Students protest proposed ethical code for Israeli academics
A black flag was hanged in Bezalel, while signs of students opposing 'the silencing of academic staff' were put up across campus at the Hebrew University; students also plan Wednesday protests against the code, which bars lecturers from expressing political views in class.
Students at Tel Aviv University and at the Hebrew University are expected to hold protests against the ethical code on Wednesday, which would bar lecturers from expressing political views in class and from supporting academic boycotts.
The students' protest began on Sunday, when the head of the Israel Students' Union, Ram Shefa, vowed to "do whatever it takes to ensure the code, in its current version, will not be approved, even at the cost of protest and to the point of going on strike.
"It's important to emphasize, we will ensure students won't be harassed for their identity or position. We support the need for ethical principles in the classrooms. At the same time, the (proposed code) includes no ethics, but rather an attempt at silencing. Accepting the code would erode the values of democracy and the freedom of thought."
The flag in Bezalel was put up by students from the Department of Architecture. "To us, the (ethical code) is a red line and a black flag. Academia cannot exist with such limitations. We're saying someone needs to wake up," one of the students told Ynet.
A letter sent to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, signed by students and lecturers from the Department of Architecture, said, "There isn't an architectural design that is not political in nature, and there is no way to teach or study architecture without thinking about political aspects. Architecture deals with the way we live together, sharing and dividing common resources, and designing a concrete public space. Therefore, any architectural or planning decision is taking a stand 'in a known public dispute.'
"The Department of Architecture in Bezalel will continue to be a tolerant space, which is open to critical thinking. We commit to protecting the right of all students and lecturers to take different social and political positions, even those that challenge the consensus."
An invitation for the Hebrew University's protest on Wednesday afternoon at the Mount Scopus campus said, "Bennett is pushing for silencing of lecturers in academia under the guise of an ethical code. We say no to silencing, yes to academic freedom. We can't allow for a situation in which a lecturer is unable to express his opinion, or the university is subjugated to the whims of politicians."
Prof. Asa Kasher, who wrote the ethical code at Bennett's request, slammed criticism of the code, saying on Sunday it mostly came from the left side of the political map.
"Ninty-nine percent of the responses to the ethical code in recent days have been unprofessional. It's all just because Bennett is leading this," Kasher determined in his speech at a conference on academic freedom, the freedom of expression, and academic boycotts in Bar-Ilan University.
"The political discussion is filled with lies. The principle of truth does not apply to (politicians)," he said. "They're allowed to lie all the time, to exaggerate and make false promises. Their problem with the ethical code is called 'Bennett.' As soon as he's signatory to it, the left wing opposes it."
He went on to note, "If you look at what I've been tasked with doing, (you'd see) it has nothing to do with Minister Bennett's political views."
Kasher also dismissed a statement from the Association of University Heads, which called the ethical code a "series of rules dictated by the government."
"The association operates like the ultra-Orthodox rabbis. Their answer is, 'You won't decide what our children will study.' This is a conservative instinct of a group that wants to protect its own interest."