Men with guts

Roni Bar-On stands up for foreign workers and Tel Aviv University's leaders stand up for Zionism.

By AMNON RUBINSTEIN
June 5, 2006 19:37
4 minute read.
Men with guts

Bar On 88. (photo credit: )

Kudos to Minister of the Interior, Roni Bar-On because in your very first days as minister, you took a ground breaking and courageous step and announced your intention to radically change the way the Ministry of the Interior treats the children of foreign workers, and to enable them to remain in Israel from the age of five and ultimately acquire Israeli citizenship. This was the position taken by former minister Avraham Poraz and also the recommendation of the immigration committee which I had the honor to head, and which was appointed by the previous interior minister, Ophir Pines-Paz, who also deserves kudos. This view is also shared by the prime minister. By taking this pioneering step, Bar-On has shown that he is willing to change the interior ministry's anti-humane status quo toward foreign workers and their children. Now he must take care not to fall into two pitfalls that tripped up his two predecessors, Pines-Paz and Poraz: First, he should not present the matter to the cabinet for approval. He and only he has the authority to make this decision. Second, he must make sure that the officials in his ministry as well as in the ministries of justice and finance do not impede his welcome initiative. KUDOS ALSO to the leaders of Tel Aviv University. A Center for Iranian studies and the Study of Iranian Jewry was recently inaugurated in Tel Aviv University. The university invited Shaul Mofaz, who until very recently served as minister of defense and who was born in Iran, to speak at the opening ceremony. This invitation caused 30 professors and lecturers from various faculties to send the university administration the following letter: The participation of the minister of defense as the keynote speaker at the opening of this conference is a reproach to Tel Aviv University and must not be permitted. The new center, which is supposed to be devoted to the study of Iranian culture [...] appears to be mobilized in favor of the continued propaganda campaign which positions Iran as the most serious current threat to the State of Israel, the Middle East and the entire world, marking it as the next target of the adventures of the United States (and perhaps of Israel too) in the Middle East. Instead of examining this approach in a critical and responsible fashion, as mandated by the stature of an academic institution, one of the most outspoken of its spokespeople has been invited to give the keynote address at the conference. [...] This raises the fear that yet another institution has been added to the university that will provide services to the government instead of critically probing it. [...] This invitation provides a seal of approval to a member of the government who is directly responsible for the war crimes that Israel has been carrying out in the occupied territories. In his capacity as chief of staff and minister of defense, Mofaz introduced or approved combat methods that led to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of minors, the wholesale destruction of homes, the uprooting and destruction of fields and groves and restrictions on freedom of movement, which have turned the occupied territories into a disaster area. In a more enlightened world, Shaul Mofaz would be placed on trial for war crimes in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In a more enlightened university, the members of the faculty would be ashamed to host him at an official setting and would mobilize to oppose him and his methods, which have brought Israel to an unprecedented low… [The emphasis is mine.] The least that an Israeli academic institution can do today in view of the criminal behavior of the State of Israel in the occupied territories is not to invite people that are identified with this behavior. That is how we would expect you as the heads of this university to behave; and only in this way can you lead both intellectually and conscientiously. THE READER should note how the protesters' minds work: It is not Iran that is threatening Israel; it is not the threats by its president to erase Israel from the map that count. On the contrary - it is the American propaganda campaign that is endangering Iran. Protests of this kind abound in Israeli universities and sometimes target universities abroad too, with or without requests to boycott Israel and its academic institutions. But this time, the university's guardians of morality went too far. Tel Aviv University President Professor Itamar Rabinovitch, Rector Professor Dany Leviatan and Dean of Faculty of Humanities Shlomo Biderman sent the protesters the following exceptional letter: "…First we would like to express our extreme reservations with the unworthy remarks that appear in your letter. Whereas you complain that Tel Aviv University is not behaving as an academic institution should, you yourselves have given expression to unmistakable political opinions, while purporting to safeguard academic purity. "The position that you represent and the language that you use are unacceptable. We absolutely repudiate, and with a sense of disgust, the authority that you have taken for yourselves and that you deign to use towards us and towards the entire university as an institution." In the academic atmosphere in Israel, in which the vast majority effaces itself and bows its head to the anti-Zionists, these three people deserve kudos. But the praise should be accompanied by a word of warning: If they dare write one more letter like this, Rabinovitch, Leviatan and Biderman may find themselves also declared war criminals. The writer is president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.


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