Diaspora Affairs and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli canceled a planned speech on Tuesday at a University of Haifa conference about American Judaism because of a protest that took place against his participation.
The organizer of the event still came under fire from his colleagues for inviting him, even though he canceled. Sources at the Diaspora Affairs Ministry said that Chikli canceled his participation for scheduling reasons.
Sources in the university have said that major pressure was put on Rector Prof. Gur Alroey to cancel Chikli’s attendance due to his support for the government’s judicial overhaul.
Other sources said that the head of the program, Dr. David Barak-Gorodetsky, was threatened by faculty at the university for not preempting and canceling the minister’s participation, despite the requests from faculty members.
According to several sources in the university, these faculty members threatened to “boycott” Barak-Gorodetsky and encouraged management to interfere. The Jerusalem Post understands that a group of four faculty members spoke out aggressively against the program head.
During the event, Alroey encouraged promoting dialogue and freedom of speech in the university, adding that as a matter of principal, he won’t tolerate threats against any of his faculty or students for expressing their opinion.
The rector added that the small group of faculty members that spoke “negatively” toward Barak-Gorodetsky does not represent the vast majority of faculty members who support dialogue as a whole. The demonstration against Chikli took place anyway, but it was small, with only about 15 people attended.
Sources in the university said that the demonstration would have been huge if Chikli had attended the conference.
“In a letter read by... Alroey, he emphasized that most of the faculty members, including those opposed to the government’s measures who intended to protest at the entrance to the conference, behaved in a respectful and appropriate manner,” the University of Haifa told the Post.
“The university’s management has already announced several times that it strongly opposes the government’s measures to weaken the justice system and at the same time, it will preserve the freedom of expression of every faculty member and student to express their opinion freely, while also supporting them.”
The university added that “the rector criticized the statements of a small minority of faculty members who called for boycotting or silencing those who disagreed with them and emphasized that the university administration will not allow any violation of the freedom of expression or the academic freedom of any researcher or student.”