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HAIM WATZMAN | Chronicle of Higher Education | 23 April 2004
Israel's minister of education, Limor Livnat, has announced that she will not participate in events at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev until the institution disciplines a member of its faculty who wrote that Israel is conducting a "symbolic genocide" of the Palestinian people.
Lev Grinberg, a sociologist who is a senior lecturer in the behavioral-sciences department, wrote last month in La Libre Belgique, a Belgian daily newspaper, that "the murder of Sheik Ahmed Yassin is part of a major move carried out by the government of Israel, which can be described as symbolic genocide."
Sheik Yassin, the founder of the militant Islamic movement Hamas, was killed on March 22 in a missile strike by Israeli forces. Mr. Grinberg concluded his article by calling on European countries to impose an economic embargo on Israel.
The article outraged most Israelis, even those critical of Israeli actions in the occupied territories.
In the wake of the article's publication, Ms. Livnat called on Ben-Gurion University to discipline Mr. Grinberg. When the university declined to do so, Ms. Livnat wrote to the institution's president,
Avishay Braverman, turning down his invitation to participate in the annual meeting of the Board of Governors.
"How can we demand that academic institutions around the world take action against anti-Semitic rhetoric," Ms. Livnat wrote, "if an Israeli university is unprepared to take steps against a man who encourages and inflames hatred of Israel in the world?"
A spokesman for the university, Amir Rosenblit, said it would not respond directly to the minister. He did say that "we have received the letter of the minister of education, Limor Livnat, and she will always be a welcome and respected guest at the university."
Mr. Grinberg could not be reached for comment about Ms. Livnat's demand.
Some Israeli academics condemned the education minister's action and said that it was a threat to academic freedom. Others defended her willingness to take a firm stand against extremism.