The Science and Technology Committee, chaired by MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash-Ta’al), discussed on Monday the possible effects of the fascist judicial overhull on academic research and research and development in Israel. At the start of the meeting, Committee Chair MK Odeh said the future of Israeli democracy was in real danger, and that academic freedom cannot exist without a strong democracy.
MK Ayman Odeh (third from right) during a demonstration against the far-right government held in Wadi Ara, Friday March 17, 2023 (Photo: Al Ittihad)
MK Odeh asked the heads of academic institutions and MKs who attended the meeting why they have not voiced their opposition to what he referred to as the Israeli occupation. “You cannot remain silent on the occupation and talk about democracy,” he said. “The demonstrators want to restore everything to the way it was a year ago, and then ‘everything will be fine.’ I cannot be a part of this. True, we have to be part of the protest so that things won’t get worse, but at the same time we have to expand the democratic camp”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Committee Chair MK Odeh mentioned that Ben-Gurion University of the Negev had called on students to join the nationwide protests against the far-right government’s proposed overhaul of the judiciary, and urged all of the country’s institutions of higher learning to threaten to strike if the legislation advances.
In a letter, the university’s forum of academic staff, known as the Senate, said it ‘invites the entire university community to join the ‘day of disruption’ on Thursday, in which we will express our commitment to the democratic values of the State of Israel and the academic freedom under which we operate.” MK Odeh urged all the other academic institutions to strike as well. “Do not serve as a fig leaf for a regime that is on its way to becoming dictatorial. Demand a better and more just alternative. Demand democracy for everyone,” he said.
Prof. Itay Halevy, a member of the Israeli Young Academy, presented to the committee a survey on the willingness of young faculty members and researchers to leave the country due to the judiciary reform. The academy sent the survey to the rectors of all Israeli universities who distributed through them through the deans to faculty members in Israel. A total of 1,948 respondents answered it, including 1,916 more-senior faculty members. In most universities, the percentage of respondents who reported an increase in their chances of leaving the country ranges from 62% to 81%, No major differences were noted among the research fields.
He noted that 73% of the faculty members who responded to the survey reported a considerable increase (35%) from last year in the chances that they will leave the country. The large majority said that the main reason for this is the far-right government’s judicial reform legislation. A significant negative correlation was found between the average age of the children of faculty members and the increase in the chances of leaving. 77% of the parents of children under the age of five reported an increase in their chances of leaving compared to 65% of the parents of children over the age of 15.
The majority of faculty members (65%) reported that so far, they have not yet felt harm in their academic activities; the rest mainly reported the cancellation of visits by researchers from abroad and damage to international collaborations. At the same time, a very high percentage of the researchers (82%) anticipate harm to their academic activity.