Sunday, December 13, 2009
More on the Bukay Affair:
Steven Plaut's translation of Ben Dror Yemini's article from Maariv on Dec. 11, 2009 concerning the Bukay Affair:
By Ben Dror Yemini
Dozens of Israeli lecturers in academia are engaged in dissemination of blood libels against the state of Israel. There are those who write that Israel is the fulfillment of the visions of Hitler. There are those who disseminate the claims that Israeli soldiers rape Palestinian women. There are those who issue calls, directly and indirectly, for the annihilation of the state of Israel. There are those who write, "Israel is sunk up to its neck in the blood of innocent infants … whose butchers are Jews." (SP -- Yemini makes that a direct quote but does not note where he took it from)
None of these smears and slurs was ever the subjects of police investigations. Academic freedom of speech, in its Israeli version, covers just about everything – until it comes to the case of Dr. David Bukay from the University of Haifa. In March of 2005 he had the "honor" to be the very first academic in Israel against whom a investigation was launched, based on comments he was accused of making in his classroom. This week a new record was broken, when Bukay was requested/ordered by the state prosecutor's office to sign a statement that would restrict his own academic freedom.
The story began with a student who disseminated falsehoods and smears. The student's words were published in two or three media venues. The police were asked to open an investigation. But since when do the police open investigations of academic lecturers? Did they ever, even once, open an investigation against those who compare Israeli soldiers to Nazi stormtroopers? Or against those who claim that IDF soldiers in the territories are butchers? Or against those who call openly for Israel's extermination? Or against those who ramble around the world proclaiming that Israel is a tool of world capitalism striving to eliminate unwanted populations? (SP – evidently another quote, but Yemini does not give source)
Freedom of speech in general, and academic freedom in particular, stands as a besieged wall protecting every leper and scumball – but not protecting Dr. Bukay. In his case, a smear led to an investigation. At the time, I personally contacted the Ministry of Justice to clarify for me why no investigation was ever opened against Leftists who proclaimed gutter slurs, but one WAS opened against Bukay and only against him, all on the basis of a story that ran in a local weekly. The reply was: "Regarding lecturers and other members of academia, we cannot reply in general, and each individual case must be dealt with individually based on the circumstances." Bullshit! Because not a single other member of academia has ever been similarly investigated.
The police, as expected, recommended back then closing the case. The lecturer got a sort of clearing of his name and also some letters of apology. But the Deputy Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided on a new procedure: NOT to close the file but to close it with a condition (that Bukay sign the statement). Nitzan wants to turn Bukay into an academic on parole. So in Israel it is perfectly permissible for leftists to issue gutter smears against Israel, but expressions being made from the Right lead to criminal proceedings on the part of Big Brother.
I have no idea what Nitzan's own personal political opinions are. They are not important. What IS important is that the Prosecutor's office is being painted as the sheriff's department working on behalf of the Radical Left! Nitzan knows perfectly well that woe be to anyone attacking the vulgar ravings of leftist academics. (SP – maybe he means me?) As for injustice, the legal suppression and silencing, the destruction of the rule of law – those are things we must not tolerate!
We all know what exactly would happen in Israel if a prosecutor or Attorney General would attempt to coerce an academic from the Left into signing a statement similar to the one Bukay was ordered to sign. Israel would be swept up in a wave on unprecedented outrage. A prosecutor attempting such a thing would be fired and proclaimed an enemy of the human race, of democracy and of freedom of expression. Yet here such a thing is happening. And probably nothing will be done about it.
Steven Plaut's translation of news item in Maariv December 11, 2009:
A Declaration of War against Dr. Bukay
By Eli Levy (reporter)
In an unusual move, Israel's Prosecutor's Office has asked Dr. David Bukay from the University of Haifa to express regret over things he said in the past in denunciation of Arabs and Bukay was told to sign a statement pledging not to repeat those comments in the future. He was told that if he does not sign, he would face prosecution. This is all in spite of the fact that an investigation against him opened in the past for incitement was ended 4 years ago with no indictment.
The respected Middle East Studies scholar, who just returned to Israel from a lecture tour in the US, denies he ever made any of the comments he was accused of saying and refused categorically to sign the statement, which had been composed and presented to him for signature at the Haifa police station last week at the instructions of the Prosecutor's office. Now Bukay is himself launching his own war against the Deputy Prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, esq., who gave that order to reopen the investigation against Bukay.
The whole affair began about 5 years ago following publications in the media attributing to Bukay extremist statements denouncing Arabs, made as part of his course on "The Inter-Arab Political System and the Palestine Question," which Bukay taught at the University of Haifa. The course is taken by Jewish and Arab students. Among other things, it was claimed that Bukay said in class, "We should grab all the Arabs, put a gun to their heads and shoot." Bukay denied he ever said such a thing and denied the assertions of the media stories against him, but the affair caused an uproar and was widely reported in the Arab media around the world.
In contrast, there was a great outpouring of support for Bukay from hundreds of students who take his courses. Some of these contacted the university authorities and demanded to clarify what Bukay had actually said in class, as opposed to the citations attributed to him. The university Rector, Prof. Yossi ben Artzi, conducted a thorough investigation and it was concluded that there had been manipulative misrepresentation of the statements attributed to Bukay in the press and that a great injustice had been done both to him and to the university. None of that prevented the lawyer Shai Nitzan from the Prosecutor's Office from ordering a new police investigation against Bukay for "incitement," all on the basis of a complaint against him made to the police by the "Committee against Racism."
Even though an official investigation was being carried out, Bukay himself was never interrogated personally by the police. Years passed and this past week he suddenly got summoned to the Haifa police station, where he was informed by the detective, Lieutenant Yehuda Kaplan, that he must sign a statement in which he obligates himself never to repeat his statements. This, as noted, in spite of the fact that these statements were never made by him.
According to Dr. Bukay, the language of the declaration was: "I hereby express my sorrow about all the statements I made in my classroom, and have been warned that the next time I make such statements, I will be prosecuted for incitement." Bukay refused to sign the declaration and left the precinct feeling insulted and angry.
"I never said the things that had been attributed to me," Bukay told Maariv last night. "And I plan to sue everyone who falsely attributed to me things I did not say. My name now appears in Nazi web sites with relation to things I never said. I no longer travel to Europe because of the statements that were attributed to me (SP – lest he be sued there or arrested) and I am unwilling to sit by quietly any longer."
Bukay, as noted, has had a belly full of the lawyer Nitzan from the Prosecutor's office: "The declaration that he passed on to the Haifa police for me to sign is an outrage. Not only was the declaration completely immoral, but also includes a confession to a whole chain of crimes that I do not even know how to address. I demand an apology from Nitzan and demand that an investigation against HIM be initiated by the police, because I am convinced that such a person cannot hold a public office. I am the victim of a unique injustice and I do not plan to overlook it in silence."
The Ministry of Justice has responded: "A police investigation was opened against Dr. David Bukay because of his statements at the instructions of the Israel state Deputy Prosecutor for special services. In the end it was decided to close the file on the case but in light the severe statements (in class) by Dr. Bukay it was decided that he be issued a police warning. Closing a case after a suspect has been warned is not an unusual proceeding, but a step taken every time that circumstances warrant it." When asked about the long dragging out of the investigation over so many years, the Ministry told us to consult the police.
From the police precinct it was stated only, "The case against Dr. Bukay has been closed."
The following is a letter sent by Bukay to the Rector of Haifa University February 21, 2005 (in the wake of the controversy)
Alleged Remarks by Dr. David Bukai
On January 14, 2005, an article appeared in the Kolbo newspaper that quoted purported remarks made by Dr. David Bukai in the context of his course, "The Inter-Arab System and the Issue of Palestine." These remarks and allegedly more extreme statements were published on the Nana Internet portal on January 24, 2005, and in their wake were circulated in Arab newspapers and on the Internet network in Israel and abroad.
A special relationship exists between Jews and Arabs at the University of Haifa, which views the cultivation of tolerance, mutual understanding, and coexistence as major values in its public and academic mission. Utterances of a racist nature are completely unacceptable here.
As to the matter at hand, the Rector of the University conducted an examination, in the course of which interviews were conducted with Mr. Fadi Abu-Yones and a woman student, to whom were attributed the quotes on the Internet and in the press, and other participants in the course. In addition to the interviews, letters that students in the course had sent to the Rector were inspected.
The examination showed that the remarks attributed to Dr. Bukai in the Kolbo newspaper and especially on the Internet were never made in the manner in which they were cited and that parts of sentences and words aired in different contexts were combined manipulatively. The discussions that had been conducted in class were in the framework of a legitimate handling of topics pertaining to the historical and political contexts of the course. As for the alleged quote that was cited in the media, "All Arabs must be grabbed, an axe held to their heads, and they should be shot," and the statement also quoted in the media, "all mosques should be destroyed with all its worshippers or a building with its residents," even Mr. Abu-Yones himself denied that these were made.
In general, the inquiry showed that the lecturer gave a free hand to all course participants, during at least the first half of the lesson, to argue, to express a stand, and to vent attitudes. Whoever wanted to clarify an issue or a stand that had been presented in the class and to offer an alternative position on the basis of other findings could have done so.
The Rector of the University will clarify to Dr. Bukai that it is important to moderate the way statements are made on sensitive issues out of consideration that certain remarks might be taken out of context and interpreted as aggressive or too sharp toward some course participants.
The management of the University expresses outrage at the manner in which the remarks were presented by the papers, without corroboration, as though they were direct quotations, and at the great damage done to the reputation of the lecturer and the good name of the University of Haifa.
The University management as a rule utterly rejects any expression of a racist nature and looks upon tolerance and mutual respect as sublime values for all elements of the University community. The University works diligently to cultivate fair and proper relations between Arabs and Jews in general and on campus in particular.
The Following is a retraction by David Merhav, Israeli Trotskyist, who played a central role in distributing the smears against Bukay. He admits he lied and issued the retraction no doubt out of fear of libel suit (issued also in 2005):
Personal Letter Concerning the Bukay Affair
After circulating the findings of the investigation carried out by the
Rector of the University of Haifa, Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi (who concluded
that all of the quotes related to Dr. David Bukay in the media were false),
I got a letter which charged me with spreading lies and defamations across
the web, although I was not author of the article in which the accusations
were made against Bukay, as I was merely a circulator of a news' item
published in Israeli news website. Therefore, a disciplinary trial had to be
carried out against me on Wednesday, March 16. I am glad to inform you that
it going to be cancelled, and nothing will take place on March 16.
After a thorough investigation, and after a personal conversation with Dr.
Bukay, I felt that it is my obligation is to apologize.
I arrived to the conclusion - due to information given to me - that the
quotes in Nana news website were not said by Bukay as they were formulated
by the reporter and by Bukay's student, Mr. Fadi Abu-Yunes. Mr. Abu-Yunes
announced the Rector of the University that he did not say the quoted
accusations against Bukay.
Unfortunately, Abu-Yunes - though aware of my letter circulated to academics
and other people with whom I have a contact - did not bother to contact me
in order to inform of his decision to deny the quotes related to Bukay. He
did so only in a conversation with the Rector, letting me to circulate false
In a phone conversation I had with Mr. Abu-Yunes, he told me that Bukay did
preach to murder all the Arabs and that the Rector's report was mendacious.
A day latter, I got a phone call from other person, who apparently spoke to
Abu-Yunes, and told me that Bukay did not preach to shoot the all Arabs in
their heads but only the Arab terrorists. A day afterwards I asked Abu-Yunes
to come with me to a notary in order to make a statement, in which he will
state that Bukay did preach for a mass murder of innocent Arabs. He agreed.
A day afterwards I got another phone call from the same man, who clarified
that Bukay did not say the quotes related to him, and Abu-Yunes denies the
quotes in Nana's report.
After having a face-to-face conversation with Bukay, I concluded that all
the quotes related to him were false and that I was misled by opportunistic,
unprincipled and scoundrel elements.
I will make myself clear: I don't accept, by definition, Bukay's views and
outlook. I don't agree with his analyses as they were published in books and
articles he wrote. Nonetheless, I believe that Bukay did not say the quotes related to him, and therefore he is an innocent person.
Cynical, unprincipled and dishonest villains used me, as they knew that I am
committed to peace, equality, humanism, liberty, justice and fairness. For
two weeks, neither Abu-Yunes nor any other person who read my letter, even
tried to notify me that Bukay and/or Abu-Yunes, if to believe him, were
misquoted in the Nana website.
I believe that it is my duty to apologize and ask for Bukay's pardon and I
am taking my hands off this entire affair.
Please find, in attachment, the Hebrew version of my apology. Below you'll
find an English version of it.
Update from today:
MK Eldad: Suspend Dep. Prosecutor for Trying to Muzzle Lecturer
Kislev 26, 5770, 13 December 09 02:58
by by Gil Ronen
(Israelnationalnews.com) MK Prof. Aryeh Eldad (National Union) has asked Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman to suspend Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan for "selective law enforcement."
Eldad was reacting to reports that Nitzan has been harassing an instructor from Haifa University who was accused by two Arab students of making anti-Arab statements. According to reports published in the media over the weekend, Nitzan - who has been cleared of all criminal charges in to the case at hand - instructed Dr. David Bukai to sign a statement which says: "I hereby express my regret for all of the statements I made in the classroom, and I am warned that if I make such statements again I will stand trial for incitement."
Bukai was summoned to the Haifa police station last week, where he was shown the statement and asked to sign it. He angrily refused and stormed out of the station.
The affair began in 2005, when Bukai reportedly told a female Arab stude nt that Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Muslim Koran. After this event, a politically active male Arab student began attending Bukai's class and making provocative statements on a regular basis. At a certain point the two Arab students turned to the media and accused Dr. Bukai of making outrageous anti-Arab statements, including supposedly saying that Arabs were "genetically" stupid and that "all Arabs should be shot."
Hundreds of Jews Against Two Arabs
Hundreds of Jewish students who attend the class rallied to Bukai's side and attested that he never said the things attributed to him by the two Arab students. The university launched an inquiry and found that the charges against Bukai were indeed false. Nevertheless, Deputy Attorney General for Special Assignments Shai Nitzan ordered a police investigation against Bukai.
The investigation has gone on for more than four years and Bukai was never summoned to give his testimony. Last week he was told that the investigation against him was closed, but he was also instructed to sign the statement. The Justice Department made it clear that the initiative to make Bukai sign the statement was Shai Nitzan's.
MK Eldad noted that left-wing academics regularly make incendiary statements from their pulpits, including comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, calls for academic and economic boycotts against Israel and more, yet these go unnoticed by Shai Nitzan because he sees them as part of academic freedom of speech. "When a lecturer with a different worldview – a renowned scholar of the Arab world – dares to give his scientific opinion of Islam, the Deputy State Prosecutor begins running wild," he said.