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Rightist Philosophy Lecturer Dismissed by Hebrew University
Tikun Olam--July 24, 2010--
Ran Baratz: victim of Israeli academic political correctness or self-immolated on the altar of right-wing ideology?

The Philosophy department at the Hebrew University recently dismissed Ran Baratz, a lecturer on Greek philosophy. And ever since, the Israeli media has been in a mini-uproar. The Knesset’s Education Committee will take up the affair. According to Maariv and other publications, Baratz was let go because he violated the leftist academic code prevailing in Israeli academic institutions. Here’s how Maariv breathlessly portrayed Baratz’s “sacking:”

Stormy winds are blowing through the humanities faculty of the Hebrew University after it ended the employment of a popular lecturer. Dr. Ran Baratz will not return for the coming academic year due to his affiliation with the right-side of the political map…

If you’re right-wing, so the prevailing wisdom goes, you have no hope of a career or academic advancement in Israel.

Let’s examine the facts more closely. According to a senior faculty member at a major Israeli university who has some familiarity with the case, Baratz taught there as what here in the U.S. would be called an adjunct. He had a temporary low-level appointment (what is called in Hebrew amit-hora’ah); such appointments are always short-term (usually one year, but in Baratz’s case it was only one semester) and may or may not be renewed, depending on budget and such things. There’s always considerable flux with these adjunct appointments, especially since the budgets keep shrinking.

Baratz hoped his teaching gig would turn into a tenure-track position. However, a very fine candidate applied, with a strong CV, good list of publications, and was appointed. Baratz himself had no publications and was in no position to compete.

Casting further doubt on Baratz’s claim, the Hebrew University faculty of humanities is not noted for its solidarity with the left and the peace camp.

We should also examine whether Baratz may have his own personal motives for turning this into an ideological, rather than a purely professional decision. First, he is the “academic advisor” to Im Tirzu, a foul Israeli smear outfit whose goal is to act as mashgiach (a rabbi who determines whether food is kosher) for Israeli professors and their courses according to the level of Zionist kashrut they represent. The group recently published a strange report which claimed to examine the course syllabi for academic courses for the Zionist or anti-Zionist content of the articles. Naturally, it found a very high level of the latter in Israeli courses. And guess who was the academic advisor for this “report?” The good doctor Baratz.

He is also a regular contributor to Yisrael HaYom, a daily paper also known as Bibi-ton for its slavish adulation of the current prime minister.

He is also a post-doctoral fellow at the Likudist Shalem Center. The Center has created Shalem College, a faux academic program which aims to glorify the place of Israel and Zionism in the western academic canon. Here is what I wrote about this subject a few months ago:

Concerned that Israeli universities are a hotbed of Israel-hatred and unwilling to develop a ideological cadre of sufficiently pro-Israel students, the Center has applied to the Israeli educational authority for approval to launch its own rightist undergraduate program, Shalem College.

The college’s own mission statement lays out its curricular goals–among them to give:

Expanded attention to Western texts and traditions that permit a more fruitful dialogue with Jewish tradition. The college will relate to a wider selection of Western traditions than has become fashionable in many leading universities, including: treatment of the tradition of Western nation states as a legitimate alternative to expressly internationalist goals and values…

No doubt, someone of Baratz’s ideological proclivities would be much more comfortable in this academic setting than at the Hebrew University, where he would have to grapple with some of the “expressly internationalist goals and values.”
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