Haaretz Editorial

The Knesset's Liberal Speaker Caves in

The decision to dismiss Dr. Gilad Natan is a shameful surrender to a campaign by rightist organizations and sends a clear message to other Knesset researchers to be wary of their publications.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin last week authorized removing Dr. Gilad Natan from his research post in the Knesset Research and Information Center and transferring him to the archive.

In recent weeks rightist organizations have been conducting a vociferous campaign against Dr. Natan, alleging his leftist views were influencing studies he had published as part of his job. The decision to dismiss him is a shameful surrender to this campaign and sends a clear message to other Knesset researchers to be wary of their publications.

In the past eight years at the Research and Information Center Dr. Natan specialized in the field of labor migrants and asylum seekers in Israel. His work is based on official figures, but some of his conclusions - for example, that the crime rate among African migrants is lower than in the general population - infuriated rightist organizations.

A few weeks ago they launched a campaign to delegitimize Dr. Natan, bringing against him essays he had published four and more years ago, in which he criticized politicians.

Dr. Natan's work won professional praise from MKs from various factions and from academic experts. His reports underwent additional examinations both before being published and recently, following the allegations voiced against him. In addition, the Knesset itself stated that Dr. Natan's studies were "impeccably professional and reliable."

But the increasing pressures of rightist activists wore down the Knesset's defense for its highly esteemed worker.

A similar collaboration between rightist organizations and a state institution led to the dismissal of Adar Cohen, the Education Ministry's former civics supervisor, to the delight of the right.

In view of the praise for Dr. Natan's work it is regrettable to find that Rivlin ultimately lent a hand to this score-settling based on political views.

Of all people, the one who claims he is a true liberal, is expected to act differently. Also, such a decision will only encourage the rightist organizations to escalate their persecution. Rivlin must revoke the dismissal and reinstate Dr. Natan.