JERUSALEM — The heads of Israel's top universities have denounced as a "witch-hunt" a right-wing campaign accusing Ben Gurion University of pushing anti-Zionist views, the Haaretz daily said on Wednesday.
Im Tirtzu, the group behind the campaign, sent a letter to the university threatening to urge foreign donors to cut off their funding if the school did not modify its curriculum, the paper reported.
The group also demanded that the university, whose curriculum it considers too critical of Zionism, hire professors more in line with its own views.
The letter, according to Haaretz, said professors at Ben Gurion's faculty of humanities and social sciences work "deliberately and energetically to promote fiercely anti-Zionist messages."
It charged that nine of the 11 permanent faculty members were involved in "radical left-wing" political activity, and six had signed a letter supporting refusal to serve in the army; two of its research fellows "are known among the students for their anti-Zionist worldview" and eight of its 19 adjunct faculty "express radical leftist views."
As an example, it cited department chairman Professor Neve Gordon, who it said has called for a "social, economic and political boycott of Israel."
Ben Gurion president Rivka Carmi categorically rejected Im Tirtzu's demands.
"We will not respond to this type of letter, which is comparable to an extortion of funds and of a witch hunt."
Tel Aviv University president Joseph Lafter said: "I cannot remember such a threat against a university institution," adding that the letter should be viewed as "an alarm signal."
Aaron Ben Zeev, Haifa University president, said that if Im Tirtzu's demands were met, every application for a research job "would have to be accompanied by a report on his political opinions, which is out of the question."
And the president of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, Menahem Ben-Sasson, reaffirmed what he said was the importance of freedom of thought in higher education.
Im Tirtzu describes itself as a "centrist extra-parliamentary movement that strives to strengthen the values of Zionism in Israel and to renew and reinstate Zionist discourse, thinking and ideology."
Its website lists as one of its three main objectives "responding to post-Zionist and anti-Zionist expressions on campuses in particular and within the broader Israeli public."
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