Tel Aviv University
Olmert denounces Tel Aviv
University anti-democratic leftist faculty members as self-righteous
see the full original article,
Olmert calls opponents of IDF legal expert's
Feb. 2, 2009
Haviv Rettig Gur , THE JERUSALEM POST
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to the defense
of Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch on Sunday, speaking out against those
seeking to prevent her from taking up a teaching position at Tel
Aviv University when she finishes her IDF career in the coming
The prime minister blasted the "self-righteous
hypocrites" at the university who "presume to preach morality"
without first learning the facts of a case.
He added that a university that rejected
someone on the basis of their service in the IDF did not deserve to
receive state funding.
The appointment of Sharvit-Baruch, the IDF's
top international law expert, to the teaching post met with protest
from a handful of lecturers and Haaretz over the weekend, who
accused her of approving the killing of hundreds of civilians during
Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
Sharvit-Baruch's detractors, principally Prof.
Chaim Ganz of the university's Minerva Center for Human Rights,
apparently based their stance on a Haaretz report over the
weekend that took issue with her interpretation of humanitarian law
as it related to the fight against Hamas.
Ganz sent a letter to the law school's dean,
Prof. Hanoch Dagan, claiming "Sharvit-Baruch's interpretation of the
law... allowed the army to act in ways that constitute potential war
crimes" and that Sharvit-Baruch herself "harms Israel's values
Haaretz quoted another university
lecturer, Dr. Anat Matar, as saying she "was shocked to learn that
half of the second-year law students will learn the foundations of
law from someone who helped justify the killing of civilians,
including hundreds of children."
In its Friday editorial, the paper opined that
Sharvit-Baruch had sanctioned "the killing of hundreds of
Palestinian civilians, many of them children, women and elderly
people, during the three weeks of the war."
The paper even claimed her predecessor at the
head of the army's International Law Division, Col. (res.) Daniel
Reisner, had criticized her enabling of the military's
"trigger-happiness" during the war.
The response to the assault on Sharvit-Baruch
was quick in coming.
"I was cheated outright by Haaretz,"
Reisner told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "In an hourlong
interview, I told them the opposite of what they wrote. [Sharvit-Baruch]
was my deputy for 15 years. She's an incredible lawyer and a friend.
Many of her interpretations actually continued my own legal
developments. I have considered suing the newspaper for libel."
According to Reisner, the newspaper even
rejected his on-line talkback on the paper's Hebrew Web site, in
which he denied he had criticized Sharvit-Baruch.
Olmert, who spoke on the issue at Sunday
morning's cabinet meeting, delivered an outright threat to the
publicly-funded school, saying, "Any university that lends its hand
to disqualifying lecturers on the basis of such claims, without
inquiring into the matter and without anybody being able to
establish such claims except on the basis that someone served in the
IDF during wartime, is an institution that is not worthy of the
support of the government of Israel. If such an institution should
act this way - and I am certain that Tel Aviv University does not
intend to do so - it would be unworthy of the support of the State
of Israel [for] its ongoing activities."
The university was quick to note that it did
not acquiesce to the complaints against Sharvit-Baruch, with one
university official saying they believed it was Haaretz that
had lent needless significance to a "non-event."
"Only a single law professor protested [Sharvit-Baruch's]
appointment, and he retracted his protest soon after, saying the law
faculty is not a courtroom," read a statement from the university
"At no point did the faculty even consider
cancelling Pnina Sharvit-Baruch's appointment," Dagan, the law
school dean, wrote to Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week in
response to the minister's query.
A university representative said the
institution does not cancel appointments over disagreements in legal
interpretation. "Pluralism is the life-breath of Tel Aviv
University," the representative said.
Haaretz magazine editor Nir Becher said
"Haaretz stands completely behind the published article. The
statements made by attorney Reisner were quoted accurately. As to
Reisner's retroactive interpretations of his published statements,
those are his responsibility alone."
And above anything else, free speech
- and certainly academic freedom - is cemented in the famous saying
attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will
defend to the death your right to say it."
Some people must have forgotten this
principle, in which lies the foundations of enlightenment and modern