Bar-Ilan faculty rip panel on Rabin aftermath

An academic conference on the aftermath of the Rabin assassination held Wednesday at Bar-Ilan University triggered criticism from senior university faculty, who termed it "a monologue rather than a dialogue." On Tuesday, 18 professors signed a letter composed by Prof. Elisha Haas criticizing the conference's organizers. Organized by the university in collaboration with Haaretz, the conference was composed of a series of panels featuring prominent Israeli journalists, scholars, and public figures who discussed political extremism and the growing schisms in Israeli society, the threat to state institutions, sectorialism, and religious Zionism. In his letter, addressed to Bar-Ilan President Moshe Kaveh and to Rector Yosef Yeshuron, Haas criticized the university for collaborating on an academic conference with a newspaper which he identified as having a "clear ideological identity." Participants included Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva, Haaretz journalists Tom Segev and Yair Sheleg, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Ami Ayalon, and former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner. Haas also argued that the majority of the speakers represented various streams of the political left, and did not adequately represent the national religious sector. He called upon the university's heads not to conduct the conference in its planned format. "I asked the president of the university to adhere to professional ethics," Haas said following the conference. "I believe that given the polarities that exist today in our society, it is important that the university adhere to the banner of tradition and modernity, which is the reason I am there." Nevertheless, Haas said he did not view the makeup of the conference as reflecting university politics at large, and said he believed what was at stake was poor planning of an individual event. "We are pleased to report that the conference took place in a democratic manner," a university spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that "the conference program was balanced," and that "adequate representation was given to the full range of opinions" in adherence with the university's belief in "academic pluralism that respects different opinions."