Lecturers protest course offered by rightist group Im Tirzu at two Israeli universities

Right-wing movement was found by Jerusalem judge to bear some ‘fascist’ features.

The right-wing Im Tirzu movement, which according to an Jerusalem court ruling bears some “fascist” characteristics, is offering a course entitled “A seminar on Zionist thought” at Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University. The program is given outside the universities’ academic track and no credits are given, but the movement is using university facilities.

The set of eight lectures costs 50 shekels ($13, for registration only). This is the first year the course is being given at BGU, but apparently this is the third year at HU. The movement plans to extend it to Tel Aviv University as well.

The poster advertising the series states: “We invite you to be exposed to the fruit of research conducted by leading researchers in Israel and overseas in many spheres of knowledge, which it is incumbent on every Israeli to be familiar with.” Among the speakers, who on the whole lean sharply to the right, are TV Channel 2’s correspondent for military affairs Roni Daniel, media commentator Ben Dror Yemini, jurist Guy Bechor, former MK Dr Einat Wilf, attorney Yoram Sheftel and Israel Prize laureate Prof. Israel Aumann.

Among the lecturers at the Hebrew University are Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, researcher Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Ze’ev Jabotinski, grandson of the founder of the Revisionist Movement, and media commentator Yoaz Hendel. The opening lecture, entitled “juridical dictatorship – the role of the High Court of Justice in the context of checks and balances in Israel,” will be given by attorney Yoram Sheftel.

“The goal is to provide a Zionist intellectual response to students who keep hearing what an apartheid state this is. We give a different perspective, more patriotic and Jewish,” Im Tirzu said.

At BGU the program was sponsored by one of the university’s donors, Michael Gross, who is also a member of its board of governors. He is known for his opposition to what he terms post-Zionist bias at the university.

The student union website at BGU states that “the course is open to everyone, pending a personal interview. Certificates are granted at the end of the course. In addition to an entry for your CV, the course will provide you with tools and knowledge for coping with challenges facing our society in these complex times.”

A few years ago Im Tirzu waged a campaign aimed at shutting down the Department of Politics and Government at BGU, claiming it presented one-sided positions.

Lecturers at BGU have protested against this course, asking the administration why it was approved. The dean of humanities at BGU stressed that “there is no academic connection between the program and the university. We only deal with academic, not political programs. There are accepted routes for approving new programs, and it’s shameful that this one is advertised with the university’s name attached.” Another lecturer commented on the irony that following their earlier campaign the movement now offers a course with right-wing and colonialist-minded lecturers – “a really balanced course!”

HU commented that the course was offered as part of the legitimate activity of the students’ union, and that the university enables expression of diverse opinions and allows any activity that is not illegal.