Employee Removed From Knesset Research Post for Left-wing Articles

A website called Mida is taking public credit for the removal of Dr. Gilad Natan, who had worked at the research center for over seven years

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

A researcher at the Knesset Research and Information Center was recently removed from his post because of left-wing views he had expressed outside his workplace.

A website called Mida is taking public credit for the removal of Dr. Gilad Natan, who had worked at the research center for over seven years. Among the allegations Mida had made was that Natan's views had influenced a recent study he had done for the Knesset regarding migrant workers.

The Mida website says its objective is "to put at the public's disposal information and positions that are not common in the widespread discourse conducted in the Israeli media."

On Thursday, the website boasted that the decision to fire Natan "was made by the Knesset management following a series of investigations published by Mida, in which Dr. Natan's problematic activities were revealed."

In 2009, Natan wrote several opinion pieces for the Ynet website, in which he made disparaging remarks about various political parties and individual MKs and ministers - including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

He signed the pieces as "a researcher at the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History," which is part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with no reference to his work as a Knesset researcher.

From the Knesset response, it emerges that his superiors at the Knesset warned Natan about his political pieces three years ago, and he stopped writing them. Apparently no one had made any issue of his writings until Mida published reports casting doubt on research Natan had done on the crime rate of migrant workers, which his study claimed was actually lower than that of the general public. Mida claimed the study used faulty research methods and "mathematical manipulations."

Last week, a team of Knesset officials, including the Knesset director general, its legal adviser and the head of the Knesset Information Division - with the blessing of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin - decided to reassign Natan to a position in the Knesset Archive.

The Knesset statement said that Natan was "an experienced researcher, and no fault had been found in his research." The statement also stressed that Natan had been "transferred by mutual agreement," and also denied that any fault had been found in his study on crime among migrant workers.

"There's nothing to these claims," the statement said. "The studies are based on facts and conducted by skilled researchers, and go through two different evaluations before being passed on to the MKs that requested them."

However, a member of the Knesset management said: "It's not acceptable that a Knesset employee, whose job is to provide services to MKs and to the various parties, should express himself this way about them and make them doubt the quality of the service he is meant to supply.

"The Knesset research center is not a branch of academia," the source continued. "In academia it is permissible for researchers to publish reasoned opinion pieces on various issues. The Knesset research center, on the other hand, is meant to serve parties across the entire political spectrum."

The Mida website is the initiative of a nonprofit called "To the Individual: Civic Freedom and Responsibility," which claims a "Zionist and classically liberal perspective." It is headed by Moshe Ifergan, who is No. 96 on the Likud Knesset list. Coleader Dr. Ran Baratz is the website's editor. Baratz is a fellow at the Shalem Center and a resident of Kfar Adumim in the West Bank.

The KnessetCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

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