Untenurable: The Firing of Ariella Azoulay

“Everything is political,” cultural theorists often claim. Recently, Bar Ilan University in Israel, decided to prove them right.

Located on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv, Bar Ilan likes to boast that it is the largest university in Israel. Its official goal is to cultivate and combine “Jewish identity and tradition with modern technologies and research.”

Fifteen years ago, however, the university became infamous after one of its students assassinated former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in what turned out to be a successful attempt to arrest the Oslo peace process. The administration was appalled by the criminal act and consequently appears to have adopted a strategic decision to temper its conservative and right-wing proclivities. On the one hand, Bar Ilan continued to provide accreditation for two colleges located in illegal West Bank settlements, yet, on the other, it also developed an excellent gender program and hired a number of faculty members with well known left-wing credentials. It aspired to become a liberal institution guided by ostensibly neutral professional processes and regulations, like all major universities around the world.

It was during this period that philosophy professor, Avi Sagi, of Bar Ilan hired Ariella Azoulay. From an academic standpoint, he made a wise decision, since over the past decade Azoulay has become one of Israel’s foremost cultural theorists, specializing in visual culture. In addition to publishing scores of journal articles and book chapters, editing journals, translating classic texts, and serving as the curator of numerous art shows, during her ten-year career she has managed to write nine academic books, four of which came out with prestigious presses like MIT, Zone Books, Verso and Stanford University Press (forthcoming). On top of all of this, she is also the supervisor of more than ten PhD students.

Azoulay is one of those rare academics who can produce exceptionally high quality research, and do so as if she is working on a conveyor belt. She is precisely the kind of scholar top rate universities recruit and attempt to retain.

Last month, Bar Ilan decided to deny Azoulay’s bid for tenure, effectively firing her. While the protocols of the university committees that reached this pitiful decision have not been made public, Azoulay’s curriculum vitae and academic accomplishments are on the web, and anyone who is familiar with academic promotion procedures can readily see that the university’s verdict is illogical. But, then again, maybe matters are more complicated; maybe there is a method to the madness.

One important fact that does not appear on Azoulay’s written CV is her political activism and public visibility. She was, for instance, the curator of a photography exhibition “Act of State – 1967-2007,” which included hundreds of pictures that for the first time visually exposed four decades of occupation. The show was held in a gallery at the heart of Tel-Aviv. To be sure, a significant part of her work offers a critique of Israeli rights abusive policy and of Zionism. This is the real reason – no other plausible one exists – that most of the people on the university committees decided to vote against her bid for tenure. Bar Ilan, it seems, could not stomach tenuring a vocal Zionist apostate. It therefore abandoned the liberal maxim of a neutral professional process, and demonstrated that cultural theorists are right: everything is indeed political.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel's Occupation and can be reached through his website. Read other articles by Neve.

24 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on October 5th, 2010 at 8:25am #

    I’ve read that decent people had a hard time getting work in German colleges during the nazi’s regime. Lately, it’s been getting harder for decent people to get positions, or remain in them, at american colleges.

    There seems to be a common thread here connecting nazi Germany, fascist usa and ziofascist israel with regard to colleges….

  2. Ismail Zayid said on October 5th, 2010 at 12:34pm #

    Ariella Azoulay is, evidently, experiencing the same treatment that befell all others who have the courage to to criticise Israeli oppressive occupation and its policies against the Palestinian people. Others, including Ilan Pappe, met the same experience. This confirms clearly that no one, including Israeli academicians, is allowed to criticize Israeli policies. Those who dare do that will be labelled anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. Israel must remain above international law

  3. 3bancan said on October 5th, 2010 at 2:12pm #

    ” Bar Ilan, it seems, could not stomach tenuring a vocal Zionist apostate”

    I don’t know how much of “a vocal Zionist apostate” Ariella Azoulay is, but Neve Gordon is just a soft zionazi, who usually blames the US (and Europe) for the Israelis’ “zionist” behaviour on one side and calls for their help on the other.
    I’m wondering if Ariella included this picture into her works:
    http://globalfire.tv/nj/09en/jews/killingguide.htm
    PS: Probable comments:
    MichaelKenny: “It’s obvious that the boy is not a left-hander. Left-handers can’t cut off their left arms.”
    PatrickSMcNally: “The subsequent investigation found out this photo was a fake, it shows the sharia law applied to a Jewish boy.”
    catguy00: “There’s no arm missing, is there?”

  4. hayate said on October 5th, 2010 at 6:56pm #

    What a freakshow:

    * Published 09:50 05.10.10
    * Latest update 09:50 05.10.10

    Rabbi Ari Schvat’s ruling appeared in a study, ‘Illicit sex for the sake of national security,’ published by the Tzomet Institute, which studies the interface between religion and modernity.
    By DPA

    An Israeli rabbi has given his blessing to female agents of Israel’s foreign secret service, Mossad, who may be required to have sex with the enemy in so-called “honey-pot” missions against terrorists.

    Rabbi Ari Shvat’s ruling appeared in a study, “Illicit sex for the sake of national security,” published by the Tzomet Institute, which studies the interface between religion and modernity.

    But Schvat wrote that honey-pot missions are not just a thing of modern-day espionage – such as the late 1980s capture of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed details of Israel’s nuclear program, or the January 2010 assassination of terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Both cases reportedly involved a Mossad female lure.

    In fact, honey-pot missions are rooted in Biblical lore.

    Queen Esther, who was Jewish, slept with the Persian king Xerxes around 500 BC to save her people, Schvat noted. Yael, wife of Hever, slept with the enemy chief of staff Sisra to tire him and cut off his head, according to tradition.

    There is a catch, however, for married honey-pots. “If it is necessary to use a married woman, it would be best [for] her husband to divorce her. … After the [sex] act, he would be entitled to bring her back,” Schvat wrote.

    “Naturally, a job of that sort could be given to a woman who in any event is licentious in her ways.”

    Male agents in Mossad apparently have no limitations on sleeping with the female enemy, as they were not mentioned in the writings.

    Schvat’s study was praised by Tzomet’s director, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, who added that “women employees of the Mossad are probably not going to come consult with a rabbi” before their missions.

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/israeli-rabbi-honey-pot-sex-is-kosher-for-female-mossad-agents-1.317288

  5. jayn0t said on October 12th, 2010 at 7:24pm #

    Most of the threats to academic freedom in the USA are from Zionists like the Anti-Defamation League. Norman Finkelstein, William Robinson, etc.. I’d be interested to hear what commentators on this site think of the following argument: Mostly it’s leftist opponents of Zionist power in America who are under fire. But not entirely.

    Kevin MacDonald, psychologist at California State University at Long Beach was similarly harassed by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his analysis of Jewish power. In this case, half his left-wing colleagues were happy to support the Zionist thought police, because of his right-wing views. I am for MacDonald against the cowardly leftist academics who’ve allied with Zionists against him.

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/06/25/18603971.php

  6. catguy00 said on October 12th, 2010 at 7:29pm #

    Southern Poverty Law Center is a zionist institution now?
    MacDonald is a white supremacist who believe the colored folk are inferior.

  7. hayate said on October 12th, 2010 at 7:55pm #

    According to Jeff Blankfort, it is. And he would not make such a statement without very good evidence. It’s also an extremely racist org with regard to Arabs and Muslims. Something that confirms it’s a zionist front. And as with all zionist ops, scamming money off of others is also up there at the top reason for existence.

    See http://mondoweiss.net/2009/04/american-jewish-committee-and-southern-poverty-law-center-endorse-antiarab-image.html

  8. hayate said on October 12th, 2010 at 7:56pm #

    And also:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/pace11012007.html

  9. catguy00 said on October 12th, 2010 at 9:27pm #

    The SPLC has the JDL on their lists of hate groups.

    The counterpunch letter from Felice Pace was very good. However, nowhere do they refer to SPLC as a “zionist organization”. Counter Punch now any real progressives would be supporters of white nationalists like Kevin MacDonald either.

  10. jayn0t said on October 12th, 2010 at 10:08pm #

    The SPLC is more subtle than some Zionist groups, but it’s in the same business, using ‘anti-racism’ to support racism:

    “Although criticism of Israel does not typically amount to anti-Semitism — and many critics of the Jewish state are unfairly accused of bigotry — in some cases those who denounce Israel also cross the line into denigration of Jews as a group” –
    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2008/fall/anti-semitism-goes-to-school

    This sounds reasonable, but agreeing to these Wiesel words means allowing the SPLC to determine where that ‘line’ is drawn. It means concern about whether it is ‘OK’ to say something rather than whether or not it is true. (It’s impossible to do both). It leads to the current state of the American left.

    The phrase ‘supporters of white nationalists like Kevin MacDonald’ used by ‘catguy00′ above is misleading. It makes it sound like defending MacDonald’s academic freedom against Jewish racial supremacists and their agents means defending his political opinions. It’s like saying that if you oppose the recent harassment of Maoists in Minnesota by the FBI, you support what Mao did.

    Thanks for the replies.

  11. A_Ciascuno said on October 12th, 2010 at 10:16pm #

    “This sounds reasonable, but agreeing to these Wiesel words means allowing the SPLC to determine where that ‘line’ is drawn. It means concern about whether it is ‘OK’ to say something rather than whether or not it is true. (It’s impossible to do both). It leads to the current state of the American left.”

    So basically what you’re arguing is that it’s OK to be prejudiced against Jews as a race because of the power and infiltration of the Zionists? Whether or not such claims about the Zionists are necessarily always true or substantiated or whether such prejudice is any more ethically sound than the kind of White Supremacy the SPLC combats?

  12. jayn0t said on October 12th, 2010 at 10:39pm #

    ‘A_Ciascuno’ worries “So basically what you’re arguing is that it’s OK to be prejudiced”. Nobody ever argues that it’s OK to be prejudiced. As I said, I don’t judge ideas on how ‘OK’ they are – this is shorthand for ‘politically correct’ as opposed to logically valid. The SPLC claims to combat ‘white supremacy’ but in fact it combats academic freedom in the interests of the most important racism left in the Western world. Just look around its website, find the Wiesel words – ‘bigotry’ – “we feel that’s dangerous” – ‘hateful beliefs’ – vague phrases which try to blackmail you, pushing your anti-racist buttons, rather than convince you. The main problem in the left isn’t anti-semitism.

  13. catguy00 said on October 12th, 2010 at 11:34pm #

    “The SPLC is more subtle than some Zionist groups, but it’s in the same business, using ‘anti-racism’ to support racism:”

    So it when it defends visible minorities against hate it is really a cover for its secret zionist agenda?

    “The phrase ‘supporters of white nationalists like Kevin MacDonald’ used by ‘catguy00′ above is misleading. It makes it sound like defending MacDonald’s academic freedom against Jewish racial supremacists ”

    He already has academic freedom. The issue here is supporting his agenda like many on this site do despite his white supremacist beliefs.

  14. hayate said on October 12th, 2010 at 11:53pm #

    a ciascuno/catguy00

    Funny how the ziothings always operate in groups. Israel Shamir referred to the critters as s.w.a.r.m.. :D

    I’m not sure I really like that. Swarm is usually a description of insect gatherings, not zionist bigoted webspams. Is not equating zionists to insects a form a bigotry towards insects? Insects are what they are because of what they are. On the other hand, zionists are what they are because of what they are not…

  15. mary said on October 13th, 2010 at 1:25am #

    Hayate – what’s going on with these trolls with Italian monikers?
    A_Ciascuno = To each
    Il suo = His

  16. mary said on October 13th, 2010 at 1:30am #

    Helen Thomas on being anti-Semitic: ‘Baloney!’

    “I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive.”

    “They distorted my remarks, which they obviously have to do for their own propaganda purposes, otherwise people might wonder why they continue to take Palestinian land.”

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hrzSPl26rYhOVbdFZ6x94gFhc8aAD9IQD6482?docId=D9IQD6482

  17. jayn0t said on October 13th, 2010 at 6:45am #

    ‘catguy00′ asks “So it when it defends visible minorities against hate it is really a cover for its secret zionist agenda?”. Yes, that’s a succinct summary of the SPLC. Thanks.

    Of Kevin MacDonald, catguy00 claims “He already has academic freedom… blah blah…. supporting his agenda… blah blah… white supremacist beliefs”. No, he does not have academic freedom. He has been told to shut up. The SPLC are trying to get him fired, using the cowardly reaction of left-leaning people who should know better to the towering hypocrisy of Zionists who say ‘white supremacy’.

    It’s worse in Canada. I corresponded with a well-known leftist academic there about MacDonald, and he said he ought to defend the latter’s freedom of speech, but he’d lose his job, so to keep our discussion secret. I have no more to say about MacDonald, I only mentioned him because he really tests one’s commitment to academic freedom, which is what this article is about.

  18. catguy00 said on October 13th, 2010 at 8:43am #

    Yes, the University MacDonald teaches at has told him not to teach about race – his belief that whites are genetically superior to blacks and hispanics. If it wasn’t for his beliefs about Jews you wouldn’t care about defending him. As opposed to the SPLC who would still target him.

  19. jayn0t said on October 13th, 2010 at 2:53pm #

    @catguy00 – you know they ‘told him not to teach about race’ – so you were lying when you said he had academic freedom. ‘Genetically superior’ is an unscientific phrase, unthinkable for an evolutionary psychologist, obviously a distortion straight off the $PLZ’s website. You don’t know which views I would care about defending. We do know which views you defend academic freedom for – those you agree with.

  20. ZapRowsdower said on October 13th, 2010 at 3:19pm #

    CSU Long Beach has actually not investigated whether he teaches any racial evolutionary views in his courses, and CSULB has all along been a staunch defender of his right to academic freedom. He claims he doesn’t even speak about those views in class, and that his teaching hasn’t been censured in any way:

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/04/26/macdonald

  21. jayn0t said on October 13th, 2010 at 5:49pm #

    The Zio-lefties haven’t answered my arguments. Are you in favor of academic freedom, or not? If not, say so – don’t try to fool the people who read this site with talk of ‘agendas’ and ‘supremacy’.

    How to move on, how to enable us to resist Zio-lefty blackmail? Here’s an analogy. If someone said to me “you support Manchester United”, I would angrily deny it. If someone accused me of supporting the Dallas Cowboys, I would give them a blank stare. I care who wins the Premier League. I don’t care who wins the Superbowl.

    It’s the same with racism. If a Zio-lefty agent from the $PLC said I support discrimination against people of color, I would angrily rebut the allegation. If they accuse me of anti-semitism, I simply don’t care.

  22. hayate said on October 13th, 2010 at 6:38pm #

    mary

    “Hayate – what’s going on with these trolls with Italian monikers?
    A_Ciascuno = To each
    Il suo = His”

    Maybe the critter works at dominos pizza? ;D

    jayn0t

    “The Zio-lefties”

    I doubt a zionist – left combo is possible. Too contradictory as zionism is inherently bigoted and rightwing. One cant be a rightwing bigot and remain a leftist. Now, it’s possible to have zionists fake leftists, one sees them all over the place… :D

  23. catguy00 said on October 13th, 2010 at 8:47pm #

    “you know they ‘told him not to teach about race’ – so you were lying when you said he had academic freedom. ‘Genetically superior’ is an unscientific phrase, unthinkable for an evolutionary psychologist, obviously a distortion straight off the $PLZ’s website. You don’t know which views I would care about defending. We do know which views you defend academic freedom for – those you agree with.”

    Name me a University in the US where professors are allowed to teach the superiority of the white race in realtion to blacks? Would a science department allow a biologist to teach creationism? Are these an affront to academic freedom? MacDonald is allowed to publish his works and maintains employment at the University.

    Now if MacDonald only focused on non-whites and not on Jews the SPLC would still target him like the have other men of his ilk.

  24. jayn0t said on October 14th, 2010 at 3:25pm #

    The phrase ‘genetically superior’ on its own is nonsense, as is any claim that a ‘race’ is ‘superior’ to another. No scholar says that.

    You can only be superior at something in particular. For example, if I said that men are genetically superior to women at running, even the most ardent university feminist would be unable to deconstruct my narrative. If I said men are genetically superior at thinking, I would be wrong. I probably wouldn’t get many dates, either. Is it possible that an ethnic group contains people who are more likely to have genes for superiority in a particular field than the rest of humanity? It is possible.