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New professor will develop modern Israel studies

A new Chair in Modern Israel Studies has been created at Sussex, with support from major philanthropists.

With this professorial appointment the University is developing its research base in modern Middle Eastern history.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, says: “In this period of huge social and political change in the Middle East, the development of our research in this area is timely.  We hope to play our part in aiding understanding and scholarship. 

“As an academic development at Sussex, it is part of our tradition of engaging with urgent and complex issues, in this case with a focus on the modern history of the region.”

Support for the new Professorship comes from leading philanthropic individuals and trusts including The R and S Cohen Foundation, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Atkin Foundation, the Pears Foundation, the Gerald Ronson Foundation and Lord Weidenfeld, who took the initiative in the establishment of the Chair.

Professor Matthew Cragoe, head of the School of History, Art History and Philosophy, where the Chair will be based, says: “We are particularly pleased to welcome the support for this Chair from such a distinguished group, with an outstanding commitment to scholarship and education.

“Their involvement and support is a clear signal of the important role that we believe Sussex can play in this field.”

The Chair will be named after Yossi Harel, a founding figure in the history of modern Israel.  Harel, who died in 2008 aged 90, commanded the ship Exodus 1947, which carried more than 4,500 displaced European Jews to Palestine.  The 1947 blockade of the vessel by Britain prompted the United Nations to vote in favour of the creation of the state of Israel.

The Chair will contribute to the Middle East studies programme of the University. Its remit will embrace teaching and research in all aspects of Modern Israel Studies, with particular reference to the politics, history and society of contemporary Israel and the Middle East. The Chair will also promote and develop links between Middle Eastern and British academics.

Along with the Chair appointment, two further lecturer posts are proposed, dealing with the history and culture of the Middle East more broadly.

Sussex already has leading research in closely-related areas within the school, such as within the Centre for German-Jewish Studies, and in related fields across other schools in the University. 

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Posted on behalf of: School of History, Art History and Philosophy
Last updated: Thursday, 26 April 2012


This chair is an insult to the many Palestinians suffering under the apartheid rule of Israel. It's a disgrace for a university like Sussex to endorse this.

From Reem Perysinakis on 8 February 2012
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This is great news both for Sussex and for Anglo-Isreali relations.

From John Barlow on 9 February 2012
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I think it is highly inappropriate and unethical to create this subject at Sussex which will undoubtably be taught in an indoctrinating and biased fashion. Most of the donors, including Ronald Cohen, Gerald Ronson, Lord Weidenfeld and Leonard Blavatnik all have pro-Israel ties, and a few of them sit on zionist thinktank boards.

How can an impartial study of this area be conducted, which takes into account the plight of the Palestinaian people, when all the funding comes from Zionists?


From Camille Barton on 10 February 2012
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A (very) cursory google reveals that just one donor (R & S Cohen Foundadtion" in 2005/06 gave €10,000 to the Jewish National Fund, €5,000 to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, €15,000 to the Jewish Leadership Council (one of the main lobby groups behind the change in British law re: war criminal arrest warrants), €40,000 to the so-called Community Security Trust and €10,000 to the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Clearly this Chairship (named after a Head of the notorious Israeli Unit 131, see The Lavon Affair) will be entirely totally unbiased and critically engaging in respect to "Israel Studies"...

From Alana Lentin on 10 February 2012
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I wonder if Mr Perysinakis is old enough to know what "apartheid" means.  I used to demonstrate against that wicked system, because quite clearly, a nation which reserved its beaches, parks, restaurants, hotels, schools, jobs, universities etc. for whites only was a thoroughly iniquitous system.  I went to Israel for a week's holiday last year out of curiosity.  I didn't see a single sign excluding Arabs anywhere.  Moreover I saw Arabs mixing with Israelis everywhere I went; and I have read that there are Arab teachers, journalists, MKs, drivers, lawyers ... i.e all employment is open to Arabs. Conversely, Mahmoud Abbas is quoted as saying that when the West Bank becomes independent, not a single Jew will be allowed to live in the new Palestine.  So if the word "apartheid" is going to be used, it might be more appropriate to use it to describe Israel's antagonists.  It really does not advance any discussion using emotive words and labels inaccurately.  Bob Aldridge

From Robert Aldridge on 13 February 2012
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I hope colleagues  will see this announcement in the context of  the wider University initiative on Middle East Studies.  Last March there was both a packed open meeting on the Arab Awakening and a University meeting convened by PVC Marlin in which it was agreed that the University  should go ahead with its negotiations and due diligence around the Modern Israel Studies chair, as well as pursuing a broader initiative in relation to the Middle East and North Africa. In July we convened, under the auspices of the Citizenship and Democratization research theme,  a  meeting  to identify  lines of research on which we might collaborate.  That work is ongoing and will, I hope, result in a University Centre for Middle East Studies, one that will be plural as well as  objective and engaged, in the best traditions of this university.

From Stephen Burman on 13 February 2012
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I think that Bob Aldridge does not have a clue about the nature of racism against Palestinians in Israel. Did you know for example that Palestinians from the occupied territories cannot marry those from Israel? I am an israeli citizen and I have rarely seen the examples of 'Arabs mixing with Israelis everywhere'. Yes, there are Arab Jews, but they are not Palestinians. Perhaps this was a case of (racializing) confusion?

And no, this cannot be seen in the light of the 'wider University initiative on Middle East Studies', Professor Burman. One could have appointed a chair in Middle East Studies but, as I posted above, those funding the Chair have a vested interest in promoting Israel. This goes so far from what Sussex used to be about that it is completely shocking.

From Alana Lentin on 17 February 2012
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Lentin - I am not talking about the occupied territories - an area still in dispute; I'm talking about Israel.  If you went to apartheid South Africa, you would know within minutes that you were in an apartheid state; if you went to the southern states of the USA in the fifties, where de facto apartheid was practiced, you would also know within minutes that you were in a racist state.  I was in Israel for a week, and it was by no means apparent.  Therefore what exists in Israel is not apartheid, whatever else it is.  As far as Palestinians marrying Israelis ... perhaps you should ask how many Jews can marry Arabs before pointing the finger at a beleaguered nation.  When Palestine becomes a state, will it allow Jews to marry Palestinians, and live in the West Bank? I think not.  It doesn't happen in Jordan either - another Judenfrei country.  Bob Aldridge

From Robert Aldridge on 20 February 2012
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Hi, I really think that this introduction of this module/course in our university is a disgrace. This is unethical for our great University to actually study this. Especially when Israel according to United Nation there are so many evidence of war crimes done by Israel. yet we are giving them this privilege to feel they are so special to an extent they are being studied. What happen to our priorities?

From Muhammad Md Yusof on 8 March 2012
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