On Tuesday, during the meeting of the Knesset Education Committee, the Israeli Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, explained that the objective of the new code should be to end the present row over teaching Zionism. Professors think that the plan exceeds the limits of academic freedom. Sa’ar declared that the new code should be introduced in the higher education system in order to encourage ‘Zionist views in academia’. The code, he said, should include the following principles: course materials should reflect the range of views held by academics on the topic, and lecturers should not be discriminated on the basis of their political views.
In addition, he claimed that the code should not exceed the limits of academic freedom, and stated, ‘It must ensure pluralism.’
However, Sa’ar commented that this freedom should not include the lecturers’ right to advocate boycott of Israel, whether academic or otherwise, since that is considered to not be in the country’s general interest.
Several university presidents who attended the meeting expressed their disappointment and said that the decision would be a mistake.
The Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the council of university presidents warned, ‘Every university should be free to set its own rules, and any intervention by an outside body endangers academic freedom.’
The rector of Tel Aviv University, Professor Aron Shai, also expressed his disagreement: ‘Creating a ‘code of ethics’ would destroy academia.’
Draft of the code, Sa’ar announced, will be published after the Israeli Council for Higher Education finishes thrashing out the issue. He also promised that university staffers will be given a chance to express their views to the council.
However, it is far from definite whether the CHE will ever adopt such a code, as the vast majority of the council’s 26 members are from the universities themselves – and the universities generally oppose the idea, Haaretz reported.