Will the real McCarthy please stand up
The Institute for Zionist Strategies, where I proudly serve as founding president, has conducted and sponsored many research papers, one of which (in final draft form ) raised the ire of Haaretz’s editors (“Politruks in academia,” August 17 ). This study on Post-Zionism in academia is a thoroughly researched paper by an academic with a PhD that took many months of diligent research. It demonstrates a severe anti-Zionist bias (euphemistically termed “post-Zionist” ) in almost all sociology departments at Israeli universities.
This scholarly paper, which also examines think tanks, spans 141 pages (not including recommendations ), 105 footnotes and an 11-page bibliography. By all measures, it is an impressive and thoughtful work, whatever the reader’s predisposition or political view. A small part of this extensive work is devoted to an attempt to explain the origins of the bias and tilt.
In the words of Haaretz, “The report claims there is a prestigious, influential academic elite that trains generations of young researchers and personnel for public administration, and that maintains and runs research centers with considerable influence on the state’s decision-makers.” As Haaretz quotes the report, “This elite, which represents Israel in the international academic community, advocates radical leftist positions that would doubtfully pass the broader (Jewish ) public test – in the polls.”
Haaretz disputes this contention simply by calling it “crude” and by maligning the authors’ motives. This, of course, is not exactly a scholarly refutation – certainly not one worthy of combating “McCarthyism.”
The phenomena and dynamics of academic conformism have been well investigated and do not need revelation by the Institute for Zionist Strategies (see, for example, “The Politically Correct University,” edited by Robert Maranto, Richard E. Redding an Frederick Hess, and the writing of Harvard University professor Harvey Mansfield ).
The question Haaretz avoids by resorting to labeling and imputed motives is a discussion on whether the paper’s findings are accurate. Are the conclusions of this well-documented research correct? Contrary to the editorial’s assertion, the study does not view everything but “old Jewish National Fund propaganda” as anti-Zionism. Rather, as defined at the very beginning of the study, the paper defines post-Zionism as “the demand to reconstitute Israel as a state of all its citizens [and not as a Jewish state], to cancel all laws and symbols that project a Jewish state (such as the Law of Return, the flag, the national anthem ).”
This is the anti-Zionism found to govern Israel’s sociology departments. Wouldn’t it be important to know if this is in fact the case? Haaretz’s editors may be the only reputable people in the country who genuinely believe that there is no serious anti-Zionism bias in the sociology departments – a bias now thoroughly researched and documented.
Indeed, it would be extremely important to know if there are any consistent biases of any kind in any Israeli university department. The predominance of such a bias is no longer a gut feeling or hypothesis: It is now a demonstrated empirical fact. And if the study is correct, don’t the universities and their officers have a duty to correct such biases? But Haaretz disapproves of Tel Aviv University officers examining the situation on the ground to verify or refute the existence of such prevalent biases.
The study by the Institute for Zionist Strategies finds that works reflecting a Zionist viewpoint are discouraged, and that students are effectively denied a fair presentation of the Zionist perspective. If these facts are true – even in part – academic freedom and excellence is being thwarted, impeded and seriously undermined. This situation cannot be swept away by epithets and gestures – certainly not by a serious journal of news and opinion.
The institute’s study is not related to any other study, as the editorial inappropriately insinuates without foundation. As a research institute, our main focus is to publish research. We have not demanded anything of anyone, whatever the justification. We have conducted serious and important academic research that raises vital issues based on empirical evidence. When our recommendations are finalized, we will publish them for all to see.
Certainly, our research is subject to refutation and criticism based on serious research, analysis and the marshaling of facts. But in a free and democratic society, in the Jewish people’s national home, our work must not be dismissed by fiat. Haaretz should not avoid its responsibility to engage in an important public discussion by resorting to branding. It should stand up to its responsibilities.