Opinion |

Surrendering to Persecution of Leftists at Hebrew University

The Jerusalem institution's leadership has caved to the culture that the founder of far-right movement Im Tirtzu imported from his father’s homeland, Argentina

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Students wearing military uniform protesting Hebrew University lecturer after false reports claimed she rebuked a uniformed student, Jerusalem, January 8, 2019.
Students wearing military uniform protesting Hebrew University lecturer after false reports claimed she rebuked a uniformed student, Jerusalem, January 8, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

The president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Asher Cohen, and its rector, Prof. Barak Medina, are continuing to deteriorate morally. Their Haaretz opinion piece this week is an ungainly attempt to manage the media crisis that the university was plunged in following the affair concerning the university’s Dr. Carola Hilfrich, who was falsely accused of reprimanding a student in army uniform.

Apparently Cohen and Medina based their efforts on some American protocol adopted by a local “media consultant” they had hired to “minimize the damage,” and who knows – maybe even turn the crisis into an opportunity. Well, the only opportunity this crisis has provided is to expose once again Cohen and Medina’s true character.

All the explanations in the world won’t blur the fact that at the moment of truth, when the university’s patriotic image was at stake, Cohen and Medina donned the uniform and abandoned Hilfrich to persecution and threats on her life. There is no forgiveness for what they did.

>> Hebrew University’s apology enables persecution of the left | Analysis

They published huge ads in the newspapers under a title befitting a military dorm – “Students in uniform? Welcome!” The ads ended with an apology, crafted with calculated ambiguity, when it was already known that the media reports were false and Hilfrich hadn’t done what she had been accused of. The ads are a stain that only the ouster of the two could remove, perhaps.

When push came to shove, Cohen and Medina surrendered to the culture of ratting on and persecuting leftist lecturers and students that Ronen Shoval, founder of the ultra-nationalist movement Im Tirtzu, imported from his father’s homeland, Argentina.

Instead of admitting their failure and resigning, or at least promising the faculty, staff and students that the next time one of them is politically persecuted they’ll try to display more courage, the two published a piece that is a model of collaborationism.

It was a jumble of excuses and examples in a bid to obscure the incident and portray it as one symptom among many of a broader trend. There were self-righteous musings about the fake-news trend, the ups and downs of “ideological polarization” and psychobabble about “emotional polarization” in a pathetic bid, typical of cowards, to portray themselves, yet again, as victims of circumstance.

The only difference between publishing the paid ad and publishing this opinion piece is that instead of abandoning Hilfrich, in the op-ed the two chose to sacrifice Haaretz to the far-right Moloch, ostensibly because of the paper’s January 9 editorial blasting them. The honorable university president and rector’s hands didn’t tremble when they compared the “far-right extremists” with Haaretz.

They did this even though they admitted they had caved to populist pressure (“an intense domino effect that required us to take the unusual step of publishing prominent ads in major newspapers”).

Cohen and Medina have invented nothing. They aren’t the first to rant against the newspaper or human rights groups to prove their loyalty to the homeland and grovel to the right. Cohen and Medina are rectifying their PR and political image on Haaretz’s back.

If this is what they think of the paper, it’s not clear why they insist on publishing their thoughts on this of all platforms. But because, unlike Likud, they seek to gain a broad consensus, they’re emulating Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and drawing a parallel between Haaretz and Im Tirtzu to renounce responsibility and fawn over some imaginary center trapped between radicals on both sides.

To quote from that editorial, “their conduct would be disgraceful for any institution, let alone an institution of higher education.”

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