Event Reports

Young Israeli Researchers in European Studies

Shaping the future relations between Israel and Europe

The Second Annual Conference of Young Israeli Researchers in European Studies took place at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on 29 and 30 May. Following the success of the first conference in 2012, the selection committee invited a larger number of Israeli students from different universities to present their researches on a wide range of subjects related to Europe. The two-day conference was organized by the Centre for the Study of European Politics and Society (CSEPS) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Israel in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to Israel.

Prof. David Newman, Dean of Ben-Gurion University’s Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences and Dr. Sharon Pardo, Director of CSEPS, welcomed the participants, underlining the importance for Israeli universities to integrate European studies into the range of study subjects.

Wednesday May 29, 2013

  • Panel 1: Europe in Israel’s Education System

The first panel of the day focused on Europe in the Israeli education system. The panel began with a keynote presentation by Dr. Rutie Frankel, director of the Education Department in the Beer-Sheva Municipality. Dr. Frankel presented the Israeli education system, describing current issues and future endeavors. Following Dr. Frankel, Alma Vardari-Kesler, project manager and lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented the “Click” project of the Center for the Study of European Politics and Society. The Click project aims to offer elementary and high school students’ of the Negev region with an understanding of Europe and the European Union in the classroom.

Hila Zahavi and Yoav Friedman, both from Ben-Gurion University, followed with a presentation on the Normative Power of Europe through the realm of higher education, using the Bologna Process as a case study. Both presentations focused on the external dimension of the Bologna Process; the manner in which the reforms have extended far beyond the scope of the EU and beyond the geographical space of the European continent. Finally, Hannah Moscovitz, also from Ben-Gurion University, presented the Bologna Training Center; a center established at the university – in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung - in order to promote and disseminate an understanding of the Bologna Process in the Israeli higher education system.

  • Panel 2: Practices of Exclusion and Policies of Integration

The second panel dealt with issues of immigration and minority groups in Europe. Shalom Zarbiv, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented his study on the implications of integration programs in Western European states for the inclusion and exclusion of immigrants. His research shows that integration programs in states with different integration systems will either work to include or exclude immigrants in the country in question.

Michael Freedman, also from the Hebrew University, followed with a presentation on changes in attitudes towards immigration in Europe after the European debt crisis. Results of Michael's statistical analysis, suggests that European tolerance towards immigration is indeed sensitive to the stability of a country’s fiscal situation.

Orit Hirsch, from Ben-Gurion University, presented her anthropological study of locals’ negative perceptions towards immigrants on a small Island community in Greece. Orit's anthropological analysis explores how the process of “othering” of the Muslim immigrants was being carried out with the “eating dogs” stories on the Island.

To conclude the panel, Binyamin Spanier, from Haifa University, presented his research on a different minority group in Europe, older persons. Binyamin’s study focused on the claims of older persons in the European Court of Human Rights. His research reveals that a gap exists between the EU’s declarative norms and values concerning the rights of older persons and their actualization in the European Court of Human Rights.

  • Panel 3 and 4: Europe and Israel: Challenges and Cooperation

Prof. Jörn Axel Kämmerer - Chair of public law at Bucerius Law School - offered a keynote presentation. Prof. Kämmerer discussed the recent fiscal crisis in the European Union, offering a legal perspective of its causes, implications and future. His presentation began with a discussion of the history of the common European currency and fiscal policy. He then described the initial motivations behind the establishment of the Euro, and specifically the desire to establish “an ever closer union” among the peoples of Europe.

Prof. Kämmerer went on to discuss the challenges and functional shortcomings of the system put in place at the time. Examples of such limitations include the inefficiency of control and sanction mechanisms as well as the generous interpretation which was given to stability criteria. These limitations, among others, challenged the Euro’s stability. Prof. Kämmerer continued his presentation with a discussion of certain implications of the fiscal crisis for Europe, highlighting both positive and negative elements. On the negative side, dissatisfaction with the Euro is evident in Europe today. Moreover, the crisis seems to have led to “an ever increasing divergence” among European citizens as opposed to “an ever closer union”. On the positive side, Prof. Kämmerer noted that the Euro itself has largely been unaffected by the crisis. He concluded with his view that the future of the Euro-area necessitates a significant breakthrough. While the Euro will survive this crisis, the currency along with the system supporting it will without a doubt be modified in the future.

Following the keynote presentation, Ms. Shirley Gordon, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented her research which aims to explore the place of normative/political elements in economic agreements between the EU and Israel. Using the recent Open-Sky Agreement as a case study, Shirley's hypothesis is based on the assumption that in the EU’s “equation of profit”, issues of a clear economic nature, tend to devalue the political and normative elements.

Jonathan Rokem, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, offered a comparative perspective of the community engagement initiatives in Europe and Israel. Jonathan’s presentation revealed that although community planning has been the focus of recent interest in Israel, it has largely emerged as a bottom-up initiative, as opposed to the European context, in which projects are encouraged at a policy level.

Finally, Or Blan, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented his research on the use of social media as a tool of public diplomacy, using EU-Israel relations as a case study. Or’s research attempts to examine the influence of social media on the design formulation and implementation of the EU's public diplomacy strategy in its relations with Israel.

  • Panel 5: Communities of Refugees: Jewish Body and Agency of Change

The final panel of the day dealt with the subject of Jewish refugees during the Second World War and during the first years of Israel’s establishment. Daniel Coussin, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented his research on the German Jewish refugees in the United Kingdom and their impact on the Jewish communities of England and Scotland. Daniel's research shows the manner in which the arrival of the Jewish refugees from Germany led to the rise of Zionism in the UK. Benny Nuriely, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented his research on the Jewish refugees from Europe and North-Africa. Benny’s study focuses on the manner in which the Jewish medical experts working with these two communities in the aftermath of the Second World War constructed a system of racial differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

Thursday May 30, 2013

  • Panel 6: Spain-Israel Relations

The first panel of the day was dedicated to Israel-Spain relations. The panel began with a keynote presentation by Dr. Eliezer Papo, director of the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Culture, at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Dr. Papo addressed the question of Sephardic research asking whether its center or “Mecca” is located in Israel or Spain. Dr. Papo described the evolution of Sephardic studies in both Spain and Israel, and concluded with the argument that there should not be a “Mecca” of Sephardic studies; rather these studies should be encouraged worldwide.

Aya Shoshan, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented her ongoing comparative research between the recent social movements in Israel and Spain. In particular, Aya discussed the perceptions of, and reactions to democracy in these social movements, and focused on how these perceptions were communicated between Israeli and Spanish activists.

Hila Levi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented her research on the gap between government and public attitudes in Spain towards Israel using the Cast Lead Operation as a case study. Her research shows that while the Spanish public opinion was negative towards Israel, the overall attitude of the Spanish government towards Israel was positive at least at the practical level (as opposed to rhetorical).

  • Panel 7: The origins of Economic Liberalization and State Regulations in Europe

The second panel focused on economic aspects of the European Union. Nir Yamin, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented his research on state aid regulations in the EU. Nir’s study offers a legal perspective and explores the correlation between member-states' domestic anti-trust rules and state aid. Naama Klar, also from the Hebrew University, followed with a presentation of the roots of liberal international trade and the role of the Freemasonry society in its development. Naama argues that the Freemasons were an important interest group that promoted trade across the Atlantic and played a crucial role during the transmission between mercantilism and liberalism.

  • Panel 8: Jewish People in Europe: between thriving and decline

Gal Hadari, from the University of Haifa, presented his research on the “new anti-Semitism” in Europe. Through a comparative discourse analysis of research on “new anti-Semitism” in Europe, Gal described what he views as the primary political myths related to Israel today. Dan Haruv, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, followed with a presentation of the Jewish historian Shimon Dubnov as “other” within the Russian Jewish community of the 19th century. Dan’s research explores the development of the different representations of Dubnov in Russia and reveals the manner in which his activity within the national movement and within the Jewish community impacted this representation.

  • Panel 9: European Culture and Philosophy

This panel focused on cultural aspects of European studies. Sonia Mazar, from the department of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented her research on the meaning of death in Italian opera. Sonia described the manner in which the expression of emotion in Italian opera has changed over time describing as well as offering a visual and auditory account of these changes. Tal Feder, of the University of Haifa, presented his research on Arts policy in Europe. Tal's study examines the economic and social rationales explaining state intervention in the cultural policy of countries in Western Europe. Aliza Nezhdanov, from Bar-Ilan University, followed with a presentation of the “theatrical-self” in the English reformation period. Aliza’s research reveals the manner in which the concept of “theatrical-self” was developed into an ideology. This ideology grew in England in particular due to the rise of absolutism and the widespread religious persecution at the time.

  • Panel 10: Resistance and Diplomacy in Europe

Noam Tirush, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented his comparative research on the representations of the German resistance to Nazism in Holocaust museums in France, Israel and the United States. Noam argues that the lack of stories related to the German resisters in the Israeli holocaust museum can be understood as “forgotten memory” in Israeli collective memory of the holocaust. Lior Alpertovitz, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, followed with a presentation of Israel's foreign policy - in the years following its establishment - in Austria, Italy and Spain, three countries with ties to Nazi Germany during the war. Lior's study reveals the different decisions taken by the Israeli government at the time, related to foreign policy with these countries, and concludes that the State used the past to create policies as needed and desired.

  • Panel 11: EU’s Legitimacy: between citizenship and foreign policy

Dimitry Kortukov, from Tel-Aviv University, presented his paper on Carl Schmitt’s political thought and its relevance for an understanding of the European integration process. Dimitry’s paper argues that Schmitt’s political thought could contribute to our contemporary understanding of EU legitimacy, citizenship as well as the common values which exist among EU citizens. Through a restructuring of Schmitt's argument, Dimitry’s paper highlights its relevance for today. Or Tuttnauer, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, followed with a presentation on parliamentary opposition in European states. Or’s research offers a quantitative-comparative approach of parliamentary opposition in 21 European States, analyzing the structural strength of the opposition, its institutional strength as well as its governmental history.

  • Panel 12: Taking Role in Conflict: EU's political culture, activism and justice

The final panel of the conference was dedicated to research on the EU’s role in political conflict around the world. Mori Ram, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, presented his paper on Europe and the EU’s role in the Cyprus conflict. In particular, Mori discussed the manner in which Cyprus’ accession process to the EU has impacted the development of the conflict over time. Neta Gruber, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, followed with a presentation on European activists’ role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neta’s research examines the use of the EU’s normative discourse by European activists in the Palestinian territories. Finally, the case of Kosovo was presented by Netta Moshe, also from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Netta’s research explores the connection between the political cultur e in Kosovo and the country’s democratic regime. Netta’s assumption is that the mixed political culture which exists in Kosovo does not support the building of a stable democratic regime.

The topics discussed during the conference covered numerous issues ranging from the integration of minorities and refugees to state regulations, the Euro crisis, Israel-Europe relations, E.U. political culture to the dissemination of the Bologna Process to Israel’s higher education institutions. The three keynotes speeches and the 29 presentations led to lively discussions, demonstrating the ever growing interest for European studies within the academia and the general public as well as the relevance of European – Israeli relations at all levels.

The study of Europe’s past and present promotes constructive cooperation and exchanges among the members of the younger generation. These young students are not only studying European politics and society but are playing an important role in shaping the future relations between Israel and Europe.

Hannah Moscovitz