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Tel Aviv University
TAU Rivka Feldhay in "Netanyahu vetoes left-leaning Israeli academic's participation in Merkel meet"

פרופ רבקה פלדחי

Professor Rivka Feldhay

Cohn Institute


Editorial Note:

A Roundtable with Prime Minister Benjmain Netanyahu, Angela Merkel and a dozen of Israeli and German academics in Berlin created a stir in the academy.   Dr. Rivka Feldhay, part of the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University, who was asked to attend by the German Embassy in Israel, was "disinvited" because Netanyahu did not want to appear with a radical leftist scholar known for her harsh critics of Israel. The Israeli side failed to do due diligence on Feldhay, resulting in an embarrassing  incident. 
 It gave the academic community and Haaretz an opportunity to lament the attack on academic freedom and warn about the specter of McCarthyism.  Joseph Klafter, the president of Tel Aviv University took the unseal step of sending a letter to the Minister of Education to register his complaint.
This knee- jerk reaction is all the more troubling because the Roundtable was a diplomatic event sponsored by the Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Berlin.  Israeli scholars - whatever their political orientation - have no self-ordained right to appear in state- sponsored functions.  Academics have to earn such rights through respectable scholarship and fair- minded commentary on political reality.  
Feldhay's academic and extramural record fail to meet this standard.  An authority on science and culture, her publishing record is extremely modest; in spite of nearly three decades as faculty, her only book published by a reputable press is based on her doctoral dissertation.

 What Feldhay missed in research, she made up by full- throttled political, activism which she learned from her PhD supervisor Professor Yehuda Elkana from the Hebrew University.  Elkana's engagement with the "nazification of Israel" project followed closely the path pioneered by  Yeshayahu Liebovitz and Israel Shahak.    In 1988 Elkana, a Holocaust survivor, denounced what he called the "political manipulation" of the Holocaust, for right-wing reasons, the visits of youths to the Yad Vashem museum and worse: his personal testimony to the mistreatment of Palestinians,  "bulldozers burying people alive, soldiers breaking the arms of civilian population, including children."   At a memorial to Elkana at Van Leer Institute, Feldhay gave a passionate tribute "to my teacher Yehuda - a man of many qualities."
Feldhay's take on political reality followed closely that of her mentor.  In 2001 she signed a petition calling on the international community to deploy a peacekeeping force to protect the  Palestinian population in the territories from the Israel Defense Force.  In 2008, Feldhay was a signatory an open letter appreciation for students who refused to serve in the territories . 
In 2012, during the debate on the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, Feldhay criticism of the CHE was based on an egregious misrepresentation of facts. She wrote that the "university proceeded to grant the department three new positions and meticulously supervised the process by which the candidates were chosen, and the follow-up team expressed a deep appreciation for the steps taken by the university in response to the criticism that was voiced.  Finally, after the positions were filled, the CHE follow-up team commended the department and the university management for their implementation of the recommendations and added that they expected the new approach, aimed at diversifying the curriculum and research methods, to continue to guide the department in the future, based on the assumption that such a change inevitably occurs through a gradual process."
As well known, the follow-up team which included Professor Thomas Risse, a member of the original committee, found that only one of the new hires fulfilled the original recommendation. Worse, in a rebuke to its hiring practices, the Department was urged to adopt a proper recruitment procedure used in Germany and the West.
As for the president of Tel Aviv University, he should not have rushed to denounce the government.  It would behoove him to look into the Minerva Humanities Center to find out why the Israeli taxpayers are supporting a group of academically mediocre scholars whose only claim to excellence is Israel bashing.  Surely, academic freedom in a public university is not limitless and requires an accountability to the public stakeholder.

Netanyahu vetoes left-leaning Israeli academic's participation in Merkel meet

Tel Aviv University professor was due to participate in a round-table discussion with Netanyahu and Merkel, meant to be the height of the summit being held by the two governments in Berlin on Thursday.
By Barak Ravid   | Dec.05, 2012 | 2:55 PM |

Prime Minister Netanyahu's Office has demanded that a faculty member of Tel Aviv University cancel her participation in a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Netanayhu with academics in Berlin, because of her political views and criticism of government policy.

Professor Rivka Feldhay, the head of the university's Minerva Center for Human Rights, was invited to the event by Israel's embassy in Germany a few weeks ago. The event is meant to be the height of the summit being held by the two governments in Berlin on Thursday.

As part of the event, there will be a round-table discussion featuring both Merkel and Netanyahu alongside some ten academics and scientists from Germany and Israel. Following brief remarks by both leaders, each participant will say a few words about their area of research.

Feldahy, the wife of Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, a senior member of the Israel Democracy Institute, had already arrived in Berlin when she received a phone call on Wednesday morning from the Israeli embassy in Germany, informing her that she could not take part in Thursday's event.

"The cultural attache spoke with me this morning [Wednesday] and told me that my participation had been canceled," Professor Feldhay told Haaretz from Berlin.

"When I asked why, the embassy in Germany explained to me that the national security adviser, Maj. Gen. (res.) Ya'akov Amidror, refused to approve my participation because I have said things that are critical of the government."

In recent years, Professor Feldhay has sharply criticized the government's policy in the West Bank. In the past four years, she has leveled criticism over infringement of academic freedom. She has also come out against calls to close the Department of Politics and Government of Ben Gurion University, and has also criticized plans to accredit Ariel University Center in the West Bank as a university.

A member of Netanyahu's inner circle confirmed that Amidror had vetoed the professor's participation in the meeting with Merkel, due to a petition she had signed in 2008 supporting Israel Defense Forces soldier's refusal to carry out operations in the Palestinian territories.

"The Prime Minister came to Europe, among other things, to speak on behalf of IDF soldiers who do all they can to prevent attacks on civilians, while the other side is making efforts to target as many civilians as possible, and so, we refused to include the professor in the event," he said.

Feldhay told Haaretz that she had no recollection of signing such a petition.

Feldhay also said on Wednesday that she had not even planned to speak about political issues during the Berlin meeting with Merkel and Netanyahu. Instead, she intended to speak about her academic research, and about the importance of the humanities in every society. Feldhay said also that her criticism of government policy over the past ten years related mainly to the protection of academic freedom.

"This move is a silencing of academics and harms freedom of expression," Feldhay said. She added that Israel cannot ignore the conduct of a government in which the national security council is "engaged in finding enemies within, those who criticize the government, and following that blocks the presentation of scientific projects."

"It is hard to believe that this is what Israel looks like in the year 2012," she said.

German government officials refused to comment, or respond to Haaretz.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal'on said: "An evil wind of McCarthyism is blowing from the Israeli government… Professor Feldhay echoes the criticism of Meretz and other Israeli citizens. Every day, Netanyahu is becoming more like his partner, Lieberman."

A member of the Labor Party's campaign, MK Nachman Shai, commented on Netanyahu's move, saying the prime minister is attempting to silence other views. "Instead of presenting to Germany a pluralistic and free Israel," the prime minister's office prefers to only present views that suit Netanyahu, Shai said.

 Prof. Rivka Feldhay: Professional Evaluation or Political Persecution?

נשיא אונ' ת"א לסער: מצער מאוד שישראל מחרימה חוקרת

פרופ' קלפטר הביע מחאה על החלטת לשכת רה"מ לבטל השתתפותה של פרופ' פלדחי באירוע עם נתניהו ומרקל - בשל עמדותיה הפוליטיות

ברק רביד 06.12.2012 21:2728

נשיא אוניברסיטת תל אביב פרופ' יוסף קלפטר שלח הערב (חמישי) מכתב לשר החינוך גדעון סער, ובו מחה על ההחלטה למנוע מפרופ' רבקה פלדחי להשתתף במפגש של קנצלרית גרמניה אנגלה מרקל וראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו. השתתפותה של פרופ' פלדחי, ראש מרכז מינרווה למדעי הרוח באוניברסיטת תל אביב, בוטלה על ידי לשכת ראש הממשלה בשל ביקורת שהשמיעה בעבר כלפי מדיניות הממשלה.

קלפטר ציין הערב במכתב ששיגר לשר כי פרופ' פלדחי הוזמנה למפגש על ידי שגרירות גרמניה. "אנו מצרים על כך, שחוקרת מוערכת שלנו, שהוזמנה לשאת דברים על מחקריה, ביחד עם שורה של חוקרים נוספים, מצאה את עצמה בעין הסערה, כאשר הדי הפרשה נשמעים היטב גם מחוץ לגבולות מדינת ישראל", כתב נשיא האוניברסיטה לסער.

"בשנים האחרונות מדינת ישראל הזדעקה לא אחת על מקרים בהם אנשי אקדמיה וחוקרים ישראלים הוחרמו בזירה הבינלאומית על רקע פוליטי", כתב, "מצערת מאוד העובדה שעתה מדינת ישראל היא זו שמחרימה חוקרת ישראלית בזירה הבינלאומית על רקע דעותיה הפוליטיות".

פרופ' פלדחי, אשתו של המשפטן פרופ' מרדכי קרמניצר, מראשי המכון הישראלי לדמוקרטיה, כבר הגיעה לברלין, אולם אתמול בבוקר היא קיבלה שיחת טלפון משגרירות גרמניה בישראל, שבה התבשרה כי לא תוכל להשתתף באירוע. "נספחת התרבות דיברה איתי בבוקר ואמרה לי שהשתתפותי מבוטלת", אמרה פרופ' פלדחי בשיחה עם "הארץ" מברלין. "כששאלתי למה, הסבירו לי בשגרירות גרמניה שהיועץ לביטחון לאומי, האלוף במילואים יעקב עמידרור, סירב לאשר את השתתפותי כי השמעתי דברי ביקורת נגד הממשלה".

בשנים האחרונות השמיעה פלדחי ביקורת חריפה נגד מדיניות הממשלה בגדה המערבית, ובארבע השנים האחרונות מתחה ביקורת חריפה על הפגיעה בחופש האקדמי. פלדחי יצאה נגד הכוונה לסגור את המחלקה לפוליטיקה וממשל באוניברסיטת בן-גוריון בנגב וכן תקפה את הכוונה להכיר במרכז האוניברסיטאי באריאל כאוניברסיטה. "המהלך הזה הוא סתימת פיות של אקדמאים ופגיעה בחופש הדיבור", ציינה פרופ' פלדחי.

גורם בפמליית ראש הממשלה בגרמניה אישר שעמידרור הטיל וטו על השתתפותה של פרופ' פלדחי במפגש עם הקנצלרית מרקל. לדבריו, היא חתמה ב-2008 על עצומה שתמכה בחיילים שמסרבים לבצע פעילות מבצעית בשטחים. "ראש הממשלה הגיע לאירופה גם כדי לדבר בזכות חיילי צה"ל, שעושים הכל על מנת למנוע פגיעה באזרחים בזמן שהצד השני עושה מאמצים מכוונים לפגוע בכמה שיותר אזרחים, ולכן סירבנו לשתף את החוקרת באירוע". פרופ' פלדחי אמרה בתשובה לשאלת "הארץ" כי אינה זוכרת שחתמה על העצומה המדוברת.

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