(January 2, 2019 / JNS)
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is yet again embroiled in controversy.
Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation released recordings on Jan 1 of a senior professor in the university’s Faculty of Humanities berating and humiliating a student for attending class in an Israel Defense Forces’ uniform.
In response to the incident, the university issued a statement “apologiz[ing] to the student who felt hurt,” but did not express any intention to discipline the professor.
While the university’s tepid response might be puzzling to some, it should come as no surprise given its allowance and encouragement of anti-Israel activity to fester on its campus.
This was glaringly evident this past October, when the university joined the judicial battle against the government’s decision to bar BDS and Students for Justice in Palestine activist Lara Alqasem from entering the country.
In the same month, the university’s law faculty held a highly politicized conference titled “Life Under Occupation,” which showcased the university’s diversity by featuring a long lineup of far-left speakers.
The speakers included three writers for Haaretz, two New Israel Fund public council members, a staff member of the terrorist-defending NGO Adalah, the CEO of the far-left NGO Ir Amim, a founding member of B’Tselem and several left-wing professors.
In 2017, the university’s Faculty of Humanities decided that it would not be playing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” at its graduation ceremony so as to not offend the Arab students.
Students at Hebrew University also freely hold inciting protests on campus calling for “intifada,” praising shahids (“martyrs”), and vowing to “continue the struggle.” The most recent of these expressions of “free speech,” as labeled by the university, occurred mere months ago following the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem.
Last academic year, the university organized a conference featuring representatives from “Coalition of Women for Peace,” a far-left NGO that promotes the BDS movement.
Several months prior, one of the university’s professors compared Israel to Nazi Germany in class, stating it is a “fact.” Instead of seizing the opportunity to speak out against academic politicization, the university criticized the student who made the professor’s statement public.
The university’s unwillingness to curb anti-Zionist activity within its grounds creates an atmosphere in which students regularly disregard the instructions of security personnel with impunity.
One student even physically assaulted a security guard last year after the guard tried to break up a scuffle that arose after Arab students desecrated a memorial erected for a murdered IDF soldier. The student has yet to face any punitive consequences from the university.
The unfortunate reality is that for Hebrew University, which receives millions of shekels in government funding, freedom of expression and pluralism are ideas reserved only for the left side of the political spectrum. This is not only a gross misuse of public funds, but a betrayal of the university’s student body that strives to achieve a higher education and not to be part of an institution seeking to promote a political agenda.
The exchange of ideas and freedom of speech are crucial tenets to a thriving society and higher education, but this does not give a publicly funded university the mandate to promote only one side of the debate. That is not academic freedom; it is forced indoctrination.
Instead of enabling and turning a blind eye to countless acts of anti-Israel activity, it would behoove the university to crack down on politicization and inciting anti-Zionist activity on its campus.
That is what the student body needs—not to have resources earmarked for its education be squandered on promoting a radical agenda.
Eytan Meir the director of external relations and development for Im Tirtzu.