University of Haifa holds conference on "The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel"

by Avraham Oz
distributed by email on 12 April 2005

In the discourse of the Israeli occupation, one of the frequent worries emerging is the "demographic problem," namely, the changing balance between the Jewish and non-Jewish population of the Jewish state. Attached to this problem is often the suggested solution of "transfer," a relatively clean euphemism for ethnic cleansing. The Ministress of Education, Livnat, has recently ordered the "legacy" of assassinated Minister Ze'evi, who preached for transfer, to be studied in schools as part of the official curriculum. With the diminishing shame whereby concepts related to apartheid and ethnic cleansing infiltrate the legitimacy of Zionist discourse, some think the academic platform may be mobilized to the polemics involved, within the generous, if usually one-sided, auspices of academic freedom..

Like all other members of my university, I thus received an official invitation yesterday on the University circuit to attend, on May 17, a conference entitled: "The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel". It is organized by the Hertl Institute for the Study of Zionism, The Reuven Hecht Estate, and the Chair for Geo-Strategy. For your better judgments, I have provided below some links as to the identity of the carefully selective list of speakers in that conference.

Speakers are:

Professor Yoav Gelber, Head of the Herzl Institute, University of Haifa
Please look up the following:
Professor Arnon Sofer
Please look up the following:
Mr Harry Zesler, representative of the Hecht Estate, o
Please look up the following:
Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, Rector, University of Haifa
Please look up the following:
General (res.) Uzi Dayan, Head of the Zionist Council, initiator of the "Apartheid Wall"
Please look up the following:
General (res.) Herzl Gedge, Head of the Population Administration, Ministry of the Interior:
Please look up the following:
Dr Yitzhak Ravid
Please look up the following:
Professor Sergio della Pergola, Head of Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Please look up the following:
Dr Yuval Steinitz, Head of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee (Likud), one of Likud MKs who opposed Sharon's "disengagement" plan.
Please look up the following:

Surprisingly, some controversy has risen among those who deem "Demography" in this context to be academic newspeak for ethnic cleansing. Please read below some immediate responses from faculty members. I have also provided below a reminder of a typical posting from the chief organiser of the conference, Professor Yoav Gelber, last year, when the University closed down the University Theatre. How privileged are we to work in such an exciting academic atmosphere!

For better days,
A. Oz

From Dr Ilan Pappe (Political Science):
"On May 17, 2005 my university, Haifa University that prevented me from convening conferences on Palestinian historiography is proudly hosting a conference on the Demographic Problem in Israel with known professors such as Gelber and Sofer, who support transfer of Palestinians from Israel, Government officials such as Mr. Getz, who harasses the Palestinian population in the north in the ministry of interior and General Uzi Dayan, who initiated the Apartheid wall built between the West Bank and Israel.

"Food for Thought

"Ps. Of course our illustrious Rector, Ben Artzi will be there as well! Indeed Academic Friends of Israel send your donations and support transfer and ethnic cleansing disguised as academic research in the name of freedom of speech."
From Professor Micah Leshem (Psychology):
"this racist meeting should not be allowed to take place without strenuous objection and exposure. This is not academic meeting, and it should not be allowed to take place unchallenged. It is not an academic meeting, because it is a party political platform for state sponsored Zionism. There is no representative of alternate views as far as I can make out (I admit I do not know the speakers) but my suspicions are strongly aroused by the absence of any Arab speakers, and I do know that there are such that have strong views on the 'demographic problem'. "
From Professor Yoav Gelber, January 2004:
"What happens or not in the Theater dept. is not the only problem and even not the most important one. The issue in this case, I'm afraid, is not "peace" (which means letting 'Oz to continue to do what he wants and turning a blind eye to his scandalous and uncollegial behaviour) but rather taking the proper attitude towards him by the faculty and the necessary disciplinary action by the university's authorities.

We have enough evidence to see where all this is going to lead us. In the last 5-6 years we have had the precedences of the political science dept., Zvi Sobel's ignored complaints on violations of academic discipline in the section of international relations, Pappe's slanderous messages abroad during the Teddy Katz scandal and now 'Oz following in his footsteps. In all the former cases no serious disciplinary or administrative action was taken against the offenders. The outcome was not industrial peace, but further deterioration of norms and more scandals. Ignoring Oz's spitting and imagining it rains will not save the university from the next scandal, only the next time the potential offender will threaten it with The Hague court of some kind. One should not be surprised if after all, the university will decide to compensate 'Oz with a School of Theater in the manner of the solution to the IR [International Relations] affair.

Yoav Gelber
[Don't worry. The university did NOT adopt Professor Gelber's recommendation. The University Theatre is closed].