The head of the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu why Prof. Rivka Feldhay of Tel Aviv University was excluded from last Thursday's meeting in Germany with the Israeli leader and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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In a formal letter, Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, the head of the university president's group, asked whether, Feldhay was indeed excluded because of her political views and her past criticism of the policies of the Netanyahu government, as was reported.
The last-minute decision to cancel the participation of a well-known and respected Israeli woman academic from a meeting whose purpose was to present the best Israeli academicians in various fields before their German hosts is strange and worrying to me, wrote Ben-Sasson.
Ben-Sasson hinted that the move damages academic freedom in Israel. As one who stands in the front ranks of those opposed to involving Israeli research universities in political activity, wishing to guard academic freedom and the freedom of expression of Israeli academics, and frequently standing in the breach against the banning of Israeli scientists – I wish to formally clarify the reason for the cancelation of Prof. Feldhay's participation in the Berlin meeting, he emphasized.
Ben-Sasson's letter comes several days after a similar letter was sent from Tel Aviv University President Prof. Joseph Klafter to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, protesting Feldhay's exclusion from the Berlin meeting. We are saddened that our respected researchers ... find themselves in the eye of a storm, where the reverberations of this affair are felt outside the borders of Israel, wrote Klafter. It saddening that it is now the State of Israel that boycotts Israeli academics on the international scene due to their political opinions.
Last Wednesday, a day before Merkel and Netanyahu were due to meet German and Israeli scientists in Berlin, National Security adviser Ya'akov Amidror informed the Germans that Prof. Feldhay, head of the Minerva Center for the Humanities at TAU, was not welcome at the meeting. Amidror explained that in 2008 Feldhay had signed a petition calling on soldiers and officers to refuse to serve in the West Bank.