Campus Watch Copycats Close in on Israeli Professors

Right Hopes to Silence Boycott Call from Academics

Right-wing groups in Israel want to create a climate of fear among left-wing scholars at Israeli universities by emulating the “witch-hunt” tactics of the US academic monitoring group Campus Watch, Israeli professors warn.

The watchdog groups IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor are believed to be stepping up their campaigns after the recent publication in a US newspaper of an Israeli professor’s call to boycott Israel.

Both groups have been alerting the universities’ external donors, mostly US Jews, to what they describe as “subversive” professors as a way to bring pressure to bear on university administrations to sanction faculty staff who are critical of Israeli policies.

“I have no hesitation in calling this a McCarthyite campaign,” said David Newman, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University, in Israel’s southern city of Beersheva. “What they are doing is very dangerous.”

Last month, in what appeared to be a new tactic, IsraCampus placed a full-page advertisement in an official diary issued to students at Haifa University, urging them to visit its website to see a “rogues’ gallery” of 100 Israeli scholars the group deems an “academic fifth column”.

“The goal is to transform our students into spies in the classroom to gather information and intimidate us,” a senior Israeli lecturer said. “It’s a model of ‘policing’ faculty staff that has been very successful in stifling academic freedom in the US.”

Both Israel Academia Monitor, established in 2004, and the later IsraCampus, model themselves on Campus Watch, a US organisation founded by Daniel Pipes, an academic closely identified with the US neoconservative movement.

Campus Watch has been widely accused of intimidating US scholars who have expressed views critical of US and Israeli policies in the Middle East. The organisation’s goal, according to critics, is to pressure US universities to avoid hiring left-wing lecturers or awarding them tenure.

The advertisement placed by IsraCampus, and seen by Haifa University students as they returned from their summer break, warned that a number of their professors “openly support terrorist attacks against Jews, initiate an international boycott of Israel, exploit their status in the classroom for anti-Israeli incitement and anti-Zionist brainwashing, collaborate with known anti-Semites … who publicly call for Israel’s destruction”.

Publication of the advert was supported by the head of Haifa’s student union, Felix Koritney: “Students who study here need to know who their lecturers are, and if there are lecturers who oppose the state of Israel it is important to publish their names.”

In a statement, Haifa University officials also defended the advertisement – after receiving a complaint from a student who called the advertisement incitement – justifying it on the grounds of “freedom of speech”.

IsraCampus is associated with Steven Plaut, an economics professor at Haifa University, who was reported to have paid for the advertisement. On the group’s site and on his personal blog, Mr Plaut has lambasted many Israeli left-wing academics.

IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor have targeted professors for criticising the occupation, joining protests against Israel’s separation wall, signing petitions or attending conferences critical of Israel, defending the UN report of Judge Richard Goldstone on last winter’s attack on Gaza, or calling for a boycott of Israel.

Both groups have focused their efforts on the staff at Ben Gurion and Haifa universities, two regional campuses that have attracted more outspoken dissidents.

Ilan Pappe, a former history professor at Haifa University and the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, admitted he abandoned his academic career in Israel and relocated to the UK after a campaign of vilification.

But, according to Mr Newman, Ben Gurion University had become the groups’ “public enemy No 1” after publication by Neve Gordon, a colleague of Mr Newman, of an article in the Los Angeles Times calling for a boycott of Israel.

Despite having tenure, observers say, Mr Gordon has come under increasing pressure from the university to resign his position as chair of the university’s politics department over his published views.

Rivka Carmi, president of Ben Gurion University, issued a statement shortly after Mr Gordon’s article was printed, condemning his opinions as “morally repugnant” and warning that he was “welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere”.

Dana Barnett, founder of Israel Academia Monitor, has launched a petition demanding that Mr Gordon be sacked from his position as chair, that his courses be treated as elective rather than compulsory for his students, and that he be denied travel and research funding.

Mr Newman said decisions about hiring and retaining staff at Ben Gurion were still being taken on academic grounds but that the monitoring groups were seeking to change that by calling for donor boycotts of universities seen to be harbouring anti-Zionist professors.

Yaakov Dayan, the Israeli consul in Los Angeles, sent a letter to Ben Gurion University after publication of Mr Gordon’s article, warning that private benefactors “were unanimous in threatening to withhold their donations to your institution”.

Although the universities are chiefly backed by government money, external donations account for about five per cent of their funding. With universities struggling with large debts, donations can be seen as leverage over the universities.

Mr Newman said the monitoring groups hoped to redirect donations to right-wing academic institutions and think tanks, such as the Shalem Centre in Jerusalem, whose founding president is the US neoconservative scholar Martin Kramer, and Ariel College, located in a West Bank settlement near Nablus.

On his website, Mr Plaut credited IsraCampus with forcing Tel Aviv University last week to investigate claims by one of its professors, Nira Hativa, that some right-wing students were afraid to speak out in class because of fears that they would be penalised by their lecturers.

Under questioning from the Haaretz newspaper, Ms Hativa admitted that her allegations were based only on “intuition and personal impressions”.

Both IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor have been incensed by the support offered to Mr Gordon’s call for a boycott of Israel by a small number of Israeli academics.

One such professor, Anat Matar, who teaches philosophy at Tel Aviv University, said the atmosphere both within the universities and more widely in Israeli society was changing rapidly and becoming increasingly “intolerant” of dissent. “We’ve become a little more fascistic as a society,” she said.

Mr Plaut has been at the centre of a libel battle with Mr Gordon since 2002 after he called him a “Judenrat wannabe” – a reference to Jewish collaborators with the Nazis.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mebosa ritchie said on November 16th, 2009 at 10:53am #

    you are so right,jonathan

    these professors have got it coming to them. hopefully,you’ll be able to get them a job in the uk or usa when they get kicked out of theirs in israel.

  2. kalidas said on November 16th, 2009 at 5:09pm #

    I always chuckle when I hear that bogus name; David Ben-Gurion. (David Grun)
    A very appropriate name for an Israeli university.
    Ha! Ha!

  3. B99 said on November 16th, 2009 at 6:24pm #

    As you wish, Mebozo. But don’t come BeeEssing about Israeli democracy any time soon. As you can see, there is no Israeli democracy.

  4. Mary said on November 17th, 2009 at 12:02am #

    It seems that Israel is becoming more and more totalitarian. So much for the much vaunted democracy and free speech.

    This from by Sever Plocker on the consequences for academics visiting the UK and how Israel is perceived in UK universities.,7340,L-3798761,00.html

    A thorn in the world’s side

    Israel in midst of freefall on global front, yet we’re preoccupied with nonsense

    I’ve been invited to deliver a lecture about Israel’s economy and society at Oxford University. As it is a short lecture, and a respectable forum, I gladly accepted the offer. The invitation was extended about six months ago. Yet now, as my trip approaches, I feel concern. I’m hesitating.

    My acquaintances are warning me: Don’t go. Hostile elements will cause disturbances, protest, shout and interfere. The atmosphere at British universities is anti-Israel to an extent unseen in the past. Israel is perceived as a thorn in the civilized world’s side.

    An Israeli professor who quietly left a prestigious British university told me: “My academic and social life there was intolerable. Colleagues stayed away from me as if I was a leper. I was not invited to meetings, which were shifted from university buildings to private residences in order to keep me out. The fact I openly expressed leftist views was to no avail. My objection to the occupation and endorsement of a return to the 1967 borders made no difference. In practice, I became ostracized.”

    “Today you are a welcome guest in the British and European academic world only if you reject the very existence of the colonialist and imperialistic creature that methodically commits war crimes, known as Israel,” he said. “Today it isn’t enough to condemn Bibi and Barak; in order to be accepted by academia outside of Israel one must condemn the Balfour Declaration.”

    British academia’s radicalism highlights the accelerated deterioration in Israel’s status and image. We are in the midst of a freefall on the foreign affairs front. The cold peace with three Muslim states – Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey – has turned into a cold war. Israelis are unwelcome guests in these and many other states, where in the past we were embraced.

    Meanwhile, Israel failed in its efforts to isolate Ahmadinejad’s Iran and disqualify it as a member of the family of nations. Ahmadinejad is having a grand time.

    Bibi doesn’t see the change

    The intimate dialogue that in the past characterized the relationship between the US president and Israel’s prime minister is paralyzed. The pipeline of dialogue is clogged. India and China, the two emerging powers, voted in favor of adopting the Goldstone Report at the UN’s human rights commission. Ever since then, it has been etched on Israel’s forehead as a Sign of Cain.

    Friendly governments, such as France and Britain, are turning their backs on us while currying favor with local sentiments. Israel’s membership in OECD, which was largely a done deal in the past, is distancing again – because of the growing negativity vis-à-vis Israel and not because any technical dispute. By coincidence, or not, large foreign investors are pulling out of Israel.

    Does everyone hate us? Possibly so, yet the fact is that up until six months ago Israel enjoyed an extraordinary boom on the foreign affairs front, both in terms of its foreign ties as well as in global public opinion. This fact points to one source for the deterioration we’re seeing: The new government in Jerusalem.

    Indeed, this is a government elected by the people and it reflects the preferences of voters, who wanted a coalition comprising Likud, Shas, and Yisrael Beiteinu. As such, Netanyahu appointed Lieberman foreign minister, did not agree to a government rotation with Kadima, was unable to arrange a work meeting with the Palestinian Authority president, and conveyed a message of indifference towards the peace process.

    Yet worse than this, the 2009 Netanyahu does not understand the world, and he mostly fails to grasp the change taking place within conservative parties, which are close to his political positions. Today they are the source of harsh criticism against the Israeli government; Netanyahu’s government.

    The current anti-Israel wave is particularly dangerous especially because it is not limited to the media and to leftist groups that traditionally were classified as “Israel haters.” This wave is rising, expending, drawing young people, and painting the perceptions of the well-established middle class and influential elites.

    Israel’s image has hit a nadir; it is isolated, unwanted, and perceived as bad. The world is telling us that should we continue along the same contemptible path, we will lose our legitimacy.

    Yet we’re preoccupied with nonsense.

  5. Mary said on November 17th, 2009 at 12:10am #

    A Petition to Support Neve Gordon

    On August 20 Neve Gordon, the chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) and a long-time Ta’ayush activist, published an op-ed piece in the LA Times. In his piece, Gordon has called Israel an Apartheid state and voiced his support for the BDS campaign as the only means of saving Israel from itself. The response was a firestorm. BGU’s president, Prof. Rivka Carmi, personally led the attack against Neve: she threatened to fire him, said he is “welcome to consider another professional and personal home,” and argued that his views are not protected by his academic freedom. The message is clear: anyone who voices criticism of the sort Neve has is risking a public smear campaign if not his or her job.

    Please write President Carmi ( to protest her treatment of Neve and her understanding of academic freedom and freedom of speech. Please also sign the online petition.

    Time to boycott Israel

    Education Minister slams Israeli lecturer’s ‘apartheid’ op-ed (

    Ministers Sa’ar, Margi slam anti-Israel article written by BGU lecturer

  6. mebosa ritchie said on November 17th, 2009 at 6:10am #

    b99–more crap from you
    i’m not interested in israeli democracy because i see that the totalitarian states seem to do so much better in the world note china,sudan,russia
    scum like neve gordon and shlomo sand deserve to get kicked out of their jobs. they are jewish jew haters,like yourself.
    they are quite happy for the idf to protect them and for the israeli state to support them whilst they can call for its destruction.
    bite the hand that feeds you and you will go hungry

  7. mebosa ritchie said on November 17th, 2009 at 6:13am #

    mary–by the way
    i have written to rivka karmi as you have suggested.
    i have told her that if she doesn’t boot out scum like neve gordon then i shall consider,along with several friends here, withdrawing my financial support from ben gurion university.
    you can get him a job in england with his and your pal ilan pappe

  8. Palestine, not isreal said on November 18th, 2009 at 12:24am #

    Nice to see Israelis turning on themselves. Now you know that your own medicine is a rather bitter one.

  9. mebosa ritchie said on November 18th, 2009 at 12:40pm #

    good news for mary and b99

    Israel’s in fourth in global scientific activity, ranking just behind Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark for the number of scientific publications per citizen, according to a report presented at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan on Monday.
    Based on figures from 2005, the report, which was compiled by the Council for Higher Education, also shows that in that year alone, Israeli scientists and researchers published 6,309 essays and articles in foreign scientific journals. According to those figures, nearly 1 percent (.089%) of all scientific publications in 2005 came from Israel.

    While impressive, that number was a slight drop from previous years. In 1997, for example, 1.03% of all scientific publications came from Israel.

    Additionally, citations of Israeli publications by other scientists were extremely high. According to the report, Israel Institute of Technology-Technion professor Avram Hershko, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004, published 148 articles and was cited more than 16,000 times.

    Finland, the Netherlands and Canada followed Israel in the report, while the United States placed 12th, and Germany placed 15th. Japan, Britain and Russia also fell behind Israel.

    Israel’s role in global scientific activity is nearly 10 times the size of its percentage of the world’s population, the report shows.

  10. b99 said on November 18th, 2009 at 1:14pm #

    Mebozo – I have no problem with and am not surprised that Israel ranks high in scientific activity. So too did Nazi Germany. Man, those U2 rockets were something. So it is safe to say that scientific research and moral cretinism have no problem existing in the same society.

    As for Israelis jumping ship – the more the better. In fact, I’d rather have all your kind over here in the US (where you all really wanted to be in the first place) than bugging the Palestinians with your acquisitive culture.

  11. kalidas said on November 18th, 2009 at 3:18pm #

    Yeah, they invented a germ to kill everyone but Semites.

  12. mebosa ritchie said on November 19th, 2009 at 11:36am #

    From 2010: No tax on Israeli food sold in Europe

    Following new agricultural trade agreement signed between Israel and EU, chocolate, pastries, pasta, coffee and other products exported to continent will enjoy tax exemptions as of January 2010
    Good news for Israeli food manufacturers: As of January 1, 2010, food products exported to Europe will enjoy tax exemptions. The products include chocolate, pastries, waffles, pasta, coffee, fruit juice concentrates, marshmallow, fresh salads, and more.

    As a result, the prices of Israeli products in European markets could be reduced, increasing their competitiveness.

    Following diplomatic efforts, President Obama signs memo eliminating import subcharge on dairy products from Israel. Exports of milk products to US totaled $6 million in 2007

    So far, the exports of Israeli processed foods have been exported to Europe under restrictions of high levies, preventing their exports in some cases.

    The tax exemption was reached as part of a new agricultural trade agreement signed between Israel and the European Union. The new deal was signed last weekend in Brussels, in the presence of Israeli Ambassador to the EU Ran Curiel and the ambassador of Sweden, which is the current EU president.

    This new situation could serve as compensation for Israeli manufacturers, like Strauss and Osem, in light of the recent weakness in the Israeli food and beverages market.
    The European market is the main market the Israeli processed food industry trades with, as 50% of the food imports to Israel are from the European Union and 44% of the exports in this sector are directed to EU markets. The volume of exports to Europe is estimated today at around $650 million.

    “The agreement is expected to bring about a liberalization of about 95% in the commerce in processed food between Israel and the European Union, and significantly increase the competitiveness of the Israeli food industry in exports to Europe,” said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.