According to reports in last week's Haaretz newspaper, Israel's academic freedom is in danger of being trampled on by politicians. This was in part a response to the decision by Limor Livnat, the minister of education, not to attend the annual meeting of the board of governors of Ben Gurion University next month
because she objected to the views expressed by a member of faculty in an article that was published in Belgium and in which he used the term "symbolic Holocaust" to describe Israel's policies of targeting and assasinating Hamas leaders.
At the same time as Livnat's views became public, Neve Gordon, a lecturer known for his leftwing views and critique of the policies of the present Israeli
government, brought a libel action against Stephen Plaut, a lecturer at Haifa
University, after Plaut refused to retract statements circulated in articles and
on web sites, accusing him of being a "fanatic anti-Semite," a "Judenrat wannabe" and a "groupie of the worlds leading Holocaust denier".
These are not isolated incidents. They are part of a much bigger campaign that has been growing alarmingly over the past three years. Leftwing academics have become the target of neo-conservative attacks, in Israel and the US. Many of these attacks have appeared as letters addressed to university supporters or the general public, or in articles that have been published indiscriminately on
websites, many of which have affiliations to extreme rightwing organisations.