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Tel Aviv University

Letter from a Prof at Tel Aviv University: The unwillingness of TAU officials to stand up to what became an organized campaign of the vilification of Israel 

I shall state from the beginning that I would like to congratulate you on your courageous stand at the Board of Governors meeting and after the meeting. As someone who has been with Tel Aviv University for forty years, I am well familiar with the intensive, unrelenting and extremist activities of a number of the members of the academic staff of our University, who will not miss a single occasion to accuse this country of the worst crimes, support the most extreme forms of academic boycott against the Israeli academia, and offer support and encouragement to those whose explicit purpose is the elimination of Israel, as the home of the Jewish people.

The purpose of this letter is not to reiterate what is known to all who are honest enough to admit it, but to draw your attention to lesser known facts about the unwillingness of the officials of Tel Aviv University to stand up to what became an organized campaign of the vilification of Israel. Any attempt to put a halt to it is countered by the argument that the “McCarthyites” are trying to suppress academic freedom and free speech on the campus.

 

 

[source forwarded by e-mail]

A letter from Edgar Pick, Professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University to Mark Tanenbaum, resigned TAU governor
May 24, 2010

Mr. Mark H. Tanenbaum
Miami Beach, Florida

Dear Mr. Tanenbaum

I am a Professor of Immunology at the Sackler School of Medicine, since 1970, when I joined the academic staff of Tel Aviv University, following postdoctoral studies at the Scripps Research Foundation in La Jolla and the University of London. I am attaching a brief Curriculum Vitae.

The reason behind this letter are the recent events at Tel Aviv University, following the speech by Mr. Dershowitz and your resignations from all your Tel Aviv University related functions, after many years of serving this institution in more than one way.

Your letter of resignation of May 11, 2010, was made public and the tumultuous events at the Board of Governors meeting have been aired in the press. Not having been present at this event, my knowledge of what went on is based on what we scientists would define as incomplete and possibly biased evidence. I do, however, believe that your description of what happened, in your letter of resignation, is accurate, meaning that the President of Tel Aviv University refused to allow a vote on your very important proposed resolution. I understand that your resolution dealt with the issue of some radical Tel Aviv University academics promoting a worldwide boycott of our own university.

I shall state from the beginning that I would like to congratulate you on your courageous stand at the Board of Governors meeting and after the meeting. As someone who has been with Tel Aviv University for forty years, I am well familiar with the intensive, unrelenting and extremist activities of a number of the members of the academic staff of our University, who will not miss a single occasion to accuse this country of the worst crimes, support the most extreme forms of academic boycott against the Israeli academia, and offer support and encouragement to those whose explicit purpose is the elimination of Israel, as the home of the Jewish people.

The purpose of this letter is not to reiterate what is known to all who are honest enough to admit it, but to draw your attention to lesser known facts about the unwillingness of the officials of Tel Aviv University to stand up to what became an organized campaign of the vilification of Israel. Any attempt to put a halt to it is countered by the argument that the “McCarthyites” are trying to suppress academic freedom and free speech on the campus.

I would, thus, like to draw your attention to the more subtle ways by which Tel Aviv University is condoning activities that endanger the very existence of the university as an academic institution where the quality of research and teaching should be valued more than political sympathies. I shall not bring up the well known names mentioned by Alan Dershowitz but point out some of the events taking place on the campus under the very eyes of the present and past Presidents and Rectors.

1. The university hosts the “Minerva Center for Human Rights”, financed by the German Max Planck Society but receiving massive funding from political bodies such as the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Adenauer Foundation, with matching by Tel Aviv University. Among its scientific activities is a recent video conference with participants from MIT and Harvard who support a dialogue with Hamas and with special “guest star” Azmi Bishara. All my attempts to make the University aware of the extremist political nature of such “research”, by writing to the present President and the past Rector, were not considered worthy of an answer.

2. In 2009, a new “Minerva Center for the Humanities” was formed with a budget of 4 million Euro (!) to be matched by an equal sum (!) from Tel Aviv University. I am attaching the official Tel Aviv University announcement. The directors of this glorious Center are Professor Rivka Feldhay, a past collaborator of famed scientist Azmi Bishara, Professor Adi Ophir, a leading organizer of Israel Apartheid Week (see attached document) and Dr. Raif Zreik, a central figure in the intensely anti-Israeli organization, Adalah.

3. I am sure that you must have noticed that past and present members of the academic community of Tel Aviv University functioned exclusively as official political representatives of the Israeli Left. These include: Itamar Rabinovich, Shlomo Ben- Ami, Eli Bar-Navi, Yuli Tamir, Avi Primor, and Shimon Shamir, and I might have missed some.

4. I am bringing up these examples not because I think that a University cannot have a naturally developed political bias. A liberal, Left-leaning, and human rights-focused orientation are common to most prominent academic institutions in both America and Europe. The problem is that such orientation prevents them from taking action against those extremists who work actively against the best interests of universities and the academic endeavor, in general. This reluctance is justified by what they define as the wish to conserve academic freedom and the freedom of expression on the campus. The truth is that, independently of what party won the national elections, your future at Tel Aviv University, in most departments in the fields of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Law and the Arts, is dependent on you being looked upon as one who is a member of the so called "peace camp" and who will distance him/herself from the "settlers", the Likud, and the religious "extremists". I know that you were upset by Klafter’s attitude. It will be of little consolation to you if I tell you that the earlier Presidents were variations of the same. The only difference that I sensed was that, when writing to Itamar Rabinovich or Zvi Galil, to protest yet another anti-Israel event on the campus that included, as an example, the participation of such an eminent scientist as Tali Fahima at a “Minerva Center for Human Rights” conference, they would respond by a brief note stating that it is not in their power to prevent it. I wrote to Klafter three times; once to ask for his support in preventing the scientific boycott of Ariel College, the second time to condemn the activities of two Tel Aviv University staff against the Israel science exhibit in Boston, and the third time to ask him to prevent the Pro-Hamas conference at the Faculty of Law. He never even acknowledged my letters. The sad thing is that even somebody whom I considered a friend, such as Dany Leviatan, never ever did something to prevent the gradual radicalization of Tel Aviv University.

5. An excellent example for the lack of courage and determination of Tel Aviv University administrators is the fact that most of the most vicious enemies of the State of Israel are constantly traveling from one disinvestment meeting to another boycott meeting. These travels are financed by a special fund belonging to members of the academic staff, but proof has to be presented that the travel is related to the academic and/or research activities of the person. The Rector or Vice-Rector have to approve the use of funds. In spite of the fact that the real purpose of the trips of these "traveling salesmen of anti-Israel poison" is widely known, the Tel Aviv University administration is too frightened to refuse the use of University funds for activities intended to delegitimize the University and the State of Israel.

6. One should not accept blindly the claim that we are dealing with a tiny minority of no real impact. As pointed out by Alan Dershowitz, we are not only facing vicious attacks on our academia by a determined group but also systematic indoctrination of students ex cathedra. My son in law is being taught by a Tel Aviv University historian that the war of independence was, in fact, a “civil war” for disputed land fought by Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians.

7. It is also significant that about forty-six Tel Aviv University professors signed a statement condemning the speech of Dershowitz and many opposed the very fact of offering him a forum for the expression of his ideas. It became an accepted habit at Tel Aviv University that the freedom of speech is the exclusive prerogative of those who are the worst enemies of the freedom of expression.

8. One should, of course, ask, why this lack of courage and determination in fighting evil and why the mentioned group of extremists can hold a whole University at ransom. The answer lies with the international campaign of delegitimization of Israel which has taken over most academic institutions all over the world. Most of the academic staff of Tel Aviv University and of most institutions of higher learning in Israel have learned that their chances of being invited to meetings, become members of international committees, or merely be befriended by scientific colleagues abroad, is made much easier if you are looked upon as an open-minded individual who is not afraid to condemn and criticize Israel for the occupation of Palestinian land, infringement of human rights, and crimes committed in Gaza. A perfect example for this is the economist Menachem Yaari, the President of the Israel Academy of Sciences, who will not miss one occasion to vilify this country and express sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause. Thus, you can safely assume that Professor Klafter will not jeopardize his future "jobs" by actions which will be considered by the enlightened ruling class of the academia as limiting the freedom of expression. Far from being "useful idiots", to use Stalin's expression, the defenders of extremism know well on which side their bread is buttered.

9. There is, however, no better example for the abandonment by Tel Aviv University of any intention to resist the growing threat from the hate campaigners than the event recounted to me by my wife, who is the secretary of the Department of Archeology: At the end of the yearly graduation ceremony, some of the Jewish academic staff remained seated during the singing of the Hatikva, together with the Arab students and their families. My wife approached the Dean of Humanities and asked him why such outrage is accepted. He said that he did not notice that it happened. Neither did the Rector feel that this behavior should be condemned in a statement by the Tel Aviv University authorities. I would like to make it clear that, as a liberal intellectual, I believe that people should not be forced to stand up at the singing of the National Anthem. However, the Heads of Tel Aviv University should not behave as if it did not happen and should, at least, express their disapproval of such an act.

Unfortunately, I have to conclude that people who lack intellectual honesty, national pride, and courage to fight openly for what is good and honest should be punished at the only level that they do understand: money.

I would like to congratulate you on your decision to stop all financial support to Tel Aviv University. I hope that you can recruit other donors to direct their donations for this University elsewhere, until the time that a new, honest and courageous leadership takes over. In the dire financial state that they are in, they should be taught a lesson. That playing Chamberlain to the threats from within the academia, mentioned in the Dershowitz speech, comes with a negative price tag.

Once again, thanks for your honesty and courage. Many of us were waiting for a long time for a Mr. Tanenbaum to appear on the scene.

With best regards,
Edgar Pick, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Julius Friedrich Cohnheim Laboratory of Phagocyte Research
Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978
Israel
TEL: 972-3-640-7872
FAX: 972-3-642-9119
E-mail: epick@post.tau.ac.il
http://www2.tau.ac.il/Person/medicine/researcher.asp?id=ahheikije

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