Academics Worldwide Protest Possible Closure of Israeli Political-Science Department

More than 600 academics worldwide are protesting the threatened closure of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s department of politics and government, sending a petition to Gideon Sa’ar, Israel’s education minister, to halt the move. A subcommittee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education has recommended suspending registration of students for the next academic year after it said the department had failed to carry out the recommendations of an international quality-assurance committee. But the petition letter to Mr. Sa’ar argues the move is an attempt to silence the department’s faculty members who have criticized the Israeli government.

“This attack on the department quite transparently has nothing to do with the quality of its staff, or of their teaching or research. It has everything to do with the fact that some of them have publicly taken brave and locally unpopular political positions,” says the letter, which was organized by two academics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As of Friday, 633 scholars had signed the statement. The fate of the department is to be decided at a meeting of the Council for Higher Education on October 30.

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