Discrimination against the right wing in Israel? Popular philosophy professor rated #1 by students is notified he will not return to Hebrew University this coming school year. Meanwhile, Haim Pearlman, suspected of murder by the Shabak (Israel Security Agency) is being denied access to a lawyer and may not see his wife and children. Brother of another suspect also denied access to a lawyer threatens suicide if right to a lawyer not granted for his brother.

A storm is brewing in the humanities faculty at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem due to the cessation of the employment of a popular philosophy professor. Dr. Ran Baratz will not return this coming academic year because of his association with the right side of the political map. This, at least, is what fellow lecturers and students are convinced of at the university.

Baratz is considered a highly talented and valued lecturer in Greek philosophy. According to student evaluations, he’s actually number one, and students call him the “admired lecturer”. But Baratz, a resident of the Kfar Adumim settlement, is a bit different from some of his fellow lecturers as far as political affiliation goes.

He has written several articles in right wing nationalist publications, he is a member of the Shalem Institute, a right wing think tank, and his name has made the headlines regarding two media-hyped reports that caused a storm among the left wing flank of academia: The report that criticized the connections that the New Israel Fund has with extreme left wing organizations that Baratz wrote part of, and the Im Tirzu organization’s report on anti Zionist tracks in academia for which Baratz served as an academic advisor.

These activities, which were done outside the University jurisdiction, aroused criticism and antagonism from veteran lecturers on the faculty. Recently, a year after he taught the introductory course in Greek philosophy and other courses, Baratz announced that he will be replaced by another lecturer.

“Where’s the common sense?”

Students as well lecturers are strongly claiming that the reason for the end of Baratz’s employment at Hebrew University is his right wing political affiliation and opinions.

According to one lecturer in the faculty, “Specifically in philosophy, which teaches the basics of ethics, a man is removed because he does not belong to the “correct” political guild, so to speak. During the last year, as his success with students rose and his popularity grew, the lobby against him increased.”

Another lecturer in the faculty said that “it seems today that to be Zionist in academia is illegitimate, and it’s clear that we’re dealing with a planned action to stop him. A lecturer who is truly a genius in his subject, a philosopher dedicated to his academic work and a valued teacher, is replaced with another lecturer who is not more veteran or experienced, and as opposed to Baratz did not finish his doctorate with high honor, so where is the university’s common sense?”

Students are not intending to sit quietly and see their beloved professor removed, in their opinion, for no legitimate reason. They are currently preparing for an exceptional battle against his firing. They claim that it is unacceptable that a lecturer that earned first place in student evaluations and completed a doctorate with high honors be removed.

The students have opened a special email account where they are collecting emails of support for Baratz and they are planning to flood the faculty administration with the letters. Additionally, they are currently organizing a protest petition that will be sent to the head of the University.

Right Wing Suspect Denied Lawyer

Meanwhile, on the judicial front, Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy harshly criticized the investigators of Chaim Pearlman, suspected of murdering Arabs in the late 90’s and David Sitbon, suspected of stealing weapons from IDF bases and supplying them to Pearlman. Justice Levy fiercely criticized the decision of the Israel Security Agency’s decision not to arraign the two suspects in court.

“It can’t be that suspects are isolated from the outside world and not informed of their rights. I have never seen such behavior in all my life,” he said.

Last night (July 20th), Sitbon’s brother Yosef threatened suicide from the top of a Jerusalem hotel if his brother is not given access to a lawyer. After an hour of negotiations, he came down and was immediately arrested.

Sitbon and Pearlman are still awaiting an arraignment in court and access to lawyers.