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Occupation magazine - Activism

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International campaign to defend BGU Department of Government and Politics gathers momentum
Israeli scholars and their supporters urged a broad-based campaign to dissuade the Council of Higher education from accepting the proposal of its sub-committee on evaluation to stop enrollment in the Department of Government and Politics at Ben Gurion Universality. The CHE is scheduled to meet on October 31, 2012 to decide on the issue.

David Newman, the Dean of Social Sciences at Ben Gurion University, wrote: `I am for using international pressure, in the right measures, while dripping letters form a number of well-known associations to the press, At the same time, other pressures will be directed at the CHE through lawyers plus the activities of the president and rector. The strategy does not match a hundred percent the policy we decided upon until now, but I think that they are under pressure now, so we need to keep pushing.`

The campaign to mobilize foreign associations against the CHE has been highly successful. The following groups have sent protest letters:
The European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR):
`We wonder what the reasons for the harsh measures threatened by the Israeli Council of Higher Education might be. We urge the CHE not to take measures that might be construed as an infringement upon academic freedom.`
Letter from the The Canadian Association of University Teachers: `There are credible allegations that the recommendation to close the department is politically motivated. Several academics within the department have faced pressure and criticism for views they hold with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (...) We remind you that the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel grants professors the right to academic freedom.`
The International Geographical Unions Commission for Political Geography: `We see it as a political intervention which seriously violates the principle of academic freedom (...) Much of the work coming from this department [fits] the highest international standard.`
The American Sociological Association: `Dr. Ian Lustick, an internationally recognized expert on Israeli society and politics, was suddenly taken off the subcommittee (...) and Dr. Robert Shapiro resigned in protest. [The subcommittee`s report] disregards 50% of the articles published by faculty in the department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, as well as six of their books - all published by high quality presses (...)The decision raises the concern that the most recent recommendation of the subcommittee was based less in issues of quality of instruction and scholarship than in political substance.(...) [We have] the impression that political issues may be driving the recommendation`.
The American Political Science Association: `Our concern is that no action be taken which is either directly or inadvertently an assault on the ability of members of our profession to practice intellectual honesty or that would compromise the freedom of their inquiry and teaching. Academic freedom is the foundation of our scholarly endeavors...`
The French Political Science Association: `The Department of Politics and Government is an internationally respected academic department, with excellent and productive researchers and teachers, representing a broad range of methodological and theoretical approaches(...) We are very alarmed by this incident, and the disastrous impact it would have on a leading Israeli university and tomorrow, maybe, on other ones. This is an unprecedented decision which would severely damage Israels reputation. Freedom of expression, and the right to criticize, are at the heart of academia in democratic countries, and should be protected and nourished.`

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