Beacons of academic freedom?

A red line is crossed when a professor at an Israeli university transitions from stating his opinion on politics in academia or outside it.

February 17, 2010 22:49
3 minute read.
Mark Tanenbaum

mark tanenbaum 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Prof. Joseph Klafter, president of Tel Aviv University, is mistaken if he feels members of the board of governors, such as myself, have a problem with free speech at the university (“The double boycott challenge,” February 16). We don’t. Even when the anti-Israel polemics are repugnant to our pro-Israel sensibilities.

I do, however, have a problem with these professors hiding behind the university’s skirt of “free speech” while in essence actively working to harm the State of Israel. This insidious and dangerous activity must be dealt with firmly by the TAU administration. Allowing the professors to actively advocate and promote the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”) Movement in general, and the academic boycott of TAU in particular is unacceptable.

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A red line is crossed when a professor transitions from stating his or her opinion on certain political matters within an academic environment, to actively pursuing and promoting the international boycott of Israel in non-academic spheres. The latter activity should not be protected or condoned by Klafter and his administration.

FURTHERMORE, FACULTY members stating at their international Israel-bashing forums that they are TAU professors, gives undeserved credence to their nefarious views. At the same time, it harms the university’s reputation. TAU now appears as a hotbed of anti-Israel activity in the eyes of its donors, thanks in part to the president facilitating this behavior through his inaction.

Rachel Giora and Anat Matar are the two most high-profile faculty members who fly all over the world, encouraging the academic boycott of the very university that pays their salaries. How wacky is that?

Both have made publicly recorded statements to the press that TAU is complicit in the “criminal,“ “racist” and “illegal occupation of the Palestinians’ land” due to its military research activity. Yet there is not a peep from the administration defending the university against these slanderous and libelous remarks. In addition, there is total silence from the university when Matar wrongly accused an IDF soldier of murdering a Palestinian and blasted his picture all over the Internet. The state attorney is now looking into that incident.

Matar was due to speak on Wednesday at London University’s School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to promote the academic boycott of Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported it (“TAU lecturer to urge London audience to boycott Israel,” February 17).


She made sure she was listed in the program as a faculty member at TAU.

And again, there has been no statement from TAU’s administration about its esteemed faculty member’s efforts to destroy their beacon of academic freedom.

If Matar were not such an obvious hypocrite, she would quit her job at the university she so despises, and apply for a position in Ramallah. Let’s see how long the Palestinian Authority would tolerate her “right to free speech.”

State employees such as these faculty members at TAU should not be able to receive a paycheck from the government with one hand, while signing anti-Israel boycott petitions with the other. One must remember that TAU is a state-supported institution. As such, the president bears a fiduciary responsibility to the Israeli taxpayers and the Education Ministry that professors at his university do not actively promote and work toward the financial destruction of their country through the BDS movement.

A South Africa-like boycott, which is being advocated by these faculty members, will swiftly bring Israel to its knees by the crushing economic damage it would inflict. Our enemies would defeat us without firing even one shot.

Prof. Klafter does not realize that Israel is fighting against annihilation in a new type of war. It is a war in which no tanks, airplanes or rockets are involved. It is a war in which Israel’s military might is of no avail. It is a war of delegitimization fought by our sworn enemies. It is a war to crush us through economic and political isolation.

It is a war fought against us from within our borders by these faculty members.

They are aiding our enemies. And foolishly protected by Klafter and his administration.

The writer is a member of the Board of Governors, Tel Aviv University, the Board of Directors, American Friends of Tel Aviv University and the Board of International Overseers, Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University.

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