Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Apple too far from the Tree for Ben Gurion University?

WAS Professor Arens too far from tree, or is BGU too close to Israeli government; and NATO?

More on our item concerning Yigal Arens, the Israeli-born professor to whom organisers of a conference at the Ben Gurion University decided to rescind an invitation, in case his presence embarassed government officials attending.
("And they complain about a boycott", Saturday January 27

This is from the leading Israeli daily, Ha'Aretz:

Ha'aretz, Mon., January 29
Arens and the tree

By Akiva Eldar

Professor Yigal Arens fell very far from the tree. The son of a former defense minister and head of the Likud, he went so far to the left that a respected university in Israel cancelled his participation in a scientific conference. Dr. Bracha Shapira of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, one of the organizers of the conference, has stated that the organizers have chosen to remain silent.

Arens, who immigrated many years ago to California, heads two centers that deal with information systems on matters of intelligence, the war against terror and digital government. At the beginning of January a colleague, an American professor, invited him to participate in a working group that will convene this coming summer at Ben-Gurion University. The conference, which is funded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), will deal with the role played by the Internet in terror and its prevention.

The colleague said that the organizers, and among them Shapira, would be very glad if Arens accepted the invitation.Five days later, before Arens replied to the invitation, his American colleague informed him that he should forget the whole thing. He related that the Israeli organizers had told him that government personnel who had been invited to the meeting would not feel comfortable in his presence. Arens sent an e-mail to Shapira and asked that she explain the withdrawal of the invitation. She replied that his American colleague had "exceeded his authority in extending the invitation without full consultation with the conference organizers."

According to Arens, the organizers had been aware initially of his political background.(*) They learned about it from his American colleague who wanted to make certain, at Arens' request, that they would spare him any unpleasantness, which according to him had been his lot at previous conferences in Israel.

The organizers of a conference at an academic institution that benefits from public monies do not believe it is the public's right to know whether there is anything of substance in the grave suspicion that a scientists' political opinions disqualify him from entering their gates. Arens, in fact, concealed nothing. For many years he has supported two states for two peoples, but today he fears "that a two-state solution is no longer practically possible."

Arens believes that Israel should be a state for all its citizens, supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees and is opposed to any form of discrimination among citizens on the basis of their ethnic or religious background.

© Copyright 2007 Haaretz. All rights reserved§§§§§§§§§§

Yigal Arens comments on the differences between this report and the Hebrew original

The Hebrew version unnecessarily embellishes my resume a bit. That wasn't included in the English translation. I haven't written any books on the subject, although I participated in writing a study on a related topic (the use of IT in disaster management), and have co-authored a workshop report on responding to "unexpected events". There are other mostly minor differences between the English and Hebrew versions, the most significant being that the English one says I believe the organizers *were* originally aware of my politics, while the Hebrew one correctly states that I believe they were *not*.

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