Brighton University Lecturer calls for abolition of Sussex University’s Israel Studies course

This is a cross-post from Richard Millett

Tom Hickey, a Brighton University lecturer, speaking at the start of Sussex University’s Palestine Awareness Week on Monday night called for the abolition of Sussex University’s newly established Yossi Harel Chair in Modern Israel Studies until questions relating to its “external sources of funding” and the process that established it are “satisfactorily answered.”

He also attacked already established Israel Studies courses at SOAS, Leeds University, Manchester University and Oxford University.

Hickey is a senior member of University and College Union’s National Executive Committee and a member of BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine).

At the event, Academic Integrity or Political Propaganda: The Chair of Modern Israeli Studies, Hickey referred to Israel Studies courses as an:

“Israeli state propaganda initiative that operates under the name of Hasbara which means ‘explanation’ or, to put it more forcefully, ‘public relations’. In other words the Hasbara initiative to try to divert the world’s attention and to alter its perception of Israel as a state indelibly associated with such things as guns and warfare, dead children, demolished houses, drone led assassinations, phosphorus bombs and other similar war crimes and to shift the attention from that to the idea of the Israeli state as a centre of democracy, freedom and plurality etc.”

He complained that the newly established Sussex University Chair was named after Yossi Harel who, he said, “was open to the charge, if not guilty of the charge, of something that would today be called nefarious activities if not, literally, war crimes.”

Harel, who passed away in 2008, signed up for the RAF during World War Two  and in 1947 captained illegal immigrant ship Exodus which took 4,500 Holocaust survivors to British Mandate Palestine. Its passengers defiantly resisted British attempts to turn the ship back.

But Hickey said the use of Harel’s name made the Chair “look less like a dispassionate inquiry into what is going on and more like something divorced from academic scholarship”.

Hickey then questioned why there were no Chairs in Palestine Studies or the Palestinian/Israeli conflict before outlining the “external sources of funding” with which he was concerned.

Do read the rest of Richard’s post, and watch clips of Hickey’s talk, here