Tel Aviv University president says school won’t fire staffer who eulogized terror convict

An undated image of Palestinian security prisoner Walid Daqqa (Courtesy)
An undated image of Palestinian security prisoner Walid Daqqa (Courtesy)

Ariel Porat, the president of Tel Aviv University, announces that the institution will not fire a lecturer who had eulogized terror convict Walid Daqqa on her personal Facebook page.

In a letter dated Sunday and addressed to MK Yosef Tayeb, head of the Knesset’s Education Committee, Porat writes: “The university administration condemned Dr. [Anat] Matar’s conduct. However, it also added that she had done nothing illegal, and we therefore do not intend to sack her.”

“Put another way: by law, in the State of Israel, free expression also covers pronouncements that are infuriating, hurtful, and insensitive, whether you like it or not,” says Porat in the letter, which was subsequently sent to TAU students and faculty.

The university president says he received “with shock” Tayeb’s summons to a Monday committee hearing on “campus incitement” following Matar’s post, given the myriad problems facing Israeli society during the Gaza war.

“In this state of affairs, you have no shame in convening a Knesset discussion on an insignificant post by a single lecturer who represents only herself,” writes Porat.

“Are your eyes too shut to see the absurdity of this? Even war flaring up with Iran hasn’t made you cancel the session.”

Porat says he is abroad and will therefore not attend the “outrageous and illegitimate” committee meeting.

“Like other university presidents, I am fundraising to help, first and foremost, our reservists, our students, to whom we owe so much” writes Porat.

Matar, a philosopher of language, had provoked controversy after she called Daqqa a “dear friend” upon hearing of his death.

Daqqa, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, died from cancer on April 7 after 37 years in Israeli captivity. He had been involved in planning the 1984 abduction of soldier Moshe Tamam, who was killed by his kidnappers.

Daqqa later expressed regret for his actions and renounced violence. He became a writer and came into contact with several Israeli intellectuals.

Matar, a longtime leftwing activist, began exchanging letters with Daqqa after founding the Israeli Committee for Palestinian Prisoners, alongside his wife, Sanaa, in the early 2000s.

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