Sunday, 29 January 2012

McCarthyism in Israel - Human Rights is a Crime


I’m reminded of Marx’s saying when news reaches me of yet another assault of human rights in Israel. ‘A nation that oppresses another nation will not itself be free.’ In the cause of the virulent and racist nationalism that stalks Israel, all dissent from Israel’s small left is being silenced in the cause of ‘national unity’ ‘Zionist goals’ an ‘existential threat’ and all the other manifestations of the mentality of a siege state.

You justify limitations on freedom in the cause of the national good (following on from good ol’ misunderstood Adolf) and you end up with no freedoms at all.

Israel has set itself on a course, the end of which will be that even the tokens of democracy that remain will be extinguished by the McCarthyist atmosphere that has taken hold. And because Israel is a settler state, there is no mass left-wing or working class politics there. Any alternative movements, like that of the tent protests, took place outside the political mainstream – although Israeli Labour tried to jump on the bandwagon.

Tony Greenstein

Israel Education Ministry blasts school for taking students to human rights march
Haaretz 30.12.11

'The students carried signs against racism, house demolitions, etc., which violates the director general's circular [i.e. ministry regulations],' ministry tells school.

By Talila Nesher

The Education Ministry reprimanded the Arara High School and demanded clarifications after the school participated in a human rights march in Tel Aviv at the beginning of the month.

"The students carried signs against racism, house demolitions, etc., which violates the director general's circular [i.e. ministry regulations]," stated the letter sent to the school.

"This was a praiseworthy initiative by the students as part of their assignment in civics class," countered one of the school's teachers. "What better way to express civic involvement and internalize the material?"


A bus with students from the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades went to the march, which was sponsored by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, on Friday three weeks ago, another teacher said. All the students had approval from their parents and all the students chose to participate, with the encouragement of the student council.

"It was a celebration of human rights," the teacher said. "There were students who said at the end of the march that this was one of the most important and significant days in their lives."

"A thousand civics classes couldn't give what that hour they spent there could," she added.


But in its letter to the school, the ministry objected to the fact that "the students participated in a demonstration in the framework of a civics lesson on the subject of human rights" and carried placards, saying this goes against ministry regulations. It therefore asked the ministry's regional supervisor and the school's supervisor to deal with the matter and report back to the ministry.

The signs were prepared by the students at their own initiative, said one of the school's senior staff members. "The signs were against racism, for peace, equality and social justice. Did anyone thereby say that the state is racist?"

In its response to the ministry, the school quoted Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar's message in honor of International Human Rights Day in November: "Your role as educators, who serve as guides for your students, is to teach them that alongside protecting and defending human rights, there is an expectation that they demonstrate involvement and personal responsibility," Sa'ar wrote then.

No comment had been received from either the ministry or ACRI as of press time on Tuesday night.


Jonathan Cook Jul 11, 2010

NAZARETH // Hundreds of Israeli college professors have signed a petition accusing the education minister of endangering academic freedoms after he threatened to "punish" any lecturer or institution that supports a boycott of Israel. The backlash against Gideon Saar, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, comes after a series of moves suggesting he is trying to stamp a more stridently right-wing agenda on the Israeli education system.

The education minister has outraged the 540 professors who signed the petition by his open backing of a nationalist youth movement, Im Tirtzu, which demands that teachers be required to prove their commitment to right-wing Zionism. Two of Mr Saar's predecessors, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir, are among those who signed the petition, which calls on the minister to "come to your senses … before it's too late to save higher education in Israel". Mr Saar's campaign to "re-Zionise" the education system, including introducing a new right-wing Jewish studies syllabus and bringing soldiers into classrooms, has heightened concerns that he is stoking an atmosphere increasingly hostile to left-wing academics and human-rights activists.

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva who called for an academic boycott of Israel last year, has reported receiving death threats, as has a school teacher who refused to participate in Mr Saar's flagship programme to encourage high-school recruitment to the IDF. Daniel Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa University, said: ""A serious red flag is raised when the education minister joins in the de-legitimisation of the academic establishment. This is a method to castrate and abolish Israeli academia."

Mr Saar's sympathies for Im Tirtzu were first revealed earlier this year when he addressed one of its conferences, telling delegates the organisation would be "blessed" for its "hugely vital" work. The youth movement emerged in 2006 among students demanding that the government rather than ordinary soldiers be held to account for what was seen as Israel's failure to crush Hizbollah during that year's attack on Lebanon. It has rapidly evolved into a potent right-wing pressure group.

Its biggest success to date has been a campaign last year against Israeli human rights groups that assisted a United Nations inquiry led by Judge Richard Goldstone in investigating war crimes committed during Israel's assault on Gaza in 2008. The human rights organisations are now facing possible government legislation to restrict their activities. Im Tirtzu's latest campaign, against what it calls "the reign of left-wing terror" in the education system, was backed by Mr Saar during a parliamentary debate last month. He told MPs he took very seriously a report by the movement claiming that anti-Zionist professors have taken over university politics departments and are silencing right-wing colleagues and students.

Mr Saar also warned that calls for boycotts against Israel were "impossible to accept" and that he was talking to higher education officials about taking "action" this summer, hinting that he would cut funds for the professors involved and their institutions. Yossi Ben Artzi, the rector of Haifa University and the most senior university official to criticise Mr Saar, warned him against "monitoring and denouncing" academics. He added that the Im Tirtzu report "smells of McCarthyism".

The universities are already disturbed by a bill submitted by 25 MPs last month that would make it a criminal offence for Israelis to "initiate, encourage, or aid" a boycott against Israel and require them to pay compensation to those harmed by it. The bill is likely to be treated sympathetically by the government, which is worried about the growing momentum of boycott drives both internationally and in the occupied West Bank. Mr Netanyahu has called the emergence of a boycott movement inside Israel a "national scandal".

Prof Gordon, who wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times a year ago supporting a boycott, said Im Tirtzu had contributed to a growing "atmosphere of violence" in the country and on campuses. Hundreds of students at his university have staged demonstrations demanding his dismissal. He was also recently sent a letter from someone signing himself "Im Tirtzu" calling the professor a "traitor" and warning: "I will reach Ben Gurion [University] to kill you."

Prof Gordon said: "I have tenure and Im Tirtzu cannot easily get me fired. But they are trying to become the 'guards at the gate' to make sure other academics do not follow in my path." He cited the recent case of Assaf Oren, a statistics lecturer and peace activist who had been told he was the leading candidate for a post in Ben Gurion's industrial engineering department until right-wing groups launched a campaign against him. Also in the sights of education officials are hundreds of Arab nursery schools, many of them established by the Islamic Movement, that have been accused of sowing anti-Israeli hatred in the minds of Arab children in Israel.

Mr Saar appointed a special committee last month to inspect the schools and shut them down if they were found to be teaching "anti-Israel" material. Arab MPs have called the claims "ridiculous", pointing out that the schools were set up after the education ministry failed to build nursery schools in Arab communities.

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