Letter from Michael Walzer to Gidon Saar, Minister of Education, State of Israel and Dr. Shimshon Shoshany, Council for Higher Education

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JFJFP | 23 octobre 2012 |

Letter from Michael Walzer

October 2, 2012

To Gidon Saar, Minister of Education, State of Israel

Dr. Shimshon Shoshany, Council for Higher Education

Dear Mr. Saar and Dr. Shoshany,

I am writing to urge you to reconsider and revoke the Council for Higher Education’s decision to bar new students from enrolling in Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Politics and Government—a decision, in effect, to close the department. There doesn’t seem to be any plausible academic reason for the decision, which is not consistent with the reports of your own committee of international experts or with the reputation of the department and the publication record of its members. Political science, despite its name, is not an objective discipline. There is no way of writing about politics that doesn’t “lean” in one direction or another. The critical perspective of the Ben-Gurion department isn’t unique to it; there are many departments of politics and government in Europe and the United States with a similar perspective.

The closing of the department looks like a political purge by a government that doesn’t understand what universities are for. It has already called forth significant international criticism—for the obvious reason that academic freedom is a universal interest and a universal value. I join these other critics, and I assure you that there will be many more of us.

The decision is not only morally culpable; it is also, if I may say so, politically foolish. The academic world is not, despite some alarmist reports, hostile to Israel, but there is hostility in some parts of it, and your decision, if it isn’t revoked, will make the work of those of us who defend Israel in the American academy much harder than it needs to be.


Michael Walzer

Professor (emeritus) of Social Science

Institute for Advanced Study

School of Social Science