CiF Watch exclusive interview with Smadar Bakovic, who fought anti-Zionist bias in UK Academia & won!

An Israeli postgraduate student at Warwick University (in Coventry, UK)  recently prevailed in efforts to have her dissertation re-marked to a distinction after it was originally given a poor mark by a professor who promotes academic boycotts of Israel.

Smadar Bakovic had repeatedly told the school she was uncomfortable with the professor, Nicola Pratt, overseeing her master’s dissertation on Israeli Arab identity.

Professor Pratt is an anti-Israel activist who, following Operation Cast Lead, was one of more than 100 academics who wrote to the Guardian saying “Israel must lose” and calling for the UK to implement BDS against the Jewish state.

Ms Bakovic, 35, who lives 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 the original mark given by Professor Pratt.

Upon contacting Ms. Bakovic, she agreed to answer a few of my questions:

Adam Levick: First, congratulations on your success in having your dissertation re-marked to a distinction after it was originally given a poor mark by Professor Pratt. How do you feel about prevailing?

Smadar Bakovic: It was a hard, frustrating year. I had to spend a whole year writing letters and reports to the university, and even had to appear in a video-conference with the university’s Complaints Committee, in order to persuade them that an injustice took place. A WHOLE YEAR. 

I did this for myself, for Israel, for Jews and for all other minorities all over the world who are being discriminated on the basis of where they come from or anything else. I am sure that had I been gay or black and professor Pratt were to sign petitions to boycott all gays and/or blacks, the university would have kicked her out a long time ago, and petitions would not be necessary, as the act would have been so disgraceful to the university.

But Israel and Jew hatred are a free for all – not meaning that all British people are racist, but there is definitely an atmosphere within UK academia and other fields such that one can be anti-Semitic without paying the consequences. As if there is justice for all, BUT for Jews and Israelis. I feel great. I won the battle. But the war is not over yet.  The most disgraceful thing is that the university is STILL backing Pratt and saying that she is “exemplary.” Would the university defend her were she against ANY other minority? No. Pratt would be already looking for a new job.

AL: Can you briefly explain how you first realized Professor Pratt was biased against you do to the fact that you’re a Zionist?

SB: I first came across Pratt when one evening, there was an event in which the Palestinian society (can’t remember its name) invited a Jew from Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

The message the event sent to the audience was: Israel should not have been established (but since now it is too late for that, some political solution should be reached), it is a murderous Apartheid regime, etc….Professor Pratt was the moderator for this.

She was also connected to other activities on campus, so I knew this was something she was regularly involved in. Then, when I saw that she was allocated to me, a red light came on immediately, and I did some research about her on the Internet.

It took me exactly 2 seconds to see exactly what she 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).

AL: As The JC reported, following Operation Cast Lead Pratt was one of more than 100 academics who wrote to the Guardian saying “Israel must lose” the war and calling for the UK to implement a programme of BDS. What are your broader views about the fact that such racism against Israelis seems so egregious within the UK media and Academia?

SB: Nicola Pratt and her likes think that everyone should be treated equally, except Israelis and Jews. Meaning that she has no problem with Iran, Hezbollah, and she doesn’t call for the boycott of Iran or Lebanon.

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.

This is why they compare Israel and South Africa  – South Africa was an Apartheid state which was illegitimate. And because of its illegitimacy, it had to be eradicated.  She and the BDS movement are smart – they don’t explicitly say let’s boycott Israeli Jews, but, rather, let’s boycott Israeli institutions. While it may not be okay in most circles to explicitly say you hate Jews, hating Israel is just fine.

In effect, Pratt knows that, unlike other forms of racism, racism against Israel is often condoned, and she probably never thought that this would become an issue. And the response of the university shows that to a great extent, she was right! They know exactly who they can pick on. I say, enough of this!

AL: I was very moved by the fact that you said you fought this battle for Israel. Can you please elaborate?

SB: Nicola Pratt, and those who think like her reject Israel’s right to exist and especially to exist as a Jewish state, separate Israel from all other states. In effect, what they are saying is that Zionism, which represents the national aspirations of the Jewish people, is illegitimate, evil and racist. But yet they have no problem with their own states having been born out of nationalism…or being defined as a Christian [or Muslim] state (in name, in customs, in the way of life…).

This has only one answer: if Israel should not exist and Jews should not be able to define themselves as they want, then Jews themselves don’t have a right to exist as free people, as this is the only place they have where they can be guaranteed to live freely without the oppression of anti-Semitism. If Israel won’t be a Jewish state, then we all know what will happen to the Jews who reside there.

Pratt calls to boycott all Israeli institutions, in EVERY way – not to accept applications, not to host Israeli professors, to stop any UK and EU cooperation between themselves and Israel. ONLY Israel. It is not like she is saying, look the Middle East is all violent….look what is happening now with the Arab Spring…..thousands are being killed…..let’s boycott them all. No, to her ONLY Israel is the problem in the region. This is not only anti-Israel bias, but also blatant anti-Semitism….singling Israel out as the Jew among nations, where everyone else is pure, and Israel is bad. This is unacceptable.

AL: As Harry’s Place noted, it seems odd that, given the obvious potential for conflict between you and Pratt, that the dissertation wasn’t second marked to begin with.  Was this possibility ever discussed?

SB: There are two points here. The dissertation was marked by another professor (who is not an expert in the Middle East) who gave me a higher mark. But with Pratt’s low mark, the total mark was very low. This, however, is not the point. Because from the very start, I could not write the dissertation freely – my real politics and beliefs were suppressed, that it doesn’t matter how many people would have marked it, it wasn’t something I really wrote and believed in.

When it was marked again, I changed a few sentences which were only there because I knew Pratt’s political orientation. This is why I based my entire appeal on what the department didn’t want me to find, the Charter of Statutes, in which paragraph 20 details this issue, where you can’t be politically intimidated when writing. You can find this here.

The dissertation could have been marked by 1,000 more people…but since its content was “biased” anyway…what was the point?? It is not only about the mark – the university violated my right (signed by the HM Queen) to write freely without any intimidation.

When I wrote to the department about Pratt, BEFORE starting to write, and I even sent them links as to Pratt’s desire to boycott Israel, they said I *had* to work under her. They didn’t want to understand what was going on. Any other minority would have been treated differently (ALL minorities should be protected from such bias).

AL: Finally, can you tell us a little about the petition being circulated asking that Professor Pratt be fired for such unprofessional conduct?

SB: The petition was not started my me, but was brought to my attention. I am surprised, positively of course, that people are finding it and signing this. I see this as a great window of opportunity, at a time when Jews and Israelis are usually intimidated and silenced, to fight against this type of racism and discrimination.

This must be done while we can, before the momentum disappears. Professor Pratt should not be a part of Warwick, or of any other reputable institution, as she supports racism against a very specific group – Israelis and Jews. Anyone who believes that the academic world in the UK should be liberal, open-minded and inclusive should sign this. Each of us might face discrimination one day, and we have to support each other in combating it. I urge everyone to sign it.


Smadar BAKOVIC, December 23, 2011, Israel.


Like the Facebook Page of “Fire Nicola Pratt


Per The Jewish Chronicle, Nicola Pratt is being investigated by the agency that reviews the performance of universities.

159 replies »

  1. I am proud to have originated the Petition

    Smadar Bakovic you are a heroine and many many people support you and are thrilled and delighted at what you have achieved

    Welll done CifWatch on this scoop

  2. I’ve signed the petition but it’s not enough . Smadar should have had the backing of the university from the start . Her concerns should have been properly addressed and a different tutor assigned immediately . It’s patently clear that the prejudice and outright racist attitude towards Smadar should have precluded her from assessing her work .
    It also begs the question why Smadar was allowed to battle this one herself . The community must get itself properly organised to fight these haters at every level . Students must be provided with a framework of professional and legal assistance as this sort of thing becomes increasingly prevalent .
    Lawfare is essential and creatures like Pratt need to understand that racism and outright antisemitism will not be tolerated .
    Pratt has failed her student . She is overtly racist . She must go !

  3. Well done Smadar, for you, for Israel and for all Jews.

    It’s time the universities of the UK were shown what is and what is not racism. You would think that educated people might be able to work it out for themselves. Seems not.

    I’m with you Harvey – how do we progress it?

  4. BOD ? You are joking ! Heads down as the whizz bangs go by .
    Sorry it needs direct and immediate legal action . Smadar was failed by the university . She studied in a hostile environment . She was unable to produce the dissertation she intended . She was subject to overt prejudice and outright racist views which were an impediment to her . She would have suffered from undue stress and pressure outside the normal pressures experienced by other students . I’m not legal but I’m sure there are grounds for a prosecution of both university and lecturer for all of the above . Ultimately resorting to the law is the only means of achieving remedy .

  5. It is not clear whether at any stage in her complaint process Smadar referred the matter to the office of the independent adjudicator
    http://www.oiahe.org.uk/ as suggested by a commenter on Harry’s Place. As it is seems it is the University itself which is primarily in breach of its obligations to its student, it seems a waste of time directing the petition to the delinquent uni to target the lecturer in the first instance.

  6. Really pleased to hear that Jonathan .
    Petition has just passed 150 . We need to get academia signatures .Connections ?

    • I had a list of some student associations but it hasn’t appeared. Smadar may not be alone and the list could be a source for further contacts.

  7. As I said on twitter has happened to my husbands friend an Israeli when he was at University of Hertfordshire He was also marked down on essays and the Israelis in the engineering classes felt they were treated less fairly than the Arab students . I was always treated at school less well by teachers being one of only 2jews in my high school .

  8. it seems a waste of time directing the petition to the delinquent uni”

    Johathan asks: “who said that is happening?”
    Well, the petition is demanding Prof Pratt be fired. Who has the power to fire her, other than the uni? So who is the petition directed to, if not the uni?

  9. Excellent news. Congratulations Smadar and thank you Adam for the enlightening interview.

    The petition is already circulating by email. I received it from my daughter via her town’s email list – someone in the town is a friend of Smadar.

  10. I think Smadar was very wise to invoke one of the University’s own statutes in pressing her case for review.

    The key question now is what course of action will be taken by the University authorities to discipline one of their staff who violated that particular statute. Has Professor Pratt been called to a disciplinary hearing so that she could explain herself? If not, why not?

    • Can anyone enlighten me whether Warwick is in receipt of any funds from Muslim organisations/countries?

      I know that Prof Pratt lives up to her name, but there may be other reasons for her behaviour than rank bias and stupidity.

  11. The most important thing is to keep the petition alive…to circulate it….to promote it in every way possible…..This is indeed a GREAT opportunity. Excellent.

  12. London Conference 26 June 11. Speakers were Dr.Nazreen Nawaz-(Hizb ut Tahrir Britain)

    Dr.Nicola Pratt (Associate Professor,International Politics of the Middle East,Warwick University)

    And Tasneem Al-Zeer (Social networking activist and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood)

    This woman moves in some charming circles…….Now you can see who she is and where she comes from.

    Smadar (who is one Gutsy Lady) had no hope with this Nicola Prat………

  13. Google Nicole Prat’s name and you will find out more about this brown nose.
    I guess she is Jewish…………

  14. It just occurred to me as I receive a reminder email from Limmud that it’s not too late to attend- of course it is held at Warwick Uni and must represent a substantial source of revenue for the Uni. Is there any chance of Limmud organisers making representations to the Uni?

  15. Re: Prof’ Pratt

    Welcome to the world of the buzz words against Israel. Racist, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, divisive…blah blah blah. Israel is certainly not racist or apartheid. Isn’t it amazing that Prof’ Pratt does not comment on the thousands of civilians suffering under Arab rule especially in Syria. Of course she will not mention the murder of civilians by the autocratic Arab states. Or, that women are treated as lesser humans and non-Muslims as Infidels. If she is that left-wing and for the down-trodden why doesn’t she say something? Because she is too scared of upsetting her Muslim students. The Jews are a soft touch.

  16. This goes way beyond the uni sacking her which will not happen anyway . She should be suing the uni for allowing flagrant racist discrimination to take place . Moreover compensation should be pursued for duress and the stress of having to deal with matters other than simply working towards achieving her Masters . A week ago a woman was awarded £4million for sustained discrimination at her place of work . This is no different . This needs to be pursued through the courts forthwith .

    • Harvey – yes – she seems to have shut down debate in an unacceptable way, and this (I would think) could be seen as indirectly discriminatory. I see this as more about the whole institutional culture than about one lecturer though.

      • Hi Sarah and a very happy Christmas to you !
        Yes it may well be the whole institutional culture but I’ve always been one for dealing with very specific situations . This is a prime example of overt racism . Smadars dissertation has been marked down because of her tutors hatred of Israel. Smadar is from Israel and would not adopt an anti Israel line to court favour with her professor . For this reason her dissertation was marked down . Warwick were made aware of Smadars concerns and they did nothing about it .
        The institutional culture you refer to will only change when individuals such as Pratt and their universities realise there is a price to pay for both the practice of discrimination and turning a blind eye to it .
        Smadar should now explore the possibility of remedy through the courts . There is nothing like the shock of financial penalty to help clarify the thinking of racists and indifferent institutions .

  17. I am so pleased that the student stood her ground and was vindicated. Unfortunately doing a university degree today in the UK is like a lottery. If you have excellent professors, lecturers you are fine however if you finish up under those who are unable to hear any viewpoint other than the one they endorse it can be daunting, stressful and damaging to say the very least. I am a mature student doing second year history. I took an intentionalist approach arguing that Hitler was central to the Holocaust and the tutor taking the seminar made me feel idiotic. The Holocaust is an area I hope to explore when doing my dissertation coming academic year. Therefore I am already concerned because if the tutor who belittles anyone who argues that Hitler and his cahoots were central to the Holocaust is going to be marking and supervising my disseration, I am likely to be marked down because I do not go along with his line. It is time universities started to regulate their academics. Some of our tutors are excellent others unfortunately are worse than mediocre and even worse are ones who have an ideological political agenda which they serve, and their academic position is a lever to further their ideological cause and crusade.

  18. Sent the JC article to all at Nicola Pratts department. A spokesman rang back and suggested that their main defence was that the paper had been changed to a great extent, between initial and last submission. It would be good to further publicise as much as possible the email extracts from the people remarking the paper, that this was not the case.

    • Mark, I think that was a slick response which can’t cover this case.

      from the very start, I could not write the dissertation freely – my real politics and beliefs were suppressed, that it doesn’t matter how many people would have marked it, it wasn’t something I really wrote and believed in.

      When it was marked again, I changed a few sentences which were only there because I knew Pratt’s political orientation.

      The truth was stillborn. What a shame to any university.

      …we have Hirelings in the Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War

      • Ariade:
        Although this may be a slick responce from the uni – the entire case IS blown out of the water if they can suggest/prove that the two submissions were very different.

        Smadar – can you publish the email extracts that were suggested in the JC article that proves this not to be the case?

  19. Perhaps Warwick University should twin with the London School of Economics, as they seem to share a lot.

    Come from Libya (donate £1.5 million) and get a PhD, come from Israel and also get “Special Treatment”.

    Rid the uni’s of all the Pratts!

    • Is this true, Mark, that Warwick gets its palm greased by Islamic money? Can you give us further particulars?

  20. Very well done and well fought Smadar. Kol Hakavod. Watch out for writs you Pratts.

  21. Ariadne – you exactly tough the point here! It seems that the PROCESS and not only the mark are important here. Nicola Pratt, who calls to boycott an entire nations, should not be at any UK institution, as she promotes racism, which universities claim they are against. I am sure that had Bakovic been black, people would not care about anything else, and would not give Pratt the benefit of the doubt. But – to ban all Israelis, JEWISH Israelis, that seems just OK with Pratt, her likes and all other naive people who defend a professor’s job, when she calls to fire a whole nation from the academia! I think that everyone in the UK should call warwick – once they see Pratt is a hassle to them, they might start thinking!

  22. Besides, the answer you got from the spokesperson doesn’t explain why they employ someone who is racist, calling to boycott an entire nation, or rather the Jews in that nation. You should ask the right question – why are you employing a racist? Why do you back an anti-Semite? Why did you force an Israeli to work under a racist? This, they won’t be able to answer. The dissertation issue is much deeper.

  23. Smadar is a hero. And yes, she should have had support from the organized Jewish community, but they are either unwilling or unable to address the abuse of the podium on the world’s university campuses. There are two places that Smadar should address her protest: the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, SPME, and the Shurat HaDin Law Centre in Jerusalem. Both organizations have been fighting the bias and outright antisemitism at the university level. Pratt should be suspended from teaching, and other students that have commented here should have the freedom and the support of these organizations for their legitimate complaints. It is time that we let administrations know that intimidation of Israeli/Jewish students will not be tolerated.

    • Meryle – I don’t know if Smadar wanted to involve these organisations. Maybe not.

      I certainly knew nothing about this case til I read about it on jc.com last Thursday afternoon.

  24. Everyone who rejects anti-Semitism, hatred and prejudice should sign this petition. 282 signatures are not enough – there must be thousands of more sane people out there. Does anyone know HOW we can circulate this petition so that more and more people can sign? Thank you.

    • This could and should be pursued under UK anti-race discrimination laws.

      Start a Facebook page and link all your friends to it?

    • 308 now.

      I have a list of JSocs at various universities but it doesn’t post.

      Adam has tweeted Limmud which is at Warwick and so have I. Nothing came back that I know of but maybe others have done better. I’ve tweeted the article three times and the petition once.

      I am assuming that Smadar is back in Israel but I may be wrong.

    • Everyone who rejects anti-Semitism, hatred and prejudice should sign this petition.

      Pratt seems appropriately named – but is there evidence of anti-Semitism here?

  25. This could and should be pursued under UK anti-racist discrimination laws.

    Annette: put it on a Facebook page and link your friends to it?

  26. I have also sent it to everyone I know…..and still continuing to do so…..but I am quite limited in the number of Jewish groups I know and have connections with…..although I know many supportive poeple who are not Jewish….The Limud thing sounds good, considering that so many Jews and those who suport Jews come there….seems that we are all helping as much we can……I guess the secret is always to get to as many supportive poeple as possible…..I definitely think Smadar can do something – Warwick forced her to work under a racist porfessor and even told Warwick…..what a disgrace! This is a chance to combat this issue, which happens in so many UK institutions…

  27. I agree wholeheartedly with Harvey. The whole community should be active against this.

    And no academic should be allowed to hold any sort of tenured position in which he/she loses contact with the professionalism and neutrality necessary to mark each thesis on its merits, regardless of whether the politics it is thought to present chimes with that of the academic.

    Nicola Pratt, and anyone else who is so lacking in professionalism should be sacked forthwith.

    Well done Smadar for holding your corner.

  28. So many Anony Mouses have signed the petition. Self-inflation by the self-important Jonathan Hoffman

  29. Maybe Hoffman can get his boss Danny Ayalon to produce another laughable Mickey Mouse animation

  30. Maybe Jonathan Hoffman can get his boss Danny Ayalon to produce another piss-poor Mickey Mouse animation on this

  31. A supervisor of research necessarily has great power over those he/she supervises and over their careers and their futures.

    Apart from the inherent racism and discrimination in Pratt’s behaviour, she is guilty of abusing that power by perpetrating emotional abuse against Smadar, which has to be a sacking offence.

  32. Pretzelberg – I will explain to you where her racism is. It is one thing to be critical of Israel (or of any other country) or to be biased – we are biased about certain things. If someone says, I think that country X is making a mistake by doing X and Y and I think they should do Z instead, this is legitimate criticism. It’s like if I say, I think the Iranian government is murderous, it is killing its own people and I think the international community should do X and Z. It is a completely different thing when you say, due to X and Z, I think that ALL people in country Y should be boycotted from this or that activity. So – as if I would say because what the Iranian government is doing ALL Iranian institutions, and thus ALL Iranians should be boycotted. In the case of Pratt – she is boycotting ALL Israelis due to nationality and religion, because she would not object to accept a Muhammed, who happens to hold an Israeli passport. So – she is saying all JEWISH Israelis should be boycotted, not based on WHO they are and what their qualifications are, but according to their nationalist alone (so, you could be, as seems Bakovic was, even someone who participated in Israeli Palestinian conferences (look her up), but because she happens to be Jewish and Israeli, she should not be allowed in UK academia. Had she been a part of ANY other group, the university would have chucked out Pratt a long time ago. Hence the racism and tragedy!

  33. Regarding the anonymous people in the petition – this happens in every petition….but hundred of “real” people have signed, too, which is an excellent thing…..hopefully this continues….

  34. Didn’t a barrister’s opinion some time ago now suggest it was illegal to discriminate against academics and students in this way? I can’t remember the details, perhaps someone can enlighten us

    • Yes. The UCU’s proposed boycott was declared by their own counsel to be illegal.
      That is why Pratt should be prosecuted under racial incitement legislation.