Dear Members of the Israeli Council of Higher Education
I write to express my grave concern about the current situation with the
Politics and Government Department of Ben Gurion University.
I have a PhD in Political Theory, and taught in the Politics and
International Studies department at the University of Warwick, before
moving to Durham University’s Geography department. I have visited the BGU
Politics and Government Department twice to give talks, and I have found
it an exceptional department with excellent scholars and an open, engaged
atmosphere. Members of that department have published in the journal I
edit. It is one of the most highly regarded Political Science departments
in Israel internationally, and any decision you make to restrict
recruitment of students will have terrible consequences.
No department, either in Israel or internationally, is perfect. Balance
between different parts of any discipline is difficult to achieve. Many
other Israeli political science departments would be open to criticism if
that was the yardstick used. So too would many in the UK, US, or
elsewhere. From the available evidence, it is clear that the BGU
department has recruited new staff to redress the balance, and made
considerable steps to address your previous concerns. To reward that with
further threats goes against all acceptable notions of justice.
Politically it would be a disaster. Israel has defended itself against a
boycott of universities on the grounds that it has academic freedom.
Actions that would effectively close a department – especially one so
highly regarded – would be a disaster for that policy. I have argued
against the boycott proposed with this department as my key example of why
it would be unjust. If this department is closed how can anyone claim
Israel genuinely defends academic freedom?
I ask you all to very carefully consider the situation. Closing or
effectively closing this department would send a signal that critical
voices are being silenced. I am sure that is not what you want as an
Professor Stuart Elden, Geography Department
Director (Social Sciences), Institute of Advanced Study
Durham University, United Kingdom
Department website; Progressive Geographies
Editor, <http://www.envplan.com/D.html> Society and Space; Society and
Space <http://www.societyandspace.com/> open site