Senior Israeli academic faces sanction for alleged sexual harassment

Ben-Gurion University president okays disciplinary proceedings against David Newman after viewing outcome of preliminary probe; Newman says claims are completely fabricated

Prof. David Newman in front of Windsor Castle. (photo credit: courtesy)
Prof. David Newman in front of Windsor Castle. (photo credit: courtesy)

David Newman, the dean of humanities and social sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, faces disciplinary measures following an investigation into charges that he sexually harassed a female student. Newman rejected the allegations as completely fabricated.

Newman, 59, who immigrated to Israel from England in 1982, is one of the institution’s most important faculty members and chief editor of the international journal Geopolitics.

In 2013, Newman was given an OBE (Order of the British Empire), one of the United Kingdom’s highest honors, for promoting academic links between Israel and Britain.

The university’s president, Prof. Rivka Carmi, recently decided to officially open disciplinary proceedings into the charges against Newman after viewing the results of a preliminary investigation, the daily Haaretz reported.

Prof. David Newman receives the OBE from Princess Anne. (photo credit: courtesy)
Prof. David Newman receives the OBE from Princess Anne. (photo credit: courtesy)

The complaint came from a student who had studied and worked in one of the departments where Newman teaches.

The student lodged the complaint, the report said, following a barrage of harassment aimed at her and her colleagues, and only after the failure of repeated attempts to get the professor to cease his actions.

Among the professor’s infractions against the student, said the report, were repeated comments about her appearance, some with sexual overtones, as well as unwarranted touches and embraces. In one incident, the professor reportedly asked his accuser to stay with him overnight.

The student eventually quit her job at the academic department in order to break contact with him, the report said.

Newman was slated to give up his post at the end of the year and go on sabbatical, irrespective of the disciplinary charges he faces, the report said.

Newman said the accusations were “completely fabricated.” He said he was disappointed that the issue had been “leaked to the press by the complainant, who can remain anonymous,” before the investigation was held, that he believed the investigation would “exonerate him totally,” and that he would comment further at that time.

Newman’s attorney, Naomi Shalev Melzer, said earlier, “Prof. Newman has no interest in proving anything or defending himself against anything in the pages of a newspaper, and he does not intend to recruit the media in order to prove his innocence. The confidential disciplinary process laid down in the academic bylaws is what will guide his steps, and he will act in accordance with its instructions.”

The university said in a statement that it “sees the utmost importance in eliminating the phenomenon of sexual harassment and has acted and is acting in accordance with the law and in accordance with the strict procedures existing in it to prevent sexual harassment and to clarify every complaint. In the process of an investigation the university is careful about confidentiality, as demanded by the law.”

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