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18.04.2014
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Report: University of Haifa denies honorary doctorate over politics
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Dr. Haim Shine

A cynical disqualification

The University of Haifa decided not to give an honorary doctorate to Nobel Prize winner Professor Robert Aumann. The reason: His right-wing views, which contradict the left-wing, pro-Palestinian spirit of the university. We recently learned that the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee will reportedly discuss the university's law clinics' practices of late, a third of which have focused on Palestinian rights, including the rights of Hamas terrorists serving prison sentences in Israel.

Aumann, a leading scholar of mathematics and game theory, does not need the University of Haifa's respect. His academic excellence does not require the university's affirmation, which is rather small by comparison. Every important international institution has opened its doors to him. Students the world over have flocked to Jerusalem to study under Aumann, learning the basic tenets of human logic.

The Executive Committee's disqualification of Aumann oozed politics. A post-Zionist Israeli university has rejected an internationally recognized scientist just because he is Zionist. Aumann's biggest sin is that he believes, in accordance with game theory, that the left-wing's obsession with concessions is illogical and totally dangerous. After several years' experience, one no longer has to be a distinguished professor to understand that capitulation, withdrawal and concessions do nothing to advance peace. On the contrary, they push peace further away. Honorary doctorates are given for scientific merit, not political opinions, and that is very important to understand. Academic disqualification based on political beliefs is reminiscent of humanity's darkest days.

Executive Committee Chairman Ami Ayalon (a former head of the Shin Bet), one of Yasser Arafat's eminent defense attorneys against Ehud Barak, is behind this bad decision. Ayalon accused Israel of triggering the Palestinian frustration that sparked the Second Intifada. He also advocated withdrawing to the 1967 borders, even unilaterally, to establish the Palestinian state. If these are the Executive Committee chairman's principles, it is no wonder that demonstrations against the Israel Defense Forces pop up during military incursions into the Gaza Strip, or that tensions flourish on campus during commemorations for the Nakba.

While Israel is struggling on every international stage against mixing science and politics, the University of Haifa is jumping in, throwing its support behind Israeli academia's most ardent adversaries. If Aumann is disqualified at the University of Haifa for his nationalist opinions, it is no wonder that universities in Britain reject Israeli scientists just because, in their eyes, the Haifa campus is located in occupied Palestine. The Executive Committee's decision cuts off the very branches supporting the university. Overseas, they don't distinguish between Israeli universities. As far as they're concerned, all of Israeli academia is contaminated.

Aumann will not play the university's game -- indeed, he's an expert in game theory. My advice to the university is that it apologize to Israel's Zionist citizens.

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