Academic Apartheid in Israel and the LillyWhite Feminism of the Upper Middle Class
Lavie, Smadar, Women in Judaism
In Israel of 1999, only 8.8% of the full professor's rank were women. So exhorted the high-brow Haaretz Weekly Magazine (26 December 2001) (1). In the manner typical of the Israeli Left's harangue flagellation rituals, the journalist who brought this scoop to the readers' attention neglects to mention one crucial detail: These 8.8% full-professors are all members of the Israeli Ashkenazi (U.S.-European) wealthy elite. Most had strategically married a husband who happily financed the crucial periods of their academic careers. When the tenure process was over, a few even dared to divorce. Why is there such a racinated, class-based apartheid among women who dwell in the halls of academe? Whatever has happened to the notions of colorblind excellence or to feminist sisterhood? Why does Israeli academe bestows the professorial privilege only to a handful of Ashkenzi ladies?
All Israeli universities are public. One ought to assume that a public institution reflects the citizenry who finances it with its tax money. Half of Israeli citizens are women. If one is to add up the Mizrahim (Jews of Asian and North-African origins) with the Palestinian-Israelis, the majority of Israeli citizens these days is of Arab origins. Brandishing the widest relative income gap between rich and poor worldwide, most of these tax-payers dwell around what the collapsing Israeli welfare system define as "the poverty line." Nevertheless, the rank and file of both full and associate professors in Israel consists almost fully of upper middle-class Ashkenazi men. The common argument deployed to explain this chummy, country-club exclusivity is that Mizrahim and Palestinians just can't climb up to the high standards of the Israeli academic threshold. How surprising, though, that Palestinian-Israelis and Mizrahim who enroll in PhD programs of U.S. and Western Europe's ivy league universities do succeed in becoming tenured professors in high-threshold sites such as Oxford, NYU, Michigan-Ann-Arbor, or the Free University of Berlin, to name just a few. But still, the Israeli aristocracy of academic enlightenment uses its Byzantine secretive decision making mechanisms of hiring, merit and promotion to reject them on the uppity grounds of "collegial incompatibility."
The ultimate examination of the lay taxpayers' reflection in academe is through their representation in the fully non-applied departments. As my crumpled grandma defines such preoccupations, "you don't get outta there with 'a vocation',"--a monthly paycheck with benefits paid by the private or public professional sector. Philosophy, History, Cultural Anthropology, Comparative Literature, Political Science, Mathematics, Art History, Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics, and all that jazz of impractical explorations into germinal knowledge cannot translate itself into free market employment possibilities. On the BA level, some of these departments function as an efficient matchmaker for well-bred girls. But on the level of PhD studies and beyond, these departments are the prime think-tank of Israel's intellectual elite--those who can afford the serenity of refuge found in the focused concerns of academic life devoid of practical financial considerations. From the mid 1990s on, top U.S. and Western European universities, both public and private, implemented multi-cultural recruitment programs. These came about to accommodate the critique that affirmative action faculty recruitment practices were able to attract only the racialized minorities' upper middle class. Aligning itself to this public critique, faculty of non-applied Letters and Science departments went on forays into ghettos and barrios, seducing the brightest high-school graduates to enroll. They offered these recruits generous packages of scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid that were to lead to tenure-track positions, and later, all the way to …
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Publication information: Article title: Academic Apartheid in Israel and the LillyWhite Feminism of the Upper Middle Class. Contributors: Lavie, Smadar - Author. Journal title: Women in Judaism. Volume: 3. Issue: 1 Publication date: Annual 2002. Page number: Not available. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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