Photo: Haim Horenstein
Is academic freedom at risk?
Photo: Haim Horenstein
Photo: Tzvika Tishler
Ben-Ze'ev says decision is odd
Photo: Tzvika Tishler

'Don't ruin academic freedom'

Haifa University Rector Aaron Ben-Ze'ev responds to British university boycott

HAIFA - The imposition of boycotts contradicts the essence of academic freedom and genuine scientific inquiry, Haifa University Rector Aaron Ben-Ze'ev says in response to an academic boycott imposed by British academicians on two Israeli universities.


"I call on lecturers in Britain and across the world to first read the facts and not lend a hand to the ruining of academic freedom because of political interests or radical political views," he told Ynet.


"Academic freedom is too important to be used as a pawn in political struggles," he said.


Since he found out about the boycott Friday afternoon, Ben-Ze'ev has been engaged in intense efforts in a bid to elicit British academicians to change their stance.


As it stands now, the British ban on Haifa and Bar Ilan universities would end research cooperation and prevent Israeli lecturers from going to Britain. Meanwhile, graduates of the two universities may be blocked from receiving British grants or doing their post-doctoral work in England.


'Decision based on lies'


The affair began after a Haifa University student's Master's thesis accused Jewish fighters of massacring Arab residents in 1948. The student later admitted he made up some of the facts, after the fighters filed a libel lawsuit against him.


The university also launched an inquiry into the matter, but a radical left-wing professor later charged the committee's findings were false. The professor, Ilan Pappe, claims the university took disciplinary action against him, a charge the university denies.


Meanwhile, Pappe wrote his colleagues abroad and told them about the affair. Later he also published an article in a British newspaper calling for a boycott against the university.


Still, Ben-Ze'ev finds it difficult to understand the British decision to boycott his university.


"I'm amazed to see how a body of intellectual lecturers, who are supposed to check the facts, failed to do so and didn't let us present our position," he said. "The decision itself is odd and highly distorted, as it's based on lies."


Regarding Pappe's future at the university, Ben-Ze'ev said a lecturer who calls for a boycott against his own university should take the initiative and resign.


"We maintain academic freedom and won't adopt disciplinary action against him," he said. "But from a moral standpoint, if it's so bad for him here and he thinks Haifa University is so terrible, why wouldn't he leave for another university?"


פרסום ראשון: 04.25.05, 14:52
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