Police said mulling probe of Tel Aviv U lecturer who eulogized terror convict

Academic Anat Matar called Walid Daqqa, imprisoned for role in 1984 murder of IDF soldier, a ‘source of inspiration’; actress Einat Weizman: He ‘taught me humaneness’

Anat Matar, senior lecturer, Tel Aviv University Department of Philosophy (Facebook screenshot)
Anat Matar, senior lecturer, Tel Aviv University Department of Philosophy (Facebook screenshot)

Israelis who have offered praise for Palestinian terror convict Walid Daqqa, who died in prison earlier this week of cancer, are facing backlash for their praise of a man convicted of heading a terror cell that committed murder.

According to the Ynet news site, police are considering a criminal investigation, on suspicions of support for a terrorist act, into a Tel Aviv University lecturer who publicly eulogized Daqqa.

In a post on Facebook this week, Anat Matar, a senior lecturer in Tel Aviv University’s Philosophy Department, called Daqqa, who died at age 62, a “dear and beloved friend” and “an endless source of inspiration.”

She also offered condolences to Daqqa’s family and the Palestinian people over the loss of “one of its greatest sons.”

Daqqa, an Israeli citizen, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for commanding a cell linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which abducted and killed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984.

During his 37 years behind bars, Daqqa claimed to have changed his ways and to oppose violence. He became a prolific writer and was in contact with various Israeli intellectuals.

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

Actress and director Einat Weizman faced anger on Wednesday for a post about Daqqa.

“Walid Daqqa sat in prison and wrote and wrote — letters, short stories, articles, books,” wrote Weizman in her post. “He taught me what humaneness is, and what humane thought is, and his words and his writings were a part of my plays. The world without him is darker. The light has diminished.”

The post sparked outraged responses from many in Israel’s entertainment industry. A police source told Channel 12 news that there was nothing in Weizman’s post that would lead to a criminal investigation.

Playwright Einat Weizman (right) during a reading of portions of her play, “Prisoners of the Occupation,” blocked from the Acre Fringe Festival. (Courtesy Einat Weizman)

Soldier Tamam was abducted in 1984 after getting off a bus while on leave. The country was shaken when his body was found four days later with signs of massive head wounds and a bullet hole in his chest.

Daqqa had been due to be released last year, but a court ruling extended his jail term by two more years over accusations he illegally provided cellphones to other prisoners. Daqqa was at the center of a scandal involving former MK Basel Ghattas smuggling cellphones to Daqqa and other convicted Palestinian prisoners. Ghattas ultimately resigned his seat and served two years in jail for the offense, while Daqqa received an additional two years.

Last year, a special judicial committee rejected a request for early release based on his cancer diagnosis.

In 2015, the Al-Midan theater in Haifa sparked controversy when it staged a play titled “A Parallel Time” about Daqqa’s life, leading the Culture Ministry to cut funding to the theater and the Education Ministry to bar it as a school-sanctioned performance.

File: The mother of Moshe Tamam, who was murdered by a group of Arab Israelis in 1984. (YouTube screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Police would need permission from state prosecutors to open a probe into Matar. It is not clear that any of the comments in her post could be construed as support for terrorism.

The professor’s post drew protests from right-wing groups and some students, who held a rally last week calling on the university to fire the veteran academic and activist, Ynet reported.

The school told Ynet it condemned her remarks, and said it would looked into whether she’d violated its free speech guidelines.

Matar, head of the Israeli Committee for Palestinian Prisoners, has long been known as a strident critic of Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians. In 2011, she co-authored a book on Palestinians incarcerated by Israel for security offenses, calling into question Israel’s approach toward legal procedures and treatment of inmates.

On Monday, Amnesty International demanded that Israel “return Walid Daqqa’s body to his family without delay” and said it was “heart-wrenching” that he had died in prison. It called his death “a cruel reminder of Israel’s disregard for the Palestinians’ right to life.”

In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a social media post: “Amnesty, you have a disturbing obsession with glorifying sadistic murderers.” It added that Daqqa had received cancer treatment while in prison.

He is survived by his wife, Sanaa Salameh, and four-year-old daughter Milad, who was conceived using Daqqa’s smuggled sperm after Israeli authorities denied him conjugal visits, Salameh has said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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