Open Letter to the President of Bar Ilan University on Mordechai Kedar

Dear Professor Hershkowitz,

On July 1 a member of your faculty, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, asserted in a radio interview that due to “the culture of the Middle East” Palestinian terrorists can be deterred from violence only by the prospect of punitive rape committed against their female family members.

Freedom of expression is a pillar of enlightened scholarship. However, the academy must not allow itself to be a camouflage for bigotry, misogyny, and incitement to crimes against humanity. This is particularly so during an armed conflict. In such circumstances, public judgments from the mouth of someone introduced as an authority in his scholarly field might easily be acted upon. As a senior lecturer in Arab Studies at Israel's second largest university, Dr. Kedar has been given an influential voice in society. His statements of July 1 undermine the moral and intellectual authority of Bar-Ilan, and do injury to the academic community as a whole.

Therefore we, the undersigned, fellow scholars both within and outside Israel, call upon you to condemn Dr. Kedar's statement and to initiate formal proceedings of censure against him.

There is recent precedent at Bar-Ilan and other academic institutions in Israel to justify such a course of action. When Professor Hillel Weiss of the Faculty of Jewish Studies publicly wished violence against an officer of Israel's armed forces in 2007, he was condemned by a committee of inquiry appointed by the president of Bar-Ilan and subsequently indicted for incitement. As President Lavie of the Technion said recently, violent rhetoric has “no place in discourse between human beings.” It is particularly reprehensible when its source is an authority figure who can inspire other people to action.

As President of Bar-Ilan University you carry a public trust: to safeguard the modern academy's commitment to rational discourse and peaceful exchange of ideas. We implore you to fulfill that weighty responsibility by a clear rejection of incitement to violence by the educators under your authority. Do not allow Bar-Ilan to stray outside the community of civilized scholarship.


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