MK Taieb Calls for ‘Immediate Dismissal of University Lecturers Who Incite to Terror’

By Aryeh Stern

MK Yosef Taieb, head of the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee, leads a committee meeting in the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​The Education, Culture and Sports Committee convened on Monday for a follow-up meeting on the remarks made by Hebrew University Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, in which she denied the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.

Committee Chair MK Yosef Taieb (Shas) criticized the heads of Israel’s academic institutions for not attending the meeting. “It cannot be that you will be exempt from the criticism of the Knesset and not attend the meetings here. I approached the Speaker of the Knesset, and we will change the rules of procedure so that whoever is invited to a committee meeting, from school principals to university heads, will attend. It cannot be that you repeatedly disrespect the committees and brush them off,” he said.

On the eve of the meeting, Tel Aviv University President Prof. Ariel Porat relayed a letter in which he accused Committee Chair MK Taieb of “waging a vengeance campaign to weaken the academia.” He further wrote to Chairman MK Taieb: “Your remarks about alleged incitement on campus are themselves malicious and dangerous incitement.” Prof. Porat said he does not intend to dismiss senior lecturer Anat Matar, who praised terrorist Walid Daqqa, who kidnapped and murdered IDF soldier Moshe Tamam, Hy”d. “Freedom of speech also protects outrageous, painful, and insensitive remarks,” he argued.

Committee Chair MK Taieb slammed the letter and said, “Academic freedom is important, and I do not intend to touch it. However, since Oct. 7 we have been in a new era, and it cannot be that a lecturer [in an academic institution] that is budgeted by the state will publish posts and comments sympathizing with a terrorist or an act of terror.”

MK Kathrin Shitrit (Likud), who initiated the debate, said, “How absurd; ​we protect the country’s good name, and we become the inciters. The inciter becomes the victim. Either the world has gone mad, or something bad is happening in the higher education system in Israel. When representatives of the universities will need budgets, they will come here and act nice; they will not publish letters saying the committee chair is inciting against them.”

MK Shitrit called for the dismissal of the two lecturers. “The police should have arrested Dr. Matar a long time ago, and it is even more disgraceful that the president of the university backs her. We will not allow lecturers such as the criminal Prof. Nadera or Dr. Anat Matar to incite in Israel or abroad. There are students who are already starting to say that they are ashamed of studying at Hebrew University or Tel Aviv University,” she said.

MK Osher Shekalim (Likud) called to enact a law that would authorize the minister of education to impose sanctions on an academic institution that employs a faculty member that supports terror, and withhold budgets from such institutions.

Dvora Margulis, COO of the Association of University Heads, stressed, “Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University have renounced the comments made by the lecturers and view them as outrageous and unacceptable remarks. The remarks were not made on the universities’ platforms.” Committee Chair MK Taieb said in response: “What difference does it make where the [the remarks were made]? A lecturer who incites to terror should not be part of the academia.”

Margulis added: “It is the job of the enforcement bodies to handle incitement to terror. There are more than 37,000 lecturers and faculty members in universities and colleges, including 10 to 20 who make outrageous, shocking, and intolerable remarks, from both ends of the map. This morning I received a harsh remark made from the other side, by a lecturer who refers to IDF pilots as nukhbas.”

Margulis refused to disclose the lecturer’s identity. MK Almog Cohen (Otzma Yehudit) said the lecturer was “just as bad as Anat Matar.”

A police representative said the State Attorney’s Office has yet to publish its decision with regard to Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian.

Elchanan Felhimer, chairperson of the National Union of Israeli Students, said, “The freedom of speech excuse is unfathomable, because freedom of speech is not incitement to terror. There are students who were killed in the war, and the lecturer says it is legitimate because of the ‘occupation.’ But I am not surprised, because in 2011 Anat Matar organized the celebrations following the release of a prisoner who threw a grenade at a bus carrying soldiers, saying it was legitimate because the bus was carrying soldiers rather than civilians.”

Committee Chair MK Taieb called upon the heads of academic institutions to take preventive measures so that inciting remarks will not be heard on campuses, and to also penalize lecturers, including dismissal if needed. “All the committee members call for the immediate dismissal of these lecturers in higher education,” he said.

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