Israel's tightly controlled academic market will have anew member as the neo-conservative Shalem Center is allowed to open a four year college and grant B.A.s – even though the commissions in charge of such things rejected Shalem's applications for reasons including not having enough faculty with Ph.D.s and having few women faculty slated to teach. But Shalem and Israel's craven Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are very close (Shalem's founder was once Netanyahu's aide), and the playing field was tilted in Shalem's favor.
I'm not in favor of tight governmental controls over academic institutions to begin with, so normally my instincts would be to cheer Shalem on.
But having been a neocon and having personally dealt with a few major neocons (Eliot Abrams revoltingly comes to mind), I know how dangerous it can be to allow something like the Heritage Foundation to grant college degrees.
I'm not in favor of the left wing equivalent of the Heritage Foundation granting degrees, either.
The point of a liberal arts education is to be exposed to a broad spectrum of ideas, to sort out those you like and those you don't, and to learn how – and if – the ideas you've chosen can be defended in a fair academic 'fight.'
What I've just described is the antithesis of what the Shalem Center is and what it really does.
Instead, Shalem is really a quasi-detached propaganda arm of the Likud Party.
And now it will grant degrees because, well, this is Israel after all and Netanyahu and his gang are what they are – a law onto themselves.
25 years ago, Netanyahu was a relief to those of us who tried to defend Israel on college campuses and in communities across America. He spoke English fluently and with an American accent. He understood TV and 30 second sound bites (they're 15 seconds now). He did what no one besides Golda Meyer and Abba Eban had been able to do – no one since Herut/Likud rose to power and suddenly pushed out so many like them.
But Netanyahu, as good as he was, never really transcended propaganda. To him and to those who surround him, academia is a tool to be used to further propaganda goals. That is what Shalem is. And that is why it should not have been allowed to have a college.