Prof. Rivka Carmi
President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Office of the President
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
P.O. Box 653
Beer-Sheva  84105  ISRAEL
Tel:  +972-8-647-930
Cell:  +972-526-839-367
Fax:    +972-8-647-2991
Email:  board@bgu.ac.il
berkan@exchange.bgu.ac.il
justman@bgu.ac.il
ngordon@bgu.ac.il

23 January 2010

Cc.
Prof. Moshe Justman, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Dr. Neve Gordon, Chairman of the Department of Politics and Government
Staff
Ms Anne Berkeley, Liaison Officer to the Board of Governors

Dear Prof Carmi,

We, Israeli, Palestinian and British academics, are writing to express our deep concern at the treatment of Dr Ahmad Sa’di, a Senior Lecturer at Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Politics and Government, who was subjected to racist treatment on 3 January 2010 when he arrived at Ben-Gurion University train station, as he does every teaching week.  He was humiliatingly searched, yelled at and embarrassed by the security staff at Mexico Gate, which we find offensive and unacceptable.We believe that Dr Sa’di’s reaction on the date was exemplary; he did not block the entrance nor did he insult the security staff.

Following the incident Dr Sa’di complained to the university authorities on 3 January 2010 and again on 10 January 2010. Dr Sa’di strongly believes that his treatment at Mexico Gate on 3 January was only the last in a whole series of racist encounters and harassment he has faced in the past ten years of his employment at Ben-Gurion University. Other incidents included his car being stopped, his bags searched and security staff making calls to ascertain whether he should be allowed to enter the university.

We are extremely concerned that Dr Sa’di’s formal complaint about his treatment on 3 January has neither been looked into seriously by Ben-Gurion University nor been met with anything like a response that it requires from your institution’s senior management. Although Ben-Gurion University acknowledges that Dr Sa’di was insulted and humiliated on 3 January, no further disciplinary action were pursued.

Ben-Gurion University claims to be like other European universities. Yet the response by Ben-Gurion University is another indication of an entirely different sort of system where racism is accepted as routine.  Had a complaint of this nature been made in the UK, there would have been automatic suspension with pay of the individuals involved.  This would then be followed by an investigation by the university department of Human Resources. Yet the fact that Dr Sa’di complaint of racism was dismissed, almost instantly, by the Director of the Department of Security says volumes about your attitude to racism.  You simply are not taking this complaint of racism seriously and we emphatically object.
We also believe that Dr Sa’di’s treatment by Ben-Gurion University is very typical of a wide range of experiences of racist encounters made by Palestinian citizens of Israel, in their face to face, day in and day out confrontations with your security.  This makes life near impossible for many Palestinian academics teaching for Israeli institutions.  It also makes travel to international conferences difficult.  Academics moving in and out of other Israeli institutions have similar experiences to those of Dr Sa’di’s.  It is this that we find so appalling.  It dehumanises those who do some of the very best work.

We call on Ben-Gurion University to take measures preventing further harassment of Dr Sa’di and we hope you realise that such racist treatment and the lack of any serious redress by senior management at Ben-Gurion seriously damages the reputation of your institution and offends the international family of academics to the core.

Sincerely,

Signed by

Professor Avi Shlaim, Oxford University, UK
Professor Nur Masalha, St Mary’s University College, UK
Dr Ronit Lentin, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland
Dr Paul Kelemen, University of Manchester, UK
Keith Hammond, Glasgow University, Scotland
Professor Nira Yuval-Davis, University of East London, UK
Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University, New York, US
Professor Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA, US
Dr Nadje Al-Ali, SOAS, University of London, UK
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University, UK
Professor Elia Zureik, Queen’s University, Canada
Dr Laleh Khalili, SOAS, University of London, UK
Dr Stephanie Cronin, Oxford University, UK
Professor Mary Grey, St Mary’s University College, UK

 

=============================================

 

January 5, 2010

 

Dr. Ahmed Saadi

Department of Politics and Government

 

 

Dear Sir,

 

 

Re: Your complaint against the security guard at the Mexico Gate (Mexico Bridge)

       Reference: your letter of January 3, 2010

 

 

General:

 

On Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 12:00 p.m., the police informed us of that they were conducting a pursuit of three terrorists carrying explosives in the Beer-Sheva area, intending to execute a terrorist attack in the immediate future. Based on your complaint, we have spoken with all involved parties, including the security guard who was at the Mexico Gate at the time you arrived.

 

Our findings are as follows:

 

The University security guards were instructed to carefully check all people entering the University, with no exceptions.
 

At 12:45 a train arrived at the University station, and 150 train passengers then proceeded to enter the University through this gate.
 

The majority of the passengers were requested by the security guard to undergo a security check and agreed to do so without protest (students and faculty).
           According to the testimony of the security guard, he asked you to open your bag 

           but you absolutely refused, and added that the security guard had no right to check 

           your baggage. In response, the guard presented his certificate (issued by law by 

           the Israel police), authorizing him to perform “a search upon a person’s body, his 

           clothes or belongings, in his transportation vehicle, trunk and other goods” as per 

           the law for resolution of security in public bodies, 1988). After you refused to 

           open your bag the guard asked you to leave the premises and allow the other 

           people in line to enter.

 

During this time, I surveyed the other gates, together with other guards, and indeed, all University gates were checked and no other complaints or incidents were reported other than the incident reported by you. 
I regret that you felt offended by what the guard said and his attitude towards you, but in the security reality in which we live and in light of warning of terrorist attacks and our assessments of security situations, there is sometimes a need to be stringent about the checking procedures at the University gates, to prevent any possibility of an attack occurring on University grounds.
 

I am certain that you can understand the level of anxiety and alertness the guard was in, after being notified that there are terrorists in the vicinity of the University, and then having to proceed to deal with 150 people trying to enter the University, all of whom he must check and then allow to enter as quickly as possible.
 

We sympathize with your feelings as a faculty members of BGU, who arrives at work and is then required to undergo a security check, but ask you to understand that in light of the circumstances of the day in question, and in light of the specific warnings on Beer-Sheva and the information we had at the time, the steps we took were essential in order to protect all faculty members and students. Regardless, we have spoken with the guard and will speak to all security guards in order to ensure the improved treatment and explanations given to all people entering the University and especially faculty members.
 

 

Sincerely,

 

Rafi Sarussi

Director of the Department of Security 

 

 

Cc.: 

 

Prof. Rivka Carmi, President

Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt, Rector

David Bareket, Director General

Prof. Moshe Justman, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Niv Gordon, Chairman of the Dept. of Politics and Government

Prof. Zvi Hacohen, Chairman of the Committee of Senior Academic Staff

 

 

 

=========================================================

 

January 11, 2010

 

Dr. Ahmed Saadi

Department of Politics and Government

 

 

Dear Sir,

 

Re: Your request to review your complaint concerning the security guard at the 

       Mexico Gate (Mexico Bridge)

      

      Reference: your letters of January 3, 2010 and January 10, 2010

 

Details of the incidents stated in your letter that have happened in the past are unknown to us. As I am unaware of a complaint filed in this matter I cannot comment on the event and the reasons that led to the reported behavior. If you would like to file such a complaint, this matter will be checked in depth.

 

I strongly disagree with any expression of racism, especially regarding people entering the University, and the checking of their certificates and transportation vehicles. We instruct our guards to conduct security checks on faculty members and students entering the University according to professional criteria only and regardless of their ethnicity, gender or academic status.

 

Regarding this particular case and as I noted in my previous letter, the guard in question performed his job as instructed by his superiors. All people entering the University at the time were requested to present their baggage be checked, something which you refused to do. Moreover, I attempted to explain the level of tension and anxiety the guard was experiencing at the time, in light of all the information he had and the tasks he was requested to perform. As per your own testimony, the guard requested to check the bags of all people entering the gate, and therefore I feel that your claim that he discriminated against you is ungrounded.

 

As for your claim regarding the guard’s behavior, who insulted you and yelled at you, I agree that this is unacceptable behavior towards faculty members and guests arriving at the University. I spoke to him and explained that this behavior is unacceptable and that I expect him to treat all people entering the University politely and respectfully, but based on the circumstances I do not feel that any further disciplinary action is needed.  

 

Sincerely,

 

Rafi Sarussi

Director of the Department of Security

 

Cc.: 

 

Prof. Rivka Carmi, President

Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt, Rector

David Bareket, Director General

Prof. Moshe Justman, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Niv Gordon, Chairman of the Dept. of Politics and Government

Prof. Zvi Hacohen, Chairman of the Committee of Senior Academic Staff