Saturday, July 2, 2011

Playing Hatikva, Playing with Freedom

The Social Science List (a list serve for all students and academics who are either social scientists or are interested in the social sciences in Israel) has been a-buzz lately with its newest hot topic: Should or should not the Faculty of Law at Haifa University ended its graduation ceremony with the playing of Hatikva? (It didn't). After making the decision not to play the anthem, and complaints were sent by a member of Im Tirtzu (I hate to give them publicity - but it's important to see who they are - )  , the University administration wrote a letter condemning the decision.

As in all of these discussions, the two ideological camps line up - the right-wing, Im-Tirtzu, ultra-Zionist camp that avers that by not playing the National Anthem the university is scorning our national symbols and playing into the hands of those factions that would love to see our demise, and the left-wing, democratic camp that asserts that the univeristy is an academic institution, not an arm of the government or the military, and so it has the right to choose whether or not it wants to include the anthem in its ceremonies - ya'ani what we have here is a strengthening of academic and other freedom.

As in all of these discussions, the list posts got longer and longer
and longer
and longer
and I lost my interest somewhere along the way between the "there are many issues of principle to be examined here" and "the English version of the letter from the Dean of the Law Faculty doesn't match the original Hebrew..."

As the people on this list serve are voicing their opinions on the anthem yes or no (don't get me wrong, I do believe that the discussion on this topic is important, perhaps especially since it centers around a decision taken by the Faculty of Law), another topic has been conspicuously missing - that of the Second Freedom Flotilla to Gaza, which has unsuccessfully been trying to sail to its destiny for a number of days.

Okay, I get it. The Social Science List is for Social Science Issues such as the one noted above. However, we have all noticed that it has publicized not a few posts about apartments for rent (when professors go on sabbatical).  And, really, that is fine with me too. Professors, like others, need places to stay and rent money.

But what puzzles me is the academic silence/lack of discourse on the freedom flotilla.

On this list we have sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, social workers, educators, scholars of law, academics in communications, geographers, historians, economists, political scientists. This topic, one that has been a major media topic for the last month, has not elicited a discussion on the list serve. For some reason, the list has been conspicuously quiet about the flotilla - and the significance(s) that it has for Israeli society (social aspects, health aspects, cultural aspects, legal aspects, rights aspects, educational aspects, historical understandings, policy aspects, aspects of space and boundaries etc etc).

I, too, am guilty, of keeping the topic off the list. And since, at times, I have been quite active on the list, especially when I get ticked off about a certain topic - such as discussions about the legitimacy of the Ariel 'University Center', why have I also chosen to discuss the flotilla in other platforms - Facebook, this blog - but not the social science list serve?

I am somewhat unhappy with myself for condoning this silence, by not opening up a discussion on our list serve. Such silence does no service to our list serve. It does not help the development of our social science understandings related to this growing international social phenomenon concerning responses to the siege on Gaza. And it does not help further human rights; it silences discussion concerning the ongoing collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

The way for me to modestly rectify this situation is by sending the list serve the link to this blog post. Hopefully the list administrator will agree to post it. Hopefully a few of the subscribers will read it.

The way to rectify the silence about human rights in Gaza, and to further democracy, human rights, non-violence, and freedom from oppression and war is by collectively facing openly and honestly our (Israeli) actions, by discussing them in relation to our Declaration of Independence, and the values we espouse, and by taking true measures to end the oppression.

The playing of Hatikva yes or no at a graduation ceremony of an Israeli university, while a worthy topic, is not the only issue worthy of discussion now. We can also take a little time to talk about real human rights that we are trampling on the other side of our borders. We can take a little time to discuss our role as social scientists in understanding why we have let such injustices happen, what such behaviors say about our society, and what we can offer to bring about a change for the better.  

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