The Problem with Israel-Studies Departments

In February, the University of Washington returned a large donation to Rebecca Benaroya, who had earmarked the money, among other things, for funding a new Israel-studies department. The incident set off a debate about “donor intent versus academic freedom,” writes Scott Shay.

When the University of Washington returned a $5 million gift intended to start an Israel-studies department, the reason was simple: the professor tasked with running the department had no intention of teaching a balanced perspective on the history and current governance of the state of Israel. He was, instead, a staunch supporter of the pro-Palestinian movement—and the university put his anti-Israel viewpoints ahead of student education and donor intent.

Academic integrity must be protected as much as academic freedom. The University of Washington story is instructive. As reported by Forbes in mid-April, . . . the donation was for the purposes “of endowing a chair, whose holder ‘will demonstrate a strong commitment to studying, teaching, and disseminating knowledge about Jews and Judaism, as well as the modern state of Israel.’”

The University of Washington/Benaroya spat is emblematic of the larger issue of Jewish-studies departments and Israel-studies programs increasingly teaching primarily or exclusively the perspectives of Palestinian and Arab nationalist scholars, essentially [transforming] the field into Palestine studies. They are not teaching the views of genuinely excellent scholars across the political spectrum, and the real losers in this lack of balance are students who are never given the change to challenge the views they are taught. In this, many Israel-studies scholars have betrayed their academic responsibility and perverted the meaning of academic freedom.

Read more at RealClear Religion

More about: Academia, Israel on campus, Israel Studies


Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem