Academic freedom continues to be destroyed by the tenured Left. Academic freedom today increasingly means that faculty members have the right to agree with radical leftists and Marxists but not the right to disagree with them. And criticism of radical leftist academics is never permitted. It is considered “McCarthyism.”
The absurdities surrounding the leftist take on academic freedom have never been so glaring as in a pair of events, involving two very different professors in Israel, both allegedly involved in “sexual insensitivity.”
Ben Gurion University in Israel has long been something of a public laughingstock. Outside its science and engineering departments, it is largely a parody of a real university. It hires and promotes large number of anti-Israel faculty extremists, in many cases people whose academic records consist of nothing more than churning out anti-Israel hate propaganda. The political science department there is without a doubt Israel’s worst; it does not contain a single non-leftist and it fired the one non-leftist who had worked there on grounds of incorrect thinking. It and other departments in the humanities and social sciences at Ben Gurion University see their mission as indoctrinating students into Marxism and far-leftist hatred of Zionism. Ben Gurion University hosts Neve Gordon, the Israeli equivalent of Norman Finkelstein, best known for his campaign for a world boycott against Israel. Gordon has built an academic career upon denouncing Israel as a fascist, apartheid regime, engaged in state terror, a country whose existence Gordon wants ended. Gordon recently hosted a convicted Palestinian terrorist in his own home for several months, to serve as a moral role model for Gordon’s own children.
The tenured extremism at Ben Gurion University has long been defended by the university officials on grounds of “academic freedom.” But that just made the recent firing of professor Yeruham Leavitt all the more outrageous. Leavitt is actually a retired professor who was retained by Ben Gurion University to teach an ethics course to students in the Clinical Pharmaceutical Department. Alas, Leavitt, was guilty of political incorrectness, and was fired for that. The very same President of the University, Rivka Carmi, who defends having dozens of radical tenured traitors on her academic staff, defended the decision to fire Leavitt because he had made “offensive” and “insensitive” statements.
Just what was Leavitt’s horrific crime? In the ethics class the subject of children being raised by homosexual couples came up. Leavitt expressed skepticism as to whether such arrangements are healthy for the children. He also claimed in class that homosexuals who wish to do so can suppress or ignore their sexual urges, much like he himself does when he sees a pretty young coed. The university reacted in a statement,
“The lecturer made a categorical comment on the homosexuality phenomenon. During his hearing, (Leavitt) did not apologize for his offensive comments and even repeated them. Ben-Gurion University sanctifies freedom of thought and expression, but the lecturer blatantly crossed the line.”
Leavitt actually favors airing different views in the classroom. He was quoted in the local press as insisting he is in favor of pluralism and equality. “In my many lectures on medical bioethics I have always tried to instill pluralistic culture while stressing multiple opinions and making them heard in a respectable fashion,” he said. The President of Ben Gurion University issued a public letter in which she defended the firing of Leavitt, making it clear that politically incorrect comments will not be tolerated in Ben Gurion University, but treasonous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic pronouncements are protected speech and students will be tested on them. Even the far-leftist Israel Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which ordinarily does not favor freedom of speech for non-leftists, attacked the University for firing Leavitt.
Leavitt was quoted in the press as saying, “My embarrassing dismissal from Ben-Gurion University constitutes a severe violation of basic rights, including the right to dignity, academic freedom and freedom of expression.”
Now one can agree or disagree with Leavitt’s comments. Sexual psychologists seem to be divided over the matters he discussed. Even if one believes he is wrong, since when is being wrong a basis for firing faculty members? If it were, most of Ben Gurion University would be a ghost town. It should also be borne in mind that he was teaching an ethics course, where ethical debate and controversy are the focus of the class.
Ben Gurion University’s anti-democratic officials claimed that a student in Leavitt’s class had felt offended by what he said about homosexuals. But Ben Gurion University has always refused to take action against any of its many far-leftist faculty members who routinely denounce Israeli soldiers as Nazis, who endorse terrorist attacks against Jews, who call for the extermination of Israel, and who dismiss Jews as moral inferiors. They do so even when many of the students in class are themselves reserves soldiers, and some are people who have lost fathers and brothers in Middle East wars. No one has ever thought that offending the feelings of these people should serve as grounds for dismissal of the tenured extremists.
For the second of our Tales, let us introduce Eyal Ben-Ari. He is a far-leftist full professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a department famous for employing far-leftist and Marxist anti-Israel radicals. He claims to know something about the sociology of the military. He is an anti-Zionist extremist with a track record of turning out anti-Israel propaganda, such as claims that Israel is an ultra-militarist society. Much of his propaganda is misrepresented as scholarly research. Ben-Ari has also served as a consultant to the Israeli army over the role of women in the military.
He is now famous for two things – his supervising a ludicrous thesis claiming that Jewish soldiers are racists because they do not rape Arab women, and for himself being arrested under suspicion of multiple counts of rape. From his role in that now famous “rape thesis,” it was already known that Ben-Ari had goofy ideas about sexual (mis-) behavior. But it turns out that the ultra-feminist Israel-bashing professor of sociology practices what he preaches.
In the summer of 2008 Ben-Ari was arrested after numerous complaints had been submitted to the police that he had raped his female graduate students. According to the leftist daily Haaretz, “Both professors and students Thursday described a reign of terror at Hebrew University’s sociology department that kept female students from reporting his sexual harassment.” Complaints had come from at least 10 women students. Ben-Ari was suspected of indecent acts and extorting sexual favors from students and doctoral candidates. He allegedly threatened their grades and funding if they refused to comply. One student published a blog of her being harassed, under the byline ”A.-from the Sociology Department.“ Ben-Ari was accused of taking his female students on sexual trysts with his university research funds. He purchased for one of them a vibrator and then submitted the bill for reimbursement to the Hebrew University’s Shaine Center. He was not the first Hebrew University professor arrested for sexual misbehavior.
The head of Ben-Ari’s own department admitted publicly that Ben-Ari was harassing female students. In a letter published on the Internet he confirmed in a letter that there exists a “reign of terror” in the department. ”Neither academic freedom nor academics can exist in this environment,” he wrote. Moreover, complaints about Ben-Ari had been brought to the attention of the university administrators years before Ben-Ari was arrested. The University officials had buried them and stonewalled, refusing to take action until the police got involved, and even then circling their wagons to support Ben-Ari.
Ben-Ari was the supervisor of what may be the most embarrassing piece of pseudo-research ever to emerge from an academic institution. Shortly before he himself was arrested for rape, one of Ben-Ari’s MA students, Tal Nitzan, received a Hebrew University award for her “research” purporting to prove that the absence of cases of rapes of Arab women by Israeli Jewish soldiers indicates that the Jewish soldiers are racists.
The Hebrew University graduate student claimed in her thesis that the Jews are racists and oppressors, people who do not even regard Arab women as worthy of being sexually abused. She and her “research” were awarded an honor for these impressive “discoveries” by the same Shaine Center, a Hebrew University sociology “research” center dominated by far leftists. Under Ben-Ari’s supervision Nitzan claimed that abstaining from rape is just as inhumane and oppressive as “symptomatically raping” and in fact replaces it, because it just serves to reinforce the intolerance felt toward Arabs by Jewish soldiers. These racist soldiers think of Arabs as so inferior and horrid that they do not even feel a compulsion to rape them. While giving some shallow lip service to how the “question” of rape refusal is “very complex,” Nitzan’s own “answer” was quite simple and straightforward – it reflects Jewish racism against Arabs.
Israel, she claimed, is so racist and anti-Arab that abstaining from rape is part and parcel of its determination to enforce rigid “lines of division.” She asserted that individual soldiers who refuse to rape represent an intentional policy of oppression roughly similar to when governments order mass rape, because in both cases the “policy” serves to subordinate and dehumanize the oppressed victim population. The thesis drew its “scientific” conclusions from interviews with 25 reserve soldiers, ages 23-32, who served as combat troops in the “occupied territories” during the intifada. None of the comments by any of these soldiers supported or provided any confirmation, even the most indirect, to any of the lunatic “conclusions” reached by Nitzan. (I know, because I read the whole piece.)
When the world media first discovered this “thesis,” they had a field day. The Hebrew University was transformed overnight into a laughingstock, particularly when the President and the Rector of the University jointly issued an announcement defending the student and dismissing those who expressed outrage over the contents of the thesis. Israeli feminists were strangely silent, no doubt to show their solidarity with the far-leftist Ben-Ari and Nitzan. The same ultra-feminists in Israel, who insisted that an (unmarried) cabinet minister be indicted because he gave a French kiss to a woman in his office, have had nothing to say about the behavior of this member of the Tenured Left.
The police later closed the file on Ben-Ari and never indicted him. There are rumors that the Hebrew University pulled strings to prevent an indictment. Ben-Ari still teaches his wacky sexual political “ideas” to hapless students in the sociology department there, to the chagrin of the female students who claim they were molested by him.
Ben-Ari has not been dismissed for his “sexual insensitivity.” Unlike Leavitt, Ben-Ari is a far leftist. Could that have anything to do with the difference in his treatment?