Monday, February 9, 2009

Appointment of colonel angers university’s faculty

By Jonathan Cook

"JERUSALEM // The Israeli government has moved quickly to quash protests over the appointment of the army’s senior adviser on international law to a teaching post at Tel Aviv University. Col Pnina Sharvit-Baruch is thought to have provided legal cover for war crimes during the recent Gaza offensive.

Government officials fear that recent media revelations relating to Col Sharvit-Baruch’s role in the Gaza operation may assist human rights groups seeking to bring Israeli soldiers to trial abroad.

A Spanish judge began investigating Israeli war crimes in Gaza under the country’s “universal jurisdiction” laws this month, and a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is considering a Palestinian group’s petition to indict Israeli commanders.

Meanwhile, the furore – by highlighting the close ties between the army and Israeli universities – is adding weight to a growing campaign in Europe and the US to impose an academic boycott on Israel, say activists.....

But despite the protest at Tel Aviv University, most academic staff in Israel supported Col Sharvit-Baruch’s appointment, said Daphna Golan, a programme director at the Minerva Center for Human Rights at Hebrew University. “I think even Prof Ganz has been frightened into silence by the backlash.”

The episode, she said, highlighted the intimate relations between the army and universities in Israel, as well as the dependence of the universities on army funding. She noted that there were many special programmes designed to favour army and security personnel by putting them on a fast track to degrees. “Most of the professors in the country’s Middle East departments – the ‘experts on Arabs’ who shape the perceptions of the next generation – are recruited from the army or the security services,” she added......"

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