Academic Freedom: For whom?

The meaning of “academic freedom” is fairly obvious. It is something that is associated with democratic societies, and it is universally held in high esteem, even though its boundaries and limits are often unclear. Basically, where there is freedom to teach, study and carry out research in academic institutions, and to publish research-related books and articles, then academic freedom exists.


It is clear that there can be no real academic freedom in higher education unless it is possible to reach the institutions where one studies, teaches, and carries out research. Academics within the State of Israel are able to do this, but those working in the higher education institutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are not. There, checkpoints, blockades, walls and fences prevent thousands of students and teachers from leading a normal academic life, and lecturers with non-Palestinian passports, who wish to teach in those institutions, are prevented from staying for long enough to carry out meaningful continuous teaching.


The academic community of the State of Israel, which rightly demands academic freedom for its members both inside Israel and within the international academic community, has generally disregarded the demand for a similar freedom for Palestinian academics in the Occupied Territories for which the State of Israel is responsible. Because of this, and in view of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Territories during the last couple of years, we approached all the senior faculty members in the major higher education and scientific research institutions in Israel: Bar Ilan University, Ben Gurion University, Haifa University, The Hebrew University, The Open University, the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute for Science. We sent them the following letter and petition:


Dear colleagues:

As academics and citizens of the State of Israel, whatever our political opinions may be, we see ourselves as having a duty to fight for the academic freedom of our Palestinian colleagues. We call upon the Government of Israel to honour and implement the right of freedom of movement, academic study and instruction in the State of Israel and the territories controlled by it. Academic freedom is not divisible cannot be selective. The State of Israel and we its citizens are directly responsible for upholding that freedom.

We call upon you to actively accept that responsibility and to add your support to the attached petition, which is being distributed among all senior staff members in all institutions of higher education in Israel. After the signatures have been gathered, we intend to seek the support of the Committee of University Presidents and members of the Israeli Academy of Science, and to submit the petition to the following government ministries: Defence, Education, Science, Foreign Affairs, and the Interior.


 The initiators of the petition:

Prof. Menachem Fisch, Tel-Aviv University

Prof. Raphael Falk, The Hebrew University

Prof. Eva Jablonka, Tel-Aviv University

Dr. Snait Gissis, Tel-Aviv University


Text of the petition

We, past and present members of academic staff of Israeli universities, express great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We protest against the policy of our government which is causing restrictions of freedom of movement, study and instruction, and we call upon the government to allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses in the Territories, and to allow lecturers and students who hold foreign passports to teach and study without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas. To leave the situation as it is will cause serious harm to freedom of movement, study and instruction – harm to the foundation of academic freedom, to which we are committed.

We sent about 9000 emails, of which around 5000 were to senior faculty and the rest to emeriti and junior faculty at some of the institutions. These numbers should be reduced by about 5% to allow for the emails that were returned. In order not to misuse the internal all-university lists, all email addresses were manually downloaded from the open-to-the-public sites of university departments. A total of 407 people, 403 of whom are mostly active senior faculty, (but also include emeriti and junior staff) from the above institutions, as well as 4 signatures from senior faculty of Colleges who became aware of our petition, responded to our call and signed the petition. It is our intention to publicize the list of signatories on the web.

The number of signatories from each university is as follows:

Bar Ilan University 10

Ben Gurion University 77

Haifa University 20

Hebrew University 110

Open University 7

Technion 14

Tel Aviv University 155

Weizmann Institute of Science 10

Sapir College  2

Oranim   1

Bezalel   1

We received a number of letters objecting to our call: some of the authors sent reasoned responses, arguing their case against our petition; others chose to send insulting hate mail.

At the Weitzman Institute of Science, one of the heads of the departments sent a letter via the Academic Affairs Office to all the senior faculty of that institute. In it, he warned the faculty of the danger lurking in our call, basing his argument on very inaccurate rumours about the political stance of the initiators of the petition.

In March 2008 we wrote to the Committee of University Presidents and to the Directorial Board of the Israeli Academy of Science asking them to support our petition. So far, the only answer received has been that our request would be considered.

We are well aware that only rarely do petitions cause a change in a political state of affairs. However, we do not doubt that when there are enough people in the Israeli academic community who are prepared to voice their objection to the conditions under which their colleagues in Palestinian higher education institutions have to work, and do all they can to ensure that their Palestinian counterparts have the same academic freedom that they enjoy, we shall all benefit – Israeli and Palestinian academics alike. 

Prof. Menachem Fisch, Tel-Aviv University

Prof. Raphael Falk, The Hebrew University

Prof. Eva Jablonka, Tel-Aviv University

Dr. Snait Gissis, Tel-Aviv University


List of Signatories

            Dr. Aref Abu-Rabia BGU
            Dr. Tabat Abu Ras BGU
            Prof. Zach Adam HUJI
            Prof. Hanna Adoni HUJI
            Dr. Riad Agrabia BGU
            Prof. Ron Aharoni  Technion
            Dr. Iris Agmon BGU
            Prof. Joseph Agassi TAU
            Prof. Amotz Agnin HUJI
            Prof. Ofer Aharoni  Weizmann
            Prof. Niv Ahituv  TAU
            Prof. Gadi Algazi TAU
            Dr. Karen Alkalay Gut TAU
            Dr. Yoav Alon TAU
            Prof. Ehud Altman  Weizmann
            Dr. Tammy Amiel – Hauser  TAU
            Dr. Eleanor Amit TAU
            Prof. Gannit Ankori HU
            Prof. Yonathan Anson BGU
            Dr. Ruth Arav OPU
            Prof. Mira Ariel TAU
            Dr. Amos Arieli Weizmann
            Prof.  Boaz Arpaly TAU
            Dr. Ruth Ashery-Padan TAU
            Dr. Nurit Ashkenasy BGU
            Dr. Daniel Attas  HUJ
            Prof. Judy Auerbach BGU
            Dr. Michal Aviad TAU
            Dr. Yoram Ayal BGU
            Dr. Prof. Amir Ayali TAU
            Dr. Ariela Azoulay BIU
            Prof. Roi Baer HUJI
            Prof. Shalom Baer HUJI
            Dr. Amir Banbaji BGU
            Prof. Gad Baneth HUJI
            Prof. Ilan Bank TAU
            Prof. Maya Bar-Hillel HUJI
            Prof.  Eitan Bar Yosef BGU
            Dr. Oren Barak HUJI
            Prof. Isaac Barash,  TAU
            Prof. Ron Barkai  TAU
            Prof.  Yacob Barnai   Haifa U
            Prof. Shosh Bar-Nun  TAU
            Prof. Arie Bass TAU
            Prof.  Outi Bat-El TAU
            Prof. Hava Bat-Zeev Shyldkrot  TAU
            Prof. Yehuda Bauer HUJI
            Dr. Dalia Beck BGU
            Prof.  Yhuda Beeton  BGU
            Dr.  Guy Beiner BGU
            Prof. Shimshon Belkin HUJI
            Prof. Avner Ben-Amos TAU
            Prof. Eyal Ben Ari  HUJI
            Dr Hagit Benbaji BGU
            Prof. Yemima Ben-Menachem HUJI
            Prof. Ziva Ben-Porat, TAU
            Prof. Yinon Ben-Neriah,  HUJI
            Prof. Simon Benninga TAU
            Prof. Zvi Bentwich BGU
            Dr. Yael Benyamini TAU
            Dr. Yael Ben-Zvi BGU
            Prof. Benjamin Isaac TAU    
            Dr. Nitza Berkovitch BGU
            Dr. Louise Bethlehem HUJI
            Prof. Anat Biletzki TAU
            Prof. Yoram Bilu HUJI
            Prof. David Blanc  Haifa U
            Prof. Rony Blum HUJI
            Prof. Shoshana Blum-Kulka HUJI
            Prof. Irena Botwinik-Rotem BGU
            Prof.  Yohanan Brada HUJI
            Prof. Michael Brandeis HUJI
            Prof. Yigal Bronner  TAU
            Prof.  Jose Brunner TAU
            Prof. Judith Buber Agassi  HUJI
            Prof. Victoria Buch HUJI
            Dr. Naama Carmi  Haifa U
            Dr. Julia Chaitin Sapir College
            Prof. Reuven Chayoth  BGU
            Dr. Raz Chen- Morris  BIU
            Prof. Mottie Chevion HUJI
            Dr. Tamar Cholcman TAU
            Dr. Eyal Chowers TAU
            Prof. Esther Cohen HUJI
            Prof. Michael J. Cohen  BIU 
            Prof.  Yerachmiel Cohen  HUJI
            Dr. Yinon Cohen TAU
            Mrs. Anat Danziger HUJI
            Prof. Marcelo Dascal TAU
            Prof. Nathan Dascal TAU
            Prof. David Degani Technion
            Prof. Sahul Dollberg  TAU
            Prof. Fanny Dolzhansky HUJI
            Dr. Daniel Dor TAU
Prof. Yuval Dor HUJI
Dr. Iris Dotan TAU
Prof. Tommy Dreyfus TAU
Prof. Amos Dreyfus  HUJI
Dr Eli Dresner TAU
Dr Otniel Dror HUJI
Dr Tammy Eilat  Yagoury TAU
Prof. Gerda Elata-Alster BGU
Prof. Miri Eliav-Feldon TAU
Prof. David Enoch HUJ
Prof. Yehouda Enzel HUJI
Prof. Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan  Haifa U
Prof. Ilan Eshel TAU 
Prof. Aharon Eviatar TAU
Dr. Zohar Eytan TAU
Dr. Ovadia Ezra TAU
Prof. Raphael Falk  HUJI
Prof. Ruma Falk HUJI                  
Prof. Emmanuel Farjoun HUJI
Prof. Celia Fassberg HUJI
Prof.  Steve Fassberg HUJI
Dr. Jackie Feldman BG
Prof. Rivka Feldhay TAU
Dr. Tovi Fenster,  TAU
Dr. Dani Filc  BGU
Dr. Lizzie Fireman TAU
Prof. Menachem Fisch TAU
Dr. Susie Fisher Open U
Prof. Hanan Frenk  TAU
Prof. Gideon Freudenthal  TAU
Prof. Ariela Fridman  TAU
Prof. Ehud Friedgut HUJI
Prof. Eli Friedlander TAU
Dr. Alon Friedman  BGU
Dr. Paul Frosh  HUJI
Dr. Iris Fry Technion
Prof. Michael Fry Technion
Dr. Michalle Gal TAU
Prof. Yolanda Gampel TAU
Prof. Uri Gat HUJI
Prof. Nima Geffen TAU
Dr. Ido Geiger HUJI
Prof. Deborah Gera HUJI
Prof. Israel Gershoni TAU
Dr. Mahmud Ghanayim TAU
Prof. Avner Giladi  Haifa U
Dr. Asaf Gilboa Haifa U
Dr. Jack Gilrom BGU
Prof. Ruth Ginsburg HUJI
Prof. Simona Ginsburg  OU
Prof. Rachel Giora TAU
Dr. Snait Gissis TAU
Prof.essor Eli Glasner TAU
Prof. Ruth Glasner HUJI
Prof. Marek Glezerman TAU 
Mr. Shuka Glotman BGU
Prof. Michael Gluzman TAU
Dr. Tamar Golan BGU
Dr. Menachem Goldenberg TAU
Prof. Haim Goldfus BGU
Prof. Amiram Goldblum HUJI
Prof. Oded Goldreich Weizmann
Prof. Hari Golomb TAU
Dr. Neve Gordon BGU
Dr. Tresa Grauer BGU
Dr. Moki Greefeld  TAU   
Dr. Matine Grenak-Katrivs  TAU
Prof.  Nachum Gross HUJI
Prof. Yosef Gruenbaum HUJI
Prof. Guretzki-Bilu  TAU
Prof. Zali Gurevitch HUJI
Prof. David Gurwitz TAU
Prof. Yossi Guttmann Haifa U
Dr. Ran Hacohen  TAU
Prof. Uri Hadar TAU
Dr. Abdulla Haj Ichia HUJI
Prof. Aviva Halamish TAU
Dr. Masud Hamdan Haifa U
Dr. Talma Handler TAU
Dr. Oren Harman BI
Prof. Alon Harel HUJI
Prof. Ran Hassin HUJI
Prof. Galit Hazan-Rokem  HUJI
Prof. Shlomo Hasson HUJI
Prof. Abraham Hefetz TAU
Prof. Moti Heiblum Weizmann
Dr. Sibyl Heilbron   Haifa U
Dr. Eyal Heifetz TAU
Dr. Sara Helman BGU
Prof. Yitzhak Hen BGU
Dr. Omri Herzog   HUJI
Dr. Tamar Hess HUJI
Prof. Hannan Hever TAU
Dr. Sylvie Honigman TAU
Prof. Ehud Hrushovski HUJI
Prof. Boaz Huss BGU
Prof. Eva Illuz  HUJI
Dr. Anat Israeli, Oranim
Prof. Eva Jablonka TAU
Prof. Dan Jacobson TAU
Prof. Sulaiman Jubran  TAU
Prof. Edouard Jurkevitch HUJI
Dr.  Nirit Kadmon TAU
Dr. Devora Kalekin Haifa U
Dr. Itay Kama TAU 
Dr. Avi Kaplan BGU
Dr. Nahum Karlinsky  BGU
Prof. Steve Karlish Weizmann
Prof. Rimon Kasher BIU
Prof. Tamar Katriel Haifa U
Prof. Yaakov Katriel Technion
Dr. Roni Kaufman BGU
Prof. Gad Kaynar TAU
Dr. Chen Keasar BGU
Ms. Ruth Kener  TAU
Prof. Michael Keren HUJI
Dr Nadera Shalhov-Kevorkian  HUJI
Prof. Hanan J. Kisch BGU
Dr. Menachem Klein BI
Prof. Sara Klein Breslavy TAU
Dr. Yoel Klemes Open U
Prof.  Ruth Klinov  HUJI
Dr. Ariel Knafo HUJI
Prof. Yehoshua Kolodny,  HUJI
Prof. Mordechai Kremnizer HUJI
Prof. David Kretzmer HUJI
Dr. Michal Krumer-Nevo BGU
Prof. Richard Kulka  HUJI
Dr.  Orna Kupferman HUJI
Dr.   Raz  Kupferman HUJI
Dr. Ron Kuzar Haifa U
Dr. Ori Lahav  Technion
Prof. Lius Landa BGU
Prof. Idan Landau  BGU
MS. Tali Latowicki BGU
Dr. Shai Lavi TAU
Prof. Boaz Lazar HUJI
Dr. Gerardo Leibner, TAU
Prof. Aaron Lerner Haifa U
Prof. Haim Levanon HUJI
Prof. Iris Levin TAU
Prof.  Yakir Levin BGU
Prof. Shimon Levy TAU
Prof. David Lior HUJI
Dr Orly Lubin TAU
Prof. Yael Lubin BGU
Dr. Menachem Luz Haifa U
Prof. M. Machover  HUJI
Dr. Daniel Maman BGU
Dr. Shmuel Marco TAU
Prof. Avishai Margalit HUJI
Prof. Moshe Margalith  TAU
Prof. Shimon Marom Technion
Prof. Imauel Marx TAU
Dr. Anat Matar  TAU
Prof.  Tsevi Mazeh TAU
Prof. Raphael Mechoulam HUJI
Prof. Gidon Medini TAU
Prof. Avinoam Meir BGU
Prof. Ron Meir Technion
Prof. Yoram Meital BGU
Dr. Eran Meshorer HUJI
Mr. Avi Mograbi Bezalel
Prof. Raya Morag HUJI
Dr. Efrat Morin HUJI
Prof. Uzi Motro, HUJI
Prof. Guy Mundlak TAU
Prof. Ben Zion Munitz TAU
Dr Eti Nachliel TAU
Prof. Zvi Neeman  TAU
Prof. Yosef Neuman TAU
Dr. Yitshak Nevo BGU
Dr. Gidi Nevo BGU
Prof. David Newman BGU
Prof.. Ariel Novoplanky BGU
Prof. Avi Ohry  TAU
Prof. Dalia Ofer HUJI
Dr. Yanai Ofran  BIU
Prof. Adi Ophir TAU
Prof. Aharon Oppenheimer TAU
Prof. Avi Oz Haifa U
Prof. Iris Parush BGU
Dr. Galia Patt Shamir TAU
Dr. Einat Peled TAU
Dr. Yoav Peled TAU
Prof. Bezalel Peleg HUJI
Prof. Hana Peres TAU
Prof. Mordechai Perl BGU
Prof. Kobi Peter( Peterzil) Haifa U
Dr. Amit Pichevski HUJI
Dr. Yona Pinson  TAU
Prof. Nava Pliskin BGU
Prof.. Francis Dov Por HUJI
Prof.. Dan Rabinowitz  TAU
Prof. Gad Rabinowitz BGU
Prof.  Chaim Rachman Technion
Prof. Yoel Rak TAU
Dr. Hagai Ram BGU
Prof. Uri Ram BGU
Prof.  Mauro Rathaous  TAU
Prof.  Shalom Ratzabi TAU
Dr. Tal Raviv TAU
Prof. Jacob Raz, TAU
Prof. Elchanan Reiner TAU
Prof. Omer Reingold Weizmann
Prof. Meir Rigby HUJI
Prof.  Ruth Rigby HUJI
Dr. Roer-Strier HUJI
Prof. Freddie Rokem TAU
Prof. Dana Ron  TAU
Prof.   Moshe Ron  HUJI
Dr. Ayala Ronal TAU
Prof. Steven Rosen BGU
Prof. Tova Rosen BGU
Dr. Zeev Rosenhek OPU
Dr. Issachar Rosen-Zvi TAU
Prof. Susan Rothstein BI
Prof. Elisheva Rosen TAU
Dr. Avi Rubin BGU
Dr. Prof. Bella Rubin TAU
Mr. Daniel Rubinstein BGU
Dr. Ilan Saban Haifa U
Prof. Yosef Sadan  TAU
Dr. Hanna Safran  Haifa U
Prof. Shlomo Sand TAU
Prof. Shifra Sagi BGU
Dr. Lilach Sagiv HUJI
Prof. Edwin Seroussi HUJI
Dr. Zvi Schuldiner Sapir College
Dr. Sara Schwartz Open U
Dr. Yossef Schwartz TAU
Dr. Shlomi Segall HUJ
Dr. Ella Segev  Technion
Prof. Idan Segev HUJI
Prof.  Ruben Seroussi  TAU
Dr. Alla Shainskaya, Weizmann
Dr.  Yeala Shaked  HUJI
Dr. Milette Shamir TAU
Prof. Michal Shamir TAU
Dr. Ronen Shamir TAU
Dr. Yaakov Shamir HUJI
Prof. Benny Shanon HUJI
Prof. Itzhak Shapira TAU
MS. Noa Shashar  HUJI
Dr. Relli Shechter BGU
Prof.. Gaby Shefler HUJI
Prof. Miriam Shlesinger  BI
Prof. Yehuda Shenhav TAU
Prof. Yosef  Shiloh TAU
Prof. Tal Siloni TAU
Dr. Eyal Shimoni  Weizmann
Prof. Naomi Shir  BGU         
Prof. Moshe Shokeid TAU
Prof. Boaz Shushan BGU
Dr. Tal Shuval TAU
Prof. Moshe Silberbush, BGU
Dr. Ivy Sichel  HUJI
Dr. Rosalie Sitman TAU
Dr. Vered Slonim Nevo BGU
Prof. Varda Soskolne  BIU
Prof. Avishai Stark  TAU
Prof. Wilfo Stein HUJI
Prof. Shamai Speiser  Technion
Prof. W. D. Zeev  Stein HUJI
Prof. Carlo Strenger TAU
Dr. Deborah Sweeney, TAU
Dr. Daniella Talmon-Heller BGU
Prof. David Talshir BGU
Dr. Daphne Tsimhoni Technion
Prof. Gideon Toury, TAU
Dr. Hamoutal Tsamir BGU
Prof. Yoav Tsori  BGU
Dr. Rachel Tzelnik-Abramovitch  TAU
Prof. Joseph Tzelgov BGU
Dr. Jehuda (Dudy) Tzfati HUJI
Prof. Edna Ullmann Margalit HUJI
Prof. Sabetai Unguru TAU
Dr. Vered Vitizky-Seroussi HUJI
Prof. Naphtali Wagner HUJI
Prof. Alon Warburg HUJI
Dr. Eynel Wardi HUJI
Prof. Henry Wassermann OPU
Dr. Nathan Wasserman HUJI
Prof.. Ruth Weintraub  TAU
Dr. Barak Weiss BGU
Dr. Haim Weiss BGU
Prof. Sasha Weitman TAU
Prof. Haim Werner TAU
Prof. Yehuda Werner HUJI
Prof. Paul Wexler TAU
Prof.. Yoad Winter Technion
Dr. Nurit Yaari TAU
Prof. Yoel Yaari HUJI
Dr. Haim Yacobi BGU
Dr. Niza Yanay  BGU
Prof. Eli Yassif TAU
Dr. Mahmoud Yazbak Haifa U
Dr. Edit Yerushalmi  Weizmann
Prof. Oren Yiftachel BGU
Dr. Daphna Yoel TAU
Prof. Yuval Yonay Haifa U
Prof. Mira Zakai TAU
Dr. Michael Zakim TAU
Prof. Shmuel Zamir HUJI
Prof. Anat Zanger TAU
Prof. Joseph Zeira HUJI
Dr. Dina Zilberg BGU
Prof. Moshe Zimmermann HUJI
Dr. Michal Zion BIU
Dr. Amalia Ziv TAU
Dr. Ouriel Zohar Technion
Dr. Tsaffrir Zor  TAU
Prof. Moshe Zuckermann TAU 






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