Tel Aviv U. faculty members decry Dershowitz address


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Senior faculty members at Tel Aviv University are protesting remarks by Alan Dershowitz during his acceptance of an honorary doctorate.

Dershowitz during his speech Saturday night attacked university academics who use their credentials to "challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish state" and who "regularly and freely call on other academic institutions around the world to boycott the very Israeli universities which grant them academic freedom."

In a letter to university President Joseph Klafter, faculty members called on the university to disassociate itself from Dershowitz’s comments and "unequivocally defend the freedom of expression of all the members of the academic community," Haaretz reported Wednesday. At least 80 faculty members signed the letter within hours of its drafting.

Dershowitz used examples in his speech that border on incitement, the letter said.

In his address, the prominent attorney and Israel advocate pointed out that academic freedom belongs to the student.

"It includes the right not to be propagandized in the classroom by teachers who seek to impose their ideology on students," Dershowitz said. "It includes the right of the student to express opinions contrary to those presented by the teacher without fear of being graded down and without fear of being denied recommendations or job opportunities."

The Harvard Law School professor said that "the academic freedom of the faculty is central to the mission of the university." Dershowitz said the response to false accusations by some extreme academics "is not censorship; it is truth."

He also called on "reasonable and moderate professors to speak out against extremist views."

In a symposium Tuesday night at the university titled "Delegitimization of Israel as a Strategic Threat," Dershowitz accused Jewish left-wing academics and organizations of causing greater damage to the Jewish state than Hamas and Hezbollah, Ynet reported.  

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