Friday, August 28, 2009
University urges lecturer who endorsed boycott to resign
Ben-Gurion rector says status of lecturer who spoke in favor of boycott of Israel won't be compromised, but urges him to reach conclusions. University president: Demand for resignation legitimate
Ben-Gurion University will not fire Dr. Neve Gordon, who endorsed a boycott of Israel, but officials call on him to resign his post as head of the Political Science Department. University Rector Professor Jimmy Weinblatt met Thursday with faculty members who singed a petition supporting Gordon and told them he thinks it is not appropriate that Gordon continue on in his position and that he must reach the proper conclusions. However, Weinblatt stressed that Gordon's status as faculty member will not be compromised and that the University administration will no violate his civic and academic freedom of expression.
Weinblatt told Ynet, "We are a democratic country with freedom of expression for everyone even if his opinions are unacceptable to the rest.
"We support freedom of expression and academic freedom which are at the heart of any university. However, the University must ensure that it will keep growing and thriving in order to continue with research and teaching."
The University stated that the issue of Dr. Gordon's future as head of the Political Science Department is still being examined and no decision has been reached. University President Professor Rebecca Carmi told Ynet, "The demand for his resignation is legitimate and I hope that after this tough week he will reach the right decision."
Following the meeting with the rector, Dr. Itzhak Nevo from the Philosophy Department updated those who signed the petition that the rector believes that Gordon is not able to properly promote his department's international programs while addressing the same people regarding a boycott, and the contradiction on this point poses a conflict of interests.
Nevo told Ynet that the rector approached staff members to cast their influence on Gordon to resign his post and that most people who attended the meeting believe the matter is up to Gordon's department members to decide, according to their professional standards.
Professor Uri Ram, head of the Sociology and Anthropology Department said that personally he has reservations regarding the boycott, but is proud to be a colleague of a man with "civil courage such as Neve Gordon.".
"One should not allow any compromise of his standing or promotion in the University or in any other capacity. Should he be fired as head of the Political Science department due to his political opinions I shall call on all department heads in the University to resign as well, in support of Gordon and in protest of the violation of his rights, civil freedom and the University establishment in Israel," Ram said.
Letter of support
A letter of support of Gordon was sent to President Carmi and signed by many students and lecturers. "We are taught History but it seems we are not allowed to learn from it… We're allowed to learn, but not to think, not to reach practical conclusions, certainly not in a wide circulating English newspaper," the letter said.
The letter further stated that it is inappropriate that a University which encourages social activism and critical thinking will lash out on a lecturer who speaks in favor of non violent action out of concern for equality in Israel.
"I think that every citizen in the State of Israel has a right to express his beliefs not matter if he is a lecturer, bank employee or student," student Noa Slor said.
Martin Wieller, former student in Ben-Gurion told Ynet, "It is important to stand by Dr. Gordon since it appears he has been left to battle it alone. It is very popular to lash out at anyone who is considered unpatriotic and it seems to me like a classic attack, more on the tone of things than the actual content."
A senior lecturer in Ben-Gurion said, "Dr. Gordon voiced an opinion which I personally am not sure I agree with but is legitimate...Without public discourse there is no possibility of change. The reaction meant taking away his right to voice an opinion which is not inciting or harming anyone personally. You would expect the University, even if they agree with him, to clarify that Dr. Gordon's statements are subject to the basic rule of freedom of speech."
Comment: As a resident of Israel and an academic on the right side of center, I cannot support the forced resignation of this professor for a variety of reasons-freedom of speech is one.