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 Universityrelated
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
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
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.
Julius Friedrich Cohnheim Laboratory of Phagocyte Research
Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978