NTNU is one of Norway’s most prestigous universities. It is the dear Alma Mater of some of our best and brightest. It is therefore highly unfortunate to see NTNU dean Torbjørn Digernes dabble in political intrigue, and that in a manner and to an extent so decidedly inappropriate for a man of his position. His acts – “saluting” boycott activists and insisting that the seminar series on Israel is a “praiseworthy initiative” – reflect badly upon NTNU as a whole.
Manfred Gerstenfeld, who has firsthand experiences of how the Norwegian establishment treats unwelcome facts (he was misquoted throughout Scandinavia after writing a book on anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the Nordic countries) wrote an article about NTNU in the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon on September 18th.
The Norwegian government’s pension fund’s decision to divest Elbit shares is only the tip of the iceberg of hate actions and propaganda against Israel in that country. Israel’s enemies have been further encouraged by the results of last Monday’s parliamentary elections. The Labor Party will continue to govern and the Left-Socialist party led by Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen will again be one of its partners, even after it lost four of its fifteen seats. During operation Cast Lead Halvorsen was the only European minister who participated in an anti-Israeli demonstration were there were calls of Death to the Jews.
One of several lesser known Norwegian battlefields concerning Israel is that of the universities. In the past few months there have been calls for boycott by academics at Tromsö University, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim (NTNU) and a college in the same town. NTNU already has at least one anti-Israel scandal on its records. In 2005 the student organization there decided to boycott Israel. Membership of this body is obligatory for all students as it receives its money as part of the student fees to the university. Almost a year later the boycott was abandoned as it did not leave students free choice.
The next stage at Trondheim university has now started with a seminar on the Middle East. All lectures are to be given by known anti-Israelies, such as Ilan Pappe, Moshe Zuckerman, the American Stephen Walt as well as local scholars. In fact the university with this seminar promotes hate propaganda, rather than advancing knowledge. The aim of the organizers seems to be to have the NTNU administration declare an official boycott of Israeli academia in the coming months.
Scholars for Peace of the Middle East, which opposes academic boycotts has already informed the 30 000 academics on its worldwide mailing list about NTNU’s abuse of values of what a university should stand for. When the next biased lectures will be given there will be undoubtedly more bad international publicity for NTNU. Many scholars at that university live in the illusion that due to their research NTNU will become known internationally as a place of scientific achievement. Unless the university’s changes the content of its lecture series on the Middle East it is far more likely to be publicized widely as a hate campus.
All of this could have been avoided if NTNU had hosted a balanced seminar-series. Alas, the politicos had their way.