Israel and Gaza as Represented by Several Petitions and Two Emails

Seventy or so Israeli academics have signed a petition calling on their government to end its aggressive military strategy in Gaza. The text:

The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.

I’m not an Israeli or an academic, so I can’t sign it. I assume you can’t either. But that “We the People” site run by the White House has some relevant petitions, like these:

Push for a ceasefire in the Gaza/Palestine conflict and stop providing military aid to Israel with our tax dollars has about 6,500 signatures.


The leading petition, however, is Condemn the Apartheid State of Israel for their Human Rights Violations against the Palestinian peoples, which has more than 127,000.

On the other side of the issue, the leader is support Israel unconditionally in whatever it needs to do to stop Hamas’ terrorism. It has the right to defend itself. It has 2,241 signatures. I doubt that the signers would agree that there is a distinction between what Israel needs to do and what Israel is doing. 

Meanwhile, back in Israel, Haaretz reports on a strange incident involving another Israeli academic:

Prof. Hanoch Sheinman [sent an email] to reassure his second-year law students that because the security situation had disrupted many students’ routines, there would be an additional date scheduled for his course’s final exam. Sheinman opened the email, however, by saying that he hoped the message “finds you in a safe place, and that you, your families and those dear to you are not among the hundreds of people that were killed, the thousands wounded, or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or were forced to leave their homes during, or as a direct result of, the violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip and its environs.” Sheinman then proceeded to inform the students of the additional testing date.

 This is what happened next:

The dean of the law faculty, Prof. Shahar Lifshitz, … issued an urgent message to the students…. “I was shocked to learn of the email sent to you by Professor Sheinman,” Lifshitz wrote. “It was a hurtful letter, and since this morning we have been justifiably flooded with messages from students and family members, many of whom are involved during these very days in the battles in the south.”

Lifshitz added, “Both the content and the style of the letter contravene the values of the university and the law faculty. The faculty champions the values of pluralism, tolerance, and freedom of expression, but the inclusion of positions as were included in the administrative message sent by Prof. Sheinman to the students on a matter relating to exams does not fit into the framework of academic freedom or freedom of personal expression in any acceptable sense. This constitutes the inappropriate use of the power given to a lecturer to exploit the platform given to him as a law teacher to convey messages reflecting his positions, in a way that, as noted, seriously offended the students and their families.”

I can understand why some were offended by a reference to this conflict’s many victims, since more than 90% of the victims have been Palestinians. But I can’t understand at all why anyone would consider an expression of sympathy for those victims to be “hurtful” – unless it’s hurtful to remind people of what their government is doing in their name.