Hebrew University canceled the conference after a student group associated with Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party penned an open letter to the university president. ‘The very existence of this conference lends legitimacy to terror.’
By Eli Bitan
Hebrew University announced it is canceling an academic conference on the topic of Palestinian prisoners, which was slated to take place this Tuesday. The conference, which was organized by the The Harry S. Truman Research Institute, was to feature a study by Dr. Maya Rosenfeld on Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Despite the timing of the conference, which would have taken place as over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike, the date was set before the strike began. The conference, titled “50 years of Israeli occupation — where is the prisoners’ movement going?” was supposed to bring together Fatah’s Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former prisoner who also served as the minister of prisoners’ affairs in the Palestinian Authority; Radi Ghar’i, who helps manage the The Abu Jihad Museum for the Prisoners Movement Affairs; and Fahd Abu Al-Haji, who runs Abu Jihad.
Upon hearing about the conference, the “Israelim” student group, which is closely linked to the Jewish Home party, published an open letter to the president of the university and the chairman of the Truman Institute, calling on them to cancel the conference.
In a post published on the group’s Facebook page, the wrote that “as a Zionist student group, ‘Israelim’ views this conference with great severity. That is why we sent an open protest letter to the president of the university and the chairman of the Truman Institute, in which we called on them to cancel this conference, which harms Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state. It is extremely severe that Hebrew University, as a leading academic institution in everything having to do with promoting knowledge and research from a Zionist point of view, will provide a stage for this conference.”
According to the group, it was the choice of participants that raised their ire. From the Facebook status:
Between Independence Day and Jerusalem Day, when we celebrate independence and the liberation of Jerusalem and other parts of the homeland, Hebrew University and the Truman Institute are organizing a conference that will include supporters of terror, marking “50 years of occupation”… the very existence of this conference gives legitimacy to support for terror under the guise of ‘prisoners.’
The university then decided to cancel the conference, likely after the complaint was filed. The university administration told Israeli radio station Kol Israel that the decision was made because it was not possible to “properly prepare in order to ensure the high academic quality of the conference.” According to Rosenfeld, the cancellation amounts to an attack on academic freedom.
Professor Alon Harel from Hebrew University’s Law Department told Local Call that “according to articles that were published, the Truman Institute or Hebrew University likely cancelled the event following an intervention by a student group associated with the Jewish Home party. But just days ago, the university rightfully defended a conference organized by Chabad, which was set to host Rabbi Ginzburg, who wrote a book in memory of Baruch Goldstein.”
Eli Bitan is a journalist in the Haredi press in Israel, and is a blogger on Local Call, where a version of this article was originally published in Hebrew.