An Open Letter to “Mr” Tom Hickey, principal lecturer in international politics and philosophy at the University of Brighton
I take the liberty of writing to you as a fellow academic, dedicated, as I am sure you are, to the sanctity of scholarly dialogue, to the dispassionate pursuit of truth, and to the acceptance of truth however unwelcome or distasteful we may find it.
I want to help you find the truth, and I’m prepared to offer this assistance with no strings attached.
I was distressed to hear you complain, at a recent meeting called to discuss the newly-established Sussex University Yossi Harel Chair in Modern Israel Studies, that in your view the chair ought to be suspended until questions relating to its “external sources of funding” and to the process by which it was established are “satisfactorily answered.”
I understand you also criticised Israel studies courses that are already up and running successfully at the universities of Oxford, Leeds and Manchester and London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
I want to say at once that I defend your right to damn these and similar programmes as nothing more than “Israeli state propaganda … that operates under the name of hasbara … [that] to try to divert the world’s attention and to alter its perception of Israel as a state indelibly associated with such things as guns and warfare … and to shift the attention from that to the idea of the Israeli state as a centre of democracy, freedom and plurality etc.”
You also opined that the manner in which the Sussex chair had been established “may be a major problem of academic impropriety.”
These diatribes lack any semblance of balance. If you want to make a fool of yourself in public, by offering sweeping assertion and innuendo as a substitute for reasoned argument supported by evidence, one part of me says that I have absolutely no right to stand in your way.
But as the great philosopher Edmund Burke once said: “All that is required for evil to flourish in the world is for good men to do nothing.” And it is in this spirit that I address you now.
In your polemic against chairs of, and courses in, Israel studies, you actually posed a serious question. With that scholastic modesty for which you are rightly celebrated (and let’s face it, you have much to be modest about), you asked: “If I were well-known for a certain hostility to Israel and Zionism and were I to apply for the [Sussex] chair would I, by dint of my political position on Israel, be debarred from it?”
Tom, as things stand at the moment you would never have a chance in hell of being appointed to the Harel chair, for reasons that have nothing to do with your private views but everything to do with your academic qualifications. To be blunt, your published output seems a trifle thin — especially when compared with that of Professor David Tal, who has been appointed to the chair in question and whose CV is available online. Scarcely less important, Tom, is the fact that you do not appear to be credentialled at doctoral level.
I’ve emailed you to enquire about this. You’ve failed to reply. But I note that whereas Brighton University website lists other staff who teach on its BA in humanities as “professor” or “doctor”, you appear with neither of the descriptors. In relation to the MA in cultural and critical theory, you alone of the teachers appear not to possess a doctorate.
Tom, I want to help you. I am therefore prepared to supervise your doctoral studies, without payment of any kind. In terms of doctoral supervision I have 30 or so years’ experience. Not one of my doctoral students has ever been failed, or even “referred.” I myself possess two doctorates. So when it comes to doctoral studies I know what I’m talking about. You’ll also be interested to learn that I currently hold five professorial titles. I know what makes a professor. You appear not to.
This offer is genuinely made. Please contact me via the JC’s offices to discuss it, scholar to scholar. Meanwhile, Tom, for the sake of what remains of your academic reputation, I advise you to keep your bowels open and your mouth closed.
Professor Geoffrey Alderman, DLitt, MA, DPhil