UK professor under investigation for bias against Israeli

From TheJC last week:

An Israeli postgraduate student has succeeded in having her dissertation re-marked to a distinction after it was originally supervised and given a poor mark by a professor who campaigns for an academic boycott of Israel.

Smadar Bakovic

Smadar Bakovic repeatedly told Warwick University she was uncomfortable with Nicola Pratt overseeing her master’s dissertation on Israeli Arab identity.

Professor Pratt is a vocal anti-Israel campaigner who was refused entry to the West Bank by Israeli authorities in 2009. Following Operation Cast Lead she was one of more than 100 academics who wrote to the Guardian saying “Israel must lose” and calling for the UK to implement a programme of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Ms Bakovic, 35, from Harei Yehuda, near Jerusalem, spent a year challenging Warwick’s original rejection of her appeal against the decision to allow Professor Pratt to supervise her.

She was told last week that her re-marked dissertation had obtained a distinction, with a score 11 points higher than when it was first marked by Prof Pratt.

Ms Bakovic said: “I knew my work was better than the mark I’d been given. After a year of battling, I’m absolutely delighted. I feel vindicated. I did it for Israel.”

A university spokesman said the higher mark could be attributed to the fact the dissertation was “substantially different” when it was re-submitted. But the JC has seen emails between Ms Bakovic and another professor who later supervised her, showing that the work was only “tweaked” with “no major changes”.

Ms Bakovic said: “I knew Prof Pratt because whenever there was an anti-Israel event at the university I went along and she was often there. She moderated a Jews for Justice for Palestinians event, so I knew her stance. As soon as I saw her name a red light came on.” But Warwick told Ms Bakovic she could not change supervisor.

Ms Bakovic said: “Professor Pratt said that I had taken an Israeli and Zionist perspective without investigating the issue. She said I had taken an Israeli government position, but I did not. I included the views of a number of Israeli Arab writers.”

The university’s complaints committee investigated Ms Bakovic’s subsequent challenge. She convinced the panel to allow her dissertation to be re-marked. After being marked by two other professors at Warwick and an external marker, she was awarded the higher classification.

CiFWatch interviewed Bakovic:

It took me exactly 2 seconds to see exactly what [Pratt] was about – one of the largest supporters of the academic (and other) boycotts of Israel, who signs petitions accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and being an “Apartheid state.” Even she (on her site on the Warwick page) calls herself an activist.

I then knew that I was dealing with a self-defined anti-Israel academic, who really calls to boycott Israeli academia, meaning Jewish Israeli academia, which makes her also an anti-Semite.

If I were Muhammed Jaber but with an Israeli passport, then I am sure Nicola Pratt would not at all object to having me in the university, even if I were to apply from an Israeli institution which she calls to boycott. Additionally, Pratt, in her feedback of my dissertation said that I was pursuing Israeli and Zionist lines and perspectives.

What is a Zionist perspective, or an Israeli one?

Obviously, she doesn’t acknowledge that Israel is a pluralistic, democratic state, so there are MANY different opinions about everything. She also put down anything I wrote which was even slightly from the Israeli perspective and said “surely this is the perspective of the Israeli government.” (And she reduced points for this).

…Her obsession, as is the obsession of many others, is ONLY the “evil” coming out of Israel, the ONLY democracy in the Middle East, where woman and minorities have rights, and where they can vote and participate in all walks of life. The only place in the Middle East where human shields are not used, and where the army has strict guidelines about when they can fire.

This to her and to her like is the only point – Israel represents to her everything that is evil, the cause of everything that is bad in the region.

On my dissertation, she also claimed that my claim that minorities in the Arab Middle East don’t have equal rights is incorrect – that the only aspect in which they are discriminated against is religiously. And she is an “expert” on women in the Middle East. So you see? Nothing is as evil as Israel. And when something is evil…..well, you know what should happen to it.

Now, Professor Pratt is under investigation for her conduct:

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) will consider whether Warwick University’s Nicola Pratt breached guidelines on impartiality when marking Israeli student Smadar Bakovic’s dissertation.

QAA chief executive Anthony McClaran received a complaint about Professor Pratt last week and confirmed an agency officer would conduct a preliminary investigation.

Smadar is hardly a right-wing fanatic. In fact, she is classically liberal, a person who wants to work with Arabs to bring real peace to the Middle East. Here is a profile of her written at Bates University in the midst of the terror campaign in 2003:

Smadar Bakovic ’03, an Israeli army veteran, knows the Middle East conflicts well. After the events of Sept. 11, she and a fellow student, Jordanian native Jamil Zraikat ’05, visited a local high school to share their distinct perspectives. But Bakovic’s view is not simplistic: She believes mutual understanding is key to a resolution.

An English major, Bakovic will explore Israeli-Arab poetry in her senior thesis. Aspiring to be a journalist, she has produced a newsletter for a Turkish organization that educates poor women migrating to urban areas. This summer she returns to the Israeli Arab coastal village of Arara to continue research for an independent study about Israeli-Arab relations. Bakovic will complete the project at Bates under Israeli native Mishael Caspi, visiting professor of religion.

Bakovic first visited Arara in 2001 to learn more about Israel’s non-Jewish cultures with the support of a Phillips Student Fellowship that funds cross-cultural projects. Armed only with video cameras and intensive language training, she sought an Arab perspective on the historic mistrust between Arabs and Jews. She “went into places where Jews do not go and talked with hardworking people who experience everyday life,” Bakovic says, — villagers who told her, “not a lot of people want to hear what we have to say.”

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