Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Another Israeli legal academic in the news, this time for sending an e-mail expressing some recognition of the suffering in Gaza (but not only there)
I am grateful to Prof. Ariel Katz (Toronto) for translation of the pertinent parts of this news item concerning Prof. Hanoch Sheinman, a well-known legal philosopher at Bar-Ilan University. Prof. Sheinman sent an e-mail announcing another exam date to his students. The message opened by expressing the hope that the message,
finds you in a safe place and that you, your families and friends...are not among the hundreds of people killed, thousands injured, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or forced to leave their homes during or as a direct result of violent conflict in the Gaza Strip and the surrounding area.
The Dean at Bar-Ilan was “shocked” and called the email “highly offensive”. The Dean announced that the,
Letter from Professor Scheinman - both content and style – is contrary to the values of the University and the Faculty of Law. The Faculty of Law champions the values of pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression, but the inclusion of positions [such as those expressed in Prof. Scheinman’s email] in an administrative notice sent by Professor Scheinman to students regarding examinations is not an exercise of academic freedom or freedom of personal expression in every way acceptable. This is abuse of power by a lecturer who exploits his position as a jurisprudence teacher to send messages reflecting his views, which are highly offensive to the feelings of students and their families.
I agree with the Dean that this is not an issue of academic freedom, but his response to the benign recognition that many people are suffering and Prof. Sheinman's hope that his students are not among them is bizarre. As Prof. Katz wrote to me, "I guess this is what it looks like when a democracy is losing its mind."