although clearly well meaning, encourages those who hate Israel and its wonderful university system to continue their actions, knowing that they will not be accountable. We are certain that if your donors see a firm stand, which, on the one hand preserves academic freedom but at the same time takes the measures needed to assure this freedom shall not be abused, they will be even more supportive and giving.

3) From Vic Rosenthal:

...Dr. Joseph Klafter has a problem. He’s president of Tel Aviv University (TAU), where Dr. Anat Matar and Prof. Rachel Giora are members of the faculty, and Omar Barghouti is a graduate student.

Matar, a professor of Philosophy has called the IDF a ‘criminal army’, agrees with the conclusions of the Goldstone report that accuses Israel of deliberately targeting the civilian Palestinian Arab population for violence, and supports the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement — including the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. She was arrested at a violent demonstration against the security barrier in Bili’in in 2005.

Giora, about whom I wrote previously, also a stalwart of the BDS movement, is member of the Linguistics Department. Her name appears first (followed, of course, by Matar’s) on a petition calling for “civil society institutions as well as concerned citizens around the world” to

Integrate BDS in every struggle for justice and human rights by adopting wide, context-sensitive and sustainable boycotts of Israeli products, companies, academic and cultural institutions, and sports groups, similar to the actions taken against apartheid South Africa;

Ensure that national and multinational corporations are held accountable and sanctioned accordingly for profiteering from Israel’s occupation and other Israeli violations of human rights and international law;

Work towards canceling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel;

Pressure governments to impose a direct and indirect arms embargo on Israel, which will guarantee end-user compliance with international law and human rights principles.

And Barghouti — well, he is a leader of the BDS movement, a founder of PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural boycott of Israel. PACBI claims to want to apply pressure to make Israel ‘change its ways’, but in reality its goal is to destroy the Jewish state. It is absurd that this person is benefiting from a university built from contributions given in good faith by Zionists in order to strengthen the Jewish state. And it is beyond absurd that he is studying ethics.

Dr. Klafter’s problem takes the form of a dilemma. On the one hand, he seems to believe that the words and actions of Matar, Giora and Barghouti are protected by the concept of academic freedom. On the other hand, some big donors to TAU have said that they will zip up their wallets if subversive academics like the above are not fired or expelled.

While Klafter finds the BDS campaign and particularly the academic boycott “odious”, he is opposed to taking action against the boycotters because to do so would subvert the very same principle by which we oppose the boycott and will undermine our best efforts to thwart it. If we impose severe sanctions against dissident faculty and students, we will play into the hands of those who lead the boycott drive by compromising on our own core value of academic freedom.

According to Klafter, Academic freedom is an absolute value, because without it the university would not be able to perform its functions. So even if a teacher or student agitates for the destruction of the state, he or she can’t be stopped. One can oppose the academic boycott itself, because it limits academic freedom. But doing anything about the perpetrators is forbidden. So the donors should fight the boycott by increasing their contributions, because this will strengthen the university and the state.

Here are a few facts Dr. Klafter seems to have missed:

The state of Israel is more important than Tel Aviv University. BDS is not just an academic boycott — although the fact that it includes one makes student Barghouti a hypocrite — it is part of a campaign to delegitimize and weaken the state so that it can be physically destroyed.

Academic freedom, like freedom of speech in other contexts, is not an absolute value. It can be limited without destroying it.

If the university becomes a bastion of anti-Israel activity, then Zionist donors can better support the state by sending their money elsewhere.

It’s not just the BDS people. TAU is also home to Shlomo Zand, whose ’scholarship’ attacks the very notion of a Jewish people, and a number of others. It’s time for Israeli academia to wake up, smell the coffee, and think about what their academic freedom would be like in the Arab state that Matar, Giora and Barghouti want to replace Israel with.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Netanyahu meets Medvedev in Moscow

From The Israel MFA, 15 Feb 2010:

Advancing our mutual relations and rolling back those who destroy peace and threaten the stability of the Middle East and the world is something I very much look forward to discussing with you.

Photo: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Mr Prime Minister, I am pleased to have this chance to meet with you  ...Israel is more than just a partner in the ordinary sense for us, but is a country with whom we are bound by longstanding relations and with whom we share much in common in terms of the nature and makeup of our populations.

Another matter I wanted to bring up during our talks today is that this year is significant in that we will be celebrating the 65th anniversary of victory over Nazism. This is our common victory. I think the celebrations should take place at the highest level. ...

This is important in order to preserve for all time the memory of these events in the chronicles of history and prevent people from taking liberties with and falsifying the account of what actually happened...

ISRAEL PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I am delighted to see you, Mr President...

...You spoke correctly about the need to recognise Russia’s extraordinary contribution in saving mankind against the Nazi tyranny. We know it very well. ...we have over a million Russian speakers many of whom fought in that same Great War, and we know the heroism and sacrifice of the Russian people which is unimaginable. ...

...You correctly say that there are people who wish to distort what happened in the Second World War. ...widespread denial of the Holocaust. And this should be combated as firmly as any distortion of the history of the Second World War. It’s not just an argument of history, it’s an argument about the present and the future.

And I believe that on this we see eye to eye, and on many other things as well.  ...I look forward to seeing how we can advance peace, and ...helping roll back the enemies of peace...
Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement to the Israeli press after his meeting with Russian President Medvedev:
"I believe that Russia fully understands the Iranian objective and is well aware of the point the Iranians have reached in their nuclear program. Russia is considering and discussing the issue of sanctions with other members of the Security Council. President Medvedev has listened to my position, which is that the sanctions must have teeth. In order for them to bite, they must have teeth. Diluted sanctions, soft sanctions, will simply not do the job."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Expose and Confront Jews who defame Jews

From a posting by Isi Leibler on February 10th, 2010:

The time has come to draw red lines between legitimate criticism and initiatives seeking to demonize Israel.

Richard Goldstone's infamous role as the token head of the UNHRC report accusing the IDF of war crimes is only one example of prominent Jews who exploit their origins as a way to defame their people....

...most Jewish renegades were driven by desperation to unburden themselves from what they regarded as their repressive ethnic and cultural roots. Historian Jacob Talmon described such deviant behavior as “a Jewish neurosis” in response to centuries of oppression and pariah status.

The purported commitment of these Jews to universal and humanitarian values was usually belied by extreme attacks on their own people and association with sponsors who were outright anti-Semites.

Streams of such Jews emerged during the 19th century in the wake of emancipation. A classic example was Karl Marx ...In czarist Russia, some Jewish social revolutionaries even endorsed pogroms against their own kinsmen, hoping that by venting their frustrations on Jews, the masses would ultimately turn on the czar.

Their successors, the Yevsektsiya, the notorious Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party, became the most vicious persecutors of their own people, frenziedly suppressing all manifestations of Jewish cultural and religious life. Ultimately they too were liquidated in Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaigns.

Many Jews outside the Soviet Union joined the Communist Party out of a mistaken conviction that it represented the most effective way to combat Nazism. But once in the party, they became brainwashed, and applauded as the evil Soviet regime executed their kinsmen and institutionalized state-sponsored anti-Semitism.

AFTER THE Holocaust and the struggle to create the State of Israel, most Jewish anti-Semites hibernated. As the plight of Soviet Jewry became a rallying call uniting Jews throughout the world, the few remaining Jewish communists were marginalized.

...Today, despite representing a small fringe, the disproportionate influence of anti-Zionist Jewish extremists in global campaigns demonizing Israel has reached an all-time high.

Ironically, the worst elements emanate from Israel.

There is the frenzied agitation by Israeli academics who abuse academic freedom by utilizing their universities as launching pads to delegitimize their own country. Neve Gordon, a political science lecturer at Ben-Gurion University and a typical Jewish defamer of Zion, published an opinion piece last year in The Los Angeles Times calling on the international community to boycott Israel. He and others like him, funded by the Israeli government and philanthropic Diaspora Zionists, exploit their academic positions to support those seeking to destroy us.

A recent study by Im Tirtzu claims that over 90% of the false allegations of Israeli war crimes originating from Israel cited in the Goldstone report were provided by 16 NGOs who received close to $8 million from the New Israel Fund, an organization purporting to promote social integration and welfare in Israel, headed by former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan. The NIF also sponsors Arab-Israeli groups promoting a bi-national state and US lecture tours by Arab Israelis on Israel Independence Day promoting the Nakba and calling on American Jews to use their influence to replace The Israeli flag and Hatikva.

Last year Haaretz highlighted reports accusing the IDF of war crimes which were subsequently proven false. These received massive global media exposure and made a major contribution toward creating the hostile anti-Israeli climate preceding the Goldstone report.

THE ROT extends to the Diaspora, where as a matter of course anti-Israeli groups now employ Jewish spokesmen to cover up their bias and double standards. In the US, the demonizers of Zion are exploiting the eroding relationship between the Obama administration and Israel. Former American Jewish Congress director Henry Siegman described Israel as “the only apartheid regime in the Western world.” Jewish students at campuses are increasingly bombarded with anti-Israel diatribes by Jewish academics such as Norman Finkelstein, who supports Iranians and terrorists, even exploiting the Holocaust suffering of his parents to delegitimize Israel.

In the UK, Jewish parliamentarian Gerald Kaufman compares Hamas to Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, disregarding the Hamas Charter which declares that the Day of Judgment will not come until all Jews are killed.

In Belgium, a Jewish playwright scripted a play in which the Philistines assume the role of Israelis and Samson emerges as a heroic Palestinian using a dynamite-loaded vest to blow up his oppressors.

Shlomo Sand, a political science lecturer at Tel Aviv University, achieved celebrity status in Europe by publishing a book titled The Invention of the Jewish People, a farrago of utter nonsense promoting the thesis that being the descendents of the Khazars from the Black Sea region who converted to Judaism in the eighth century, Jews have no historical affinity with the Land of Israel.

This was endorsed in a recent UK Financial Times article by Tony Judt, an American historian who regards the creation of Israel as a mistake and favors a binational state. Under the title “Israel must unpick its ethnic mix,” Judt expressed the hope that American Jews would detach themselves from Israel, as Irish-Americans did from Ireland.

The time has come for action - not to suppress freedom of expression, but to draw red lines between legitimate criticism of government policies and initiatives seeking to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. The first step must be to deny tenure in government-sponsored educational institutions to academics who brazenly collaborate with our enemies.

It is gratifying that opposition Kadima MKs are now calling for what will hopefully become a bipartisan investigation into the activities and sources of funding for the NIF and other NGOs.

Whenever criticized, those who call for boycotts of their own country and demonize the IDF as war criminals have the chutzpah to try to defame their critics as McCarthyites and fascists, and threaten libel proceedings. It is their behavior which is morally reprehensible, and we must not be intimidated by such hypocritical tactics.

Israelis and the global Jewish community should be under no illusions. The damage inflicted by Jews collaborating with Israel’s enemies to demonize or delegitimize their country is immense. The only way to neutralize the impact of these renegade groups is to expose and confront them.

Israel and US prepare for Iran battle

From Ynet News, 14 Feb 2010, by Hanan Greenberg:

...Chairman of the [US] Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen is arriving in Israel for a series of discussions focused on Iran, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading for talks in Russia for meetings with top Russian officials.

IDF officials say the meetings with Mullen will focus on "the cooperation between the militaries and joint security challenges," with Iran's nuclear race taking center stage. Officials are expected to look into the implications of economic sanctions, while also examining other options.

Admiral Mullen, who in the past has spoken out against the dangerous potential of Iran's nuclear threat, will be holding his ninth meeting with his host, IDF Chief of Staff Major-General Gabi Ashkenazi. Mullen recently said that an Iranian bomb would constitute an existential threat for Israel, stressing that he and Ashkenazi share a similar vision regarding the threat's scope and timetable.

Meetings to focus on Iran (Photo: AP)

Mullen's visit will be part of a regional tour for America's military chief. He is arriving in Israel from Egypt and will be continuing to Jordan. During his visit in Israel, Mullen will meet with Ashkenazi twice, and is also expected to take part in a meeting with other top Israeli generals.

On Monday, Mullen will be presented with a guard of honor at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. The admiral is also scheduled to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, and meet with dozens of IDF officials involved in the rescue mission to Haiti.

Bibi to meet with Medvedev, Putin
On another front, PM Netanyahu will make an effort to reinforce Russia's contribution to the international campaign against Iran during a series of meetings in Moscow.

During his two-day visit to Moscow, Netanyahu is expected to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin....

Iran's Dictators take fight to opposition online

From The Sunday Times February 14, 2010:

Iran’s clerical rulers, who succeeded in suppressing widespread demonstrations last week by blanketing Tehran with security, are escalating a cyberwar to combat the increasingly powerful role of the internet in mobilising their opponents.

....A group calling itself the Iran Cyber Army has claimed responsibility for hacking into ....opposition [web] sites. This is the outfit that brought down Twitter for several hours last December when huge antigovernment protests were shaking the regime.

In a controlled society with extreme censorship, where satellite television channels have already been blocked, opposition supporters have grown adept at harnessing new media such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to communicate and spread images of demonstrations and unrest.

... Some 30m Iranians are believed to have access to the internet. A few months ago it was about 20m. The increase shows the hunger for information.

[This blog, JIW, also has Irnian readers ...and we welcome them with open arms - SL]

...The opposition suspects [that the Iran Cyber Army] is a subsidiary of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the force that has played the key role in suppressing dissent.

...With so many opposition figures jailed, all independent newspapers closed and many journalists arrested, the internet is fulfilling the role of newspapers.

Iran is holding 62 journalists in prison; three more were arrested last week. It has hanged two men in public for alleged anti-government activities and sentenced nine more to death. The crackdown has left the opposition in permanent fear of arrest....

...The opposition had hoped that last Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, would be the high point in a struggle that has been going on since last summer in protest at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent election. ...
Iranian experts believe the government’s ability to stop the protests on Thursday has meant that both Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, and the system of clerical authority in force since the 1979 revolution are safe. [BUT ONLT TEMPORARILY b"h - SL]

“After Thursday the supreme leader has got enough people to commit themselves that the system stands and he stands atop of it,” said Professor Scott Lucas of the University of Birmingham. “We are not going to see a move to change the system of ultimate clerical authority now.” Ahmadinejad’s position was much less secure, he added.

Having issued one of his most damning statements only a few days earlier, MirHossein Mousavi, the de facto leader of the opposition movement, remains under threat. There are rumours that his wife was assaulted during the protests and a number of his close advisers are languishing in jail...
...Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, will arrive in Israel today amid renewed speculation that the Israelis may be preparing for a strike on Iran.

Mullen is expected to urge Israel to hold off from attacking Iran and to give the new round of sanctions a fair chance. It could be imposed around the end of March, western diplomats said.

Iran, meanwhile, is braced for further protests. The next target for the opposition will be mid-March, a time of great public celebration.

Once more Mousavi and Karroubi will be encouraging their supporters to take to the streets. Once more, cyberwarfare will be part of the struggle. “I’m optimistic. I’ve lived in Iran all my life and I’ve never seen this much courage from the Iranian people,” Amir Abbas Fakhravar, an exiled Iranian dissident, said in an online interview given to FrontPage Magazine.

“This is their last chance for freedom and they don’t want to give it up.”