Tel Aviv University: War of Minds between Left/Right

Susie Dym,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Susie Dym
Susie Dym serves as spokesperson for Mattot Arim, with over 20 years of expertise on "peace-for-peace" issues.
This week, Professor Emeritus Dr. Edgar Pick, M.D. of Tel Aviv University, sent a forthright "Open Letter" to university President Joseph Klafter. Professor Pick stated categorically   that the  university should not have awarded a medal to  Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, during his visit to Israel.

Ki-Moon was politely welcomed to Israel by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who phrased his marked criticism of Ki-Moon as requests.  Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out to Ki-Moon that the goal of treating Israel fairly “remains unfulfilled” in Ki-Moon’s UN.  The UN Human Rights Council, continued Israeli Premier Netanyahu, would as it always does, condemn Israel, a country that does more to promote and protect human rights and liberal values than any other in the blood soaked Middle East.”  Netanyahu charged that “Our progressive democracy has faced more country-specific resolutions, more country-specific condemnations at the UN Human Rights Council than all the other countries combined”. Netanyahu  said that this was “a profound betrayal of the United Nations noble mandate” and “urged” Ki-Moon “to dedicate your last six months as ...Secretary General ... in trying to right this wrong. ... not just for Israel's sake; for the credibility of the UN”.

At Tel Aviv University , in stark contrast, the UN chief was awarded the university’s “highest honor” – for what university leaders called “peace efforts and condemnation of anti-Semitism”. This, the university powers gushed, was “in recognition of his long and distinguished career as an international diplomat and statesman; his respected leadership of the United Nations over the past nine years, during which time he championed major global issues and advanced important reforms; his courageous condemnation of anti-Semitism, racism, and terrorism in all their forms; and his committed endeavors to facilitate peaceful solutions to ongoing humanitarian and geopolitical crises throughout the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

But Dr. Pick said that the medal -- Tel-Aviv University’s most prestigious --  was to have been awarded only to persons who excelled in science and ethical values as well as to long-standing Israel advocates. Dr. Pick opined that Ki-Moon does not belongs to this “illustrious group”. In his “OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY regarding the AWARD OF THE GEORGE S. WISE MEDAL to Ban Ki-Moon, Dr. Pick noted that the choice of recipients for the prestigious award is intended to be “based on intellectual and scientific excellence” as well as “support for Israel, independently of narrower political affiliations or sympathies”.

Regarding the former criterion, Professor Pick delicately opined that “One must search hard in Mr. Ban Ki-Moon’s record for intellectual prominence” adding that Ki-Moon’s “record on human rights is dismal, politically biased, and opportunistically selective, as shown by his silence on the crushing of these rights in Iran, Syria, and many African and South-American countries, not to mention North Korea”.

Regarding the latter criterion,  Professor  Pick wrote that Ki-Moon has exhibited “long standing anti-Israel bias” which, he said, transformed selection of Ki-Moon for the Wise Medal from being “merely unjustified” to being “blatantly inappropriate”. For as long as one can recall, Pick charged, Ki-Moon has condemned Israel while simultaneously condoning Palestinian intransigence and terror. There are hundreds of disputed territories in the world, none of which Ban Ki-Moon is in the habit of dwelling upon, Pick said; “the world is overflowing with violence and war crimes that dwarf anything happening in Judea and Samaria”. Prof. Pick lamented that while “Ban Ki-Moon is busy with the settlements in the West Bank, Bashar al-Assad has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people”. Also, Ban Ki-Moon does also not mention  the concentration camps in his neighboring North Korea, where people are worked to death and starved.” Therefore, Prof Pick concluded, Tel-Aviv University’s president’s statement praising Ki-Moon as “a tenacious supporter of global bridge-building (who has) spoken up for the things that matter” was “thoroughly unconnected to the sad truth of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon’s performance”.

The George S. Wise Medal is named for George S. Wise, an American academic, businessman and philanthropist, who was also chairman of the board for the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency). Wise   was eulogized in the New York Times.   http://www.nytimes.com/1987/07/03/obituaries/george-s-wise-dead-led-tel-aviv-university.html.
Wise taught sociology at Columbia and was internationally known as an expert in Latin American affairs, also serving as director of the Center for Advanced International Studies and as a member of the board of governors for the University of Miami.  As a philanthropist, Wise founded 30 schools to defeat illiteracy in Mexico, prompting the Mexican government to honor him with  the highest award given to a foreigner.
In parallel to his illustrious po‎sition in American society, however, Wise was also openly a Zionist who selflessly harnessed his own sterling reputation to bolster the development of Israel’s (at the time fledgling) academic institutions. In 1951, he accepted the presidency of the American Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and two years later, he accepted the chairmanship of the Hebrew University’s  Board of Governors. In 1963, he agreed to become the first president of Tel Aviv University. Aside from the prestigious Medal bearing his name, Tel-Aviv University’s observatory and faculty of Life Sciences are both named after Wise. 

Professor Pick told this blogger that Tel-Aviv University’s president had, thus far, neither acknowledged not responded to his letter.

In fact, he said, he estimation was that the likelihood of a reply was far more remote than the likelihood that the next recipient of the Wise Medal would be the radical pro-Palestinian MK, Hanan Zoabi.

Other pro-Israel letters on academic affairs by Professor Pick:

Full text of the Pick letter

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY

AWARD OF THE GEORGE S. WISE MEDAL TO Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

July 1, 2016

Professor Joseph Klafter

President

Tel Aviv University

Dear Professor Klafter,

Before writing to you, I tried to find a document defining the attributes of persons deserving the George Wise Medal, described as the “highest honor” awarded by Tel Aviv University.

The closest that I got to this was the statement that “The medal commemorates Tel Aviv University’s founding President and is awarded to long-standing Israel advocates”. Among previous recipients were: Abba Eban, Saul Farber, Ephraim Katzir, John Howard, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and, recently, Manuel Valls.

Clearly, the choice was based on intellectual and scientific excellence and support for Israel, independently of narrower political affiliations or sympathies.

I was, therefore, wondering what were the motive and justification behind the award of the George Wise Medal to Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. As you know, I am far from being an expert in foreign relations but, with due respect to those who decided on the choice of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, it seems to me and to many in the academic community of our University that this was a most unjustified and inappropriate decision.

One must search hard in Mr. Ban Ki-Moon’s record for intellectual prominence. His speeches are flat, conventional and platitudes-ridden. His record on human rights (frequently mentioned) is dismal, politically biased, and opportunistically selective, as shown by his silence on the crushing of these rights in Iran, Syria, and many African and South-American countries, not to mention North Korea. An examination of his whole career reveals that his principal concern was his self-promotion to rewarding “jobs”.

All this would make his selection for the Wise Medal merely unjustified. What, however, made this choice as blatantly inappropriate is his long standing, unchanged and repeated anti-Israel bias. For as long as one can recall, he has condemned Israeli actions and condoned Palestinian intransigence and terror. Independently of political allegiance, the Israeli Left, Right, and Centre were shocked by his statements, such as (blue font):

“Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process. As oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

“The Secretary-General is profoundly dismayed over the appalling escalation of violence and loss of hundreds of Palestinian civilian lives since the breach of the humanitarian ceasefire”

"They rightly raise fundamental questions about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution."

"Security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people."

There are hundreds of disputed territories in the world, none of which Ban Ki-Moon mentions. He also ignores that the world is overflowing with violence and war crimes that dwarf anything that is happening in Judea and Samaria. In the time that Ban Ki-Moon is busy with the settlements in the West Bank, Bashar al-Assad is involved in a civil war that has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people. Ban Ki-Moon does also not mention the crimes of Boko Haram, nor is he shocked by the crimes of Islamic State jihadists or by the concentration camps in his neighboring North Korea, where people are worked to death and starved.

In the light of this, your statement, that “Mr. Secretary-General, you have been a tenacious supporter of global bridge-building and you have spoken up for the things that matter — freedom, equality, and education” appears thoroughly unconnected to the sad truth of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon’s performance.

I very much hope that future choices for the George Wise Medal will be more judicious, sincere and untinged by political correctness.

Sincerely,

Edgar Pick, M.D.,Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Julius Friedrich Cohnheim Laboratory of Phagocyte Research
Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978
Israel