Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Political Science at BGU

The Political Science Department at Ben Gurion University of the Negev is the subject of a unique event in Israeli history.  For the first time the Council for Higher Education (CHE) in Israel, that is tasked by the Ministry of Education with ensuring high standards in Israel's educational system, has censored a university department for not maintaining the highest standards and for being biased in its teaching. 
The Dept. is headed by David Newman, who is a well known left-wing critic of Israeli Governments and policies.  Some label him pro-Palestinian.  His appointee Neve Gordon has gone so far as to call for a boycott of his own university, BGU, for supporting Israeli "occupation" of the "Palestinian territories." But, he is not unique, it seems that as Dean of the Faculty of Political Science he has filled the Dept. with like-minded leftists, whose teaching of Israeli history is biased and where students who disagree with these views are both taunted and given low marks.  A right-wing student group Im Tirtzu has taken the lead in exposing this pattern of bias at BGU's political science dept.  It is well-known that most political science departments in the western world are staffed by anti-Israel faculty, but to have this situation at one of Israel's own premier universities is intolerable.
Because of the controversy over this Dept. the President of BGU accepted an international Committee headed by German Prof Risse to evaluate the Dept. and render judgement on its standards and degree of balance.  This Committee, after interviewing many people and studying the matter, came to the conclusion that indeed the Dept. was a hive of leftist propaganda and that the subject matter was not treated in a fair and balanced manner and that its academic standards were lacking.  As a result the CHE ruled reasonably that the Dept. must take on additional staff to balance its political bias.  What did David Newman do, he took on three young academics noted for their leftist views and opposition to the "establishment."   The CHE considered this move to be inconsistent with its ruling, and ordered  BGU to close down this Dept.
This, the President of BGU, Rivka Carmi, refused to do.  She had inherited this "mess" from the former left-wing President Braverman (who became a Labor Party MK) and she has maintained that the professors in this Dept. have academic freedom and can teach as they see fit.  Also, to close the Dept. would mean law suits from faculty who have tenure as well as affecting the lives of the students studying for degrees in that Dept. 
As a consequence the CHE gave BGU a last chance to present its case at a meeting this week, and has now given BGU three weeks to "show commitment to changing the curriculum," or it will issue a final closure order on the Dept.  Of course, David Newman and his "gang" with support from predominantly leftist colleagues around the country, oppose such a  move as being a right-wing Government inspired attempt at political censorship.  But, this ignores the fact that it was a neutral international investigatory committee that the university accepted that found that the depatrtment was not up to the required standards and was teaching a biased view of Israeli political history that blames Israel, not the Palestinians, for all problems.  All that is required is a balanced approach to the teaching of political science.


Post a Comment

<< Home