Only four months ago, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced the establishment of an ethics committee for universities and appointed Prof. Asa Kasher as its chairman. One of the committee’s tasks was to deal with unusual statements made by academics.
Should the state keep quiet in light of irritating, anti-Zionist comments which slander the State of Israel? Can every comment be protected by academic freedom of speech?
“We are committed to ensuring the student’s right to study in a higher education institution without being forced to listen to political preaching which has nothing to do with the specific field being studied,” Bennett said at the time. “We must prevent a situation in which students or lecturers suffer rejection, silencing, exclusion or discrimination due to their identity or due to their personal views, including their political opinions.”
Professors, mostly left-wing, immediately launched a major protest: Over our dead bodies! No one will tell us what to say.
This is not a simple issue. Many minds have dealt with it, and quite a few committees as well, in Israel and around the world. But Bennett has a firm opinion about it, and I believe he is also right. Academic freedom of speech doesn’t include the right to publish libels against the State of Israel, and it doesn’t give lecturers the right to harm a certain group of students—reserve soldiers, for example—just because they “serve in the occupation army.” That happened, by the way, and the lecturer was reprimanded.
If this is the rule regarding lecturers, why isn’t it applied to heads of other educational institutions? Why should an educator in a pre-military academy be allowed to preach against drafting girls? The answer is hypocrisy. Pure hypocrisy.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided, in a bold move, to demand the resignation of Yigal Levinstein, the man with the big mouth who serves as rabbi of the Eli Yeshiva and teaches his students to hate “perverts” and oppose military service for women.
But Bennett is lashing out at Lieberman. He is only against it when it involves leftists. When it involves rightists, he is all in favor of it.
The leftists are no better in this context. They are all demanding measures against Levinstein. They are right. Why should this person keep inciting at the state’s expense?
But woe to anyone who voices a similar stance regarding leftists who incite against the state. When that happens, freedom of speech becomes a sacred cow, and woe to anyone who dares to even doubt the right to incite.
So the Bennetts on the right and on the left should be told that one uniform rule must apply both to inciters on the left and to inciters on the right. And if the Left doesn’t understand that—and it doesn’t—that doesn’t mean that Bennett has the right not to understand that either. This indulgence in hypocrisy must be stopped.
Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News