Academic Freedom for Me but not for Thee.

If professors in their classrooms were spewing a doctrine of white supremacy, black inferiority, or inherent Arab villainy, how do you think this would be received?  Would they be ignored because, after all, there is, thankfully, academic freedom in the West?

Or would there be an outcry against their points of view, a demand that they be censured, better yet fired, and while we’re at it, prosecuted for hate crimes?

I would guess, the latter.  And who would likely be in the vanguard of such an outcry?  I would guess Progressives and those social justice warriors on the Left who find it hard to tolerate the existence of points of view that differ from their own.

It is precisely for this reason that when professors are called out for promoting the boycott, demonization or delegitimization of Israel, the ones calling them out are immediately labeled by many on the Left as McCarthyites and fascists.

This was all too evident this week when the social justice warriors went into a frenzy after the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu launched a website called “Know your Professor,” which lists professors who, among other anti-Zionist things, support boycotts against Israel, accuse Israel of crimes against humanity, and encourage people to refuse to serve in the IDF. 

Note that the website does not call for the removal of the vilifying professors so identified.  It just points out who they are.

The great irony is that all the professors listed on the website have their paychecks signed by the Israeli taxpayer, since their institutions are heavy recipients of funding from the Israeli government.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

Yet even this basic idea of transparency of taxpayer funds is too much for some on the Left.  For them, it’s okay to use taxpayer funds to slander Israel and indoctrinate students, but it’s McCarthyist, fascist, and a brazen attempt to stifle academic freedom to call them out.

Welcome to the skewed double standard of academic freedom for me but not for thee.  These critics doth protest too much.

The website is providing the service of academic “caveat emptor:” student beware. Know that you might be ending up with a professor who is possibly going to browbeat you with a radical agenda about which you will have to bite your tongue, if you hope to pass the course.

This is not a fanciful concern.  Several years ago, a friend asked me about Im Tirtzu, and what they did.  When I explained that Im Tirtzu started on campuses as an address that students could turn to when they felt they had been intimidated by professors for holding contrary views, my friend started to cry.  She said she wished there had been an Im Tirtzu when she was a student because that was exactly her experience.  She had been intimidated and humiliated in the classroom.

Concerning the Israeli public, we believe that they should know how their tax dollars are being spent, especially when they are supporting academics who, in the name of their radical ideology, are happy to put the country at risk.

The idea that professors should be free or even expected to tout their own personal agendas in the classroom is actually fairly new.  Not long ago, professors had the common sense and decency to keep their opinions to themselves, realizing that they were in a position of power in the classroom.

Sadly, those days are gone. Now many professors are all too happy to avail themselves of their classroom hegemony, and to vent their spleen about Israel, regardless of the subject they are teaching and regardless of how biased their course is.

Im Tirtzu simply believes that when professors choose to libel Israel, students should know about it, as should Israeli citizens.

If publicizing the anti-Israel activity of publicly funding professors is such a problem, perhaps it is because of the views being espoused by the professors. Shining a light on those who would so demonize the State might help to clarify the perspective on those professors who are happy to cash the check funded by the State they revile.

Where I come from, this is called hypocrisy.  Exposing such hypocrisy is not an incursion on academic freedom. Its an exercise in civic responsibility.

Douglas Altabef is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Im Tirtzu and a Director of the Israel Independence Fund. 

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