Interview and blog post by Asja Francisti, master’s student in the National Security Studies program, class of 2015-2016.
Head of National Security Studies Center, Dan Schueftan, on Israel, University of Haifa practicioners and scholars, and why he considers political correctness the enemy of freedom.
“After terrorist attacks in France or California, the whole cities shut down. If Israel functioned this way, our schools, shops, stations would never be open. We learned to manage problems along the way. We have realized that even if you have terrorism, you can not only survive, you can actually continue building open society, culture, economy. This is not a theory in Israel, it is practical and it is proven, because we have done it for a very long time”, explains Head of National Security Studies Center, Dan Schueftan.
Once you are in Middle East, you have a chance to change the perspective, even turn it upside down. Once you are close, the details of the big picture become much more visible and with them, the complicated reality of this region – and if you are all about wars and battles, national security might be too much for you.
“National security is not about that. There are many other questions you have to ask yourself. What is the objective of our society? What kind of country do we want to leave to our children? It is about the broadest picture, where connections are constantly discussed and weighed. You can reach a certain goal using certain means, but if that is going to undermine the strength of the society, people are not going to be able to sustain continued pressures, and you need that strength to survive. It is crucial to learn the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent”, says Schueftan.
The catch of reality is that practice of decision-making requires dealing with what’s urgent. In academia, one’s job is to take a step back and look at what is important, without the pressure of finding the immediate solutions.
“The trouble with immersing in academia is that scholars like elegant solutions, the ones that look good on paper, but they don’t work in reality. That’s why members of our faculty are people who belong to both of the worlds and that is what we emphasise all the time. In this program you get a chance to learn from a person who worked as an economic expert for the National Security Council of United States. You get to hear experiences of the Ambassador of Israel in Jordan and European Union, or a man who held positions of Deputy Chief of the Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency, like the CIA) and National Security Advisor to Prime Minister.”
With different people come different views on the things that are taught, but Schueftan insists that is one of the reasons they are there.
“I don’t want to present you with sterilized versions of the subject – there should be heat and debate. What students must learn is not my position on things – they must understand what the discussions, disagreements and approaches are. In that matter, I consider political correctness to be the enemy of freedom, not only because it does not allow you to say something, but also because it also prescribes which questions you are not allowed to ask.”
And despite the harsh realities and decisions that go with National Security, nobody is spared of being the butt of the joke in Dan’s class.
“The joke is on everyone, the joke is on us. Trying to study human affairs without a sense of humour is very sad, and depressing my students is not my number one objective.”