University Heads Accuses Student Union and Likud of McCarthyistic Incitement in Proposed Law

Universities in Israel are opposing a fascist law initiated by the Student Union that “lethally harms academic independence and freedom of expression” and mandates academic institutions to fire lecturers who speak out in a way perceived as “harming the state,” Describing the proposed legislation as “part of an ongoing incitement and smear campaign of a McCarthyistic nature against the Israeli academy,” the Association of University Heads warned that, if passed, it would create “an atmosphere of whistle-blowing and fear on academic campuses,” allying on lawmakers to vote against it and “prevent serious damage to Israeli academia and democracy.”

“The academics are struggling for democracy, equality and justice”, a lecturers’ demonstration at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Rehovot, July 2023 (Photo: BaShaar – Academic Community for Israeli Society)

The universities heads alongside colleges heads, lecturers’ unions, left-wing organization of university and college lecturers Academia for Equality, and Hadash students are slamming a bill filed by coalition whip MK Ofir Katz (Likud), which threatens the freedom of speech.

The National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) on Tuesday proposed the new law that would require universities to fire all academics who express dissent, including tenured professors. “Academic institutions will be obliged to immediately fire a lecturer, a teacher or researcher who expresses or acts in a manner that includes denial of the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incitement to racism, violence or terrorism and/or support for an armed struggle or an act of terrorism against Israel,” the bill reads.  In addition, the bill stipulates that Israel’s Council for Higher Education must apply financial sanctions to academic institutions that do not adhere to the law.

Promoting the bill, the NUIS launched a campaign which it hung billboards on the Ayalon Highway in Tel-Aviv and at the entrance to Haifa featuring quotes from well-known anti-occupation academics Dr. Anat Matar (Tel-Aviv University) and Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Addressing the Hadash-Ta’al parliamentarian faction in the weekly meeting in the Knesset Monday, MK Ahmad Tibi condemned the “fascist campaign, the incitement campaign of the national student union against lecturers and academics who have a different opinion about the war.” “This is a cynical exploitation of the students’ own funds,” he said, praising Israel’s Association of University Heads for coming out against the legislation and against an associated NUIS billboard campaign in favor of the bill.

Since the beginning of the war, lawmakers have proposed a number of measures to police the educational system and restrict speech, prompting the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) to caution in March that “the trends of silencing, harm to media outlets and journalists, and the intention to silence citizens who criticize the regime are intensifying.”

Among the bills currently working their way through the Knesset is one co-sponsored by fat-right Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel and Likud lawmaker Amit Halevi that would allow the Education Ministry to finish a teacher’s employment and cut a school’s budget if it is “proven to its satisfaction” that the teacher had publicly identified with a terrorist organization, praised terrorism or actively called for terror activity.”