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Israeli university presidents urge global counterparts to take a stand against Hamas

“This is not ‘war as usual’ or just another chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are not ‘good people on both sides,’” stated a letter from Israel’s Association of University Heads.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/David Saranga, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/David Saranga, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The presidents of Israel’s nine leading universities have called on their colleagues from around the world to join them in unequivocally condemning the unprecedented Hamas assault on the Jewish state.

In an Oct. 11 letter addressed to fellow college and university presidents, Israel’s Association of University Heads (VERA) stated, “Let’s be clear. This is not ‘war as usual’ or just another chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are not ‘good people on both sides.’ Hamas and Islamic Jihad have proven themselves to be cruel, barbaric organizations reminiscent of the Taliban and the Islamic State.”

They continued, “We have heard of initiatives undertaken by faculty and students on some campuses in countries outside of Israel to support Hamas and Islamic Jihad actions, and we understand that there has not always been a clear response from academic leadership to such signs of support. We hope that you will agree with us that there can be no support for such terror organizations in Western democratic societies, just like there is no support for Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. There can be no support for purposeful massacres of civilian populations, or for the taking civilian hostages.”

The letter was signed by VERA Chairperson Prof. Arie Zaban, President of Bar-Ilan University; Prof. Daniel A. Chamovitz, President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Prof. Alon Chen, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science; Prof. Asher Cohen, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof. Leo Corry, President of the Open University of Israel; Prof. Ehud Grossman, President of Ariel University; Prof. Ariel Porat, President of Tel Aviv University; Prof. Ron Robin, President of University of Haifa; and Prof. Uri Sivan, President of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Doug Seserman, CEO of Americans for Ben-Gurion University, said in reaction to the letter, “Americans for Ben-Gurion University stands with Ben-Gurion University and its counterparts in Israel, urging academic institutions worldwide to condemn Hamas terrorism and stand with Israel. As President Biden eloquently expressed this week, this is a battle between good and evil, and we implore academic leaders—and all leaders—not to find themselves on the wrong side of history.”

Earlier this week, Harvard University President Claudine Gay came under scrutiny for failing to forcefully condemn Hamas or to mention 30 student groups who released a letter blaming “the apartheid regime” of Israel for the war. Later, Gay issued an updated statement which clarified, “let there be no doubt that I condemn the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas” and that “no student group — not even 30 student groups — speaks for Harvard University or its leadership.”

The Israeli university leaders said, “As the guardians of higher education and academia, actively pursuing knowledge for the benefit of humanity, as role models for and teachers of the leadership of tomorrow, we all share the responsibility to educate our communities.

“What values are we passing on? Freedom of speech and academic freedom, absolutely. But a stand against barbaric violence perpetrated on civilian populations? We know you join us in renouncing such acts of violence,” they concluded.

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