Save Academic Integrity at Sussex University
The Sussex Friends of Palestine Society, together with concerned students and academics, would like to highlight an issue which ought to concern students and staff at the University of Sussex, as well as anyone believing in academic integrity.
The University of Sussex has announced, as of February 2012, the creation of the “Yossi Harel Chair of Modern Israel Studies”. This position was created under the initiative of Lord Weidenfeld, with financial support from The Pears Foundation, The R and S Cohen Foundation, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Atkin Foundation and the Gerald Ronson Foundation.
Lord Weidenfeld himself, a staunch Zionist and former Chef de Cabinet of Israel, reportedly told the Jewish Chronicle (01-03-2012) that it is vital in the fight against anti-Zionism to have a Chair in Modern Israel studies in certain ‘key’ universities, including Sussex University. Furthermore, the foundations involved in financing this new position are all generous financial supporters of Zionist organisations and Israeli military institutions.
Looking beyond Sussex we note that, in recent years, many supporters of right-wing Israeli politics (and by implication supporters of the illegal and inhuman occupation of Palestine) have encouraged a ‘re-branding’ of the Israeli image in the US, Europe and Australia. Writing in Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2006, Lee Lieberman encouraged fellow Zionist philanthropists to fund the creation of Modern Israel Studies courses all over the world as a way of countering the increasingly popular calls for a boycott of Israel to end the occupation of Palestine. This has been proposed by influential pro-Israel think-tanks such as the Reut Institute and BICOM (the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre).
We also note that many of the foundations involved in financing the Yossi Harel Chair of Modern Israel Studies at Sussex have been involved in establishing entire courses or Chairs in Modern Israel Studies all around the UK. This includes; School of African & Oriental Studies (SOAS), Manchester University, Oxford University and Leeds University. Trevor Pears, founder of the Pears Foundation, set up the ‘European Association of Israel Studies’ in 2011, as an initiative aimed at encouraging the further advancement in the field of Israel Studies. Furthermore, Trevor Pears and Lord Weidenfeld have together been the primary initiators of Israel Studies as an academic discipline in the above universities. They are also committed right-wing Zionists, casting doubts on the integrity of their proposals.
We the undersigned, as students, academic staff and anyone believing in justice;
- raise our concerns and objections to the Yossi Harel Chair of Modern Israel Studies. We believe this new position is designed to promote political propaganda and nationalist public relations,
- value the integrity of academic research and we reject attempts at utilizing academia as propaganda tool for wealthy financiers. We do not wish for British universities in general and the University of Sussex in particular to become battle-grounds for Zionist indoctrination,
--note the potentially offensive nature of including ‘Yossi Harel’ in the title. As an Israeli spy and fighter in the Jewish paramilitary group the ‘Haganah’, Yossi Harel carries offensive connotations to many people.
- are committed to the freedom from discrimination of any and all people based on their ethnicity and religion. It is this firm belief in anti-racism which guides our opposition to the Yossi Harel Chair of Modern Israel Studies.
We the undersigned;
- reject the Chair of Modern Israel Studies at Sussex, stemming from the belief that such a chair would intentionally neglect critical aspects of the regional history in favour of political propaganda, as shown by the inclinations of the foundations involved.
- propose, in line with the bias mentioned above, the full rejection of funding from the following foundations and individuals; Lord Weidenfeld, The Pears Foundation, The R and S Cohen Foundation, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Atkin Foundation and the Gerald Ronson Foundation. The University should commit to academic integrity, free from the political manipulation of the above institutions. In line with the long history of critical thinking at Sussex, the University must disassociate itself from these foundations.