A retired academic in the United Kingdom is causing a ruckus after she refused to help a 13-year-old girl with a school project solely because the girl is Israeli.
Marsha Levine, formerly an academic researcher at Cambridge University and an expert on the domestication of the horse, received a set of questions from Shachar Rabinovitch, an Israeli who was working on a school project about horses. The questions were general ones, asking how ancient humans created new horse breeds and which ancient breeds served as the basis for those existing today.
Levine categorically refused to answer Rabinovitch’s questions, on the grounds that she has chosen to personally boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
“You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people,” Levine told Rabinovitch in her response. “Maybe your family has the same views as I do, but I doubt it.”
Levine said she would only answer Rabinovitch’s questions when “there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine.”
The email exchange was posted on Facebook by Rabinovitch’s father, and subsequently attracted the attention of British and Israeli press.
Levine refused to back down in the face of public criticism, and says her goal was to get Rabinovitch thinking about matters more important than horses.
“I want this girl not to worry about horses,” she told The Jewish Chronicle Online. “I don’t see any obligation to further her ego or make her feel better about herself. I don’t think it’s about her – I think it’s about her parents.”
Levine, who is Jewish herself, added that in her view, “Jews have become the Nazis.”
Levine’s actions are a more extreme version of a practice that is increasingly widespread in academia. Hundreds of professors, and even some academic professional organizations, have joined the so-called boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which hopes to pressure Israel by isolating it from the outside world. Just days ago, for instance, the National Women’s Studies Association voted to boycott Israel academic and social institutions, in the process redefining feminism to include support for Palestine.
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