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Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Write for your life

Dear Sir or Madame:

I write to you, motivated by grave concern about the incident involving Prof. Andrew Wilkie and his response to an Israeli applicant.

In his email, now “heard round the world,” Prof. Wilkie stated that he has a “huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own country.”

Wilkie equates Israelis with Jews, for there were no Israelis in the Holocaust. He’s talking about Jews. He has a “huge problem” with Jews. This would mean that his act of blatant discrimination toward Amit Duvshani is not based solely on Duvshani’s nationality, but on the underlying ethnicity of the state of Israel. It seems indeed, antisemitic.

Prof. Wilkie is a highly educated man, upon whom you and your organization have bestowed influence, authority and responsibility. I must question the atmosphere in which this has occurred. Not only does the professor significantly understate the “appalling” treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, he is apparently oblivious to the current and historic appalling treatment of Jews/Israelis by Palestinian Arab terrorists. Furthermore, his description of that for which the Palestinian Arabs fight as simply wishing to live in their own country, is simplistic and misguided, unworthy of someone of such academic prominence.

I would bring to your attention that a recent Pew Global Attitudes opinion poll showed that 80% of Palestinians agreed with the statement "The rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the State of Israel exists." (90% of Moroccans, 85% of Jordanians and 72% of Kuwaitis also agreed with this statement, as did solid majorities in Lebanon, Pakistan and Indonesia.) The issue, then, is not so simple as wanting a country; it must be free of Jews as well.

I find it deeply disturbing that Prof. Wilkie sympathizes to such a great extent with this position. From my point of view, he is sympathetic with a position that calls for the ethnic cleansing of my people, and the eradication of our nation. He is "free" to be so.

However, I trust that he is NOT FREE to act as he has toward Amit Duvshani -- not as a representative of the University of Oxford, of Pembroke College, the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, the Wellcome Trust, the Nuffield Foundation and Council on Bioethics, the Medical Research Council and the Wolfson Foundation. Hopefully, he is not free to act as he has, as representative of these –your- institutions.

The confidence of Wilkie’s attitude must either stem from, or is legitimized through, your institution. It is important for you to realize that in this instance, the elite British scientific community appears what we in the States would call, smarmy, creepy-crawly, that is, to be an arrogant and fascistly bigoted and closed community that quietly, usually quietly, hates Jews.

Wilkie’s comfortably smug assertion that he is not “the only UK scientist with these views” has been affirmed by an email now being circulated which was written by Wilkie’s colleague, a Stephan Feller, who finds the hardship Wilkie inflicted upon Amit Duvshani to be “unpleasant but almost bearable” in comparison with the hardships suffered by his (Feller’s) “very energetic and charming young” Palestinian graduate student.

Further affirming this perception, I have not heard of any of Wilkie’s colleagues or superiors expressing outrage, or objecting to the fact that his action might be seen to represent the larger community. Your silence is very disheartening.

You who have placed and maintained Andrew Wilkie in the very position of influence which he now abuses, are also to be held responsible. Without some level of collusion on your part, Prof. Wilkie would not have had the confidence to think as he does, to have spoken as he did, and to have behaved in such a despicable manner.

So, nu?

Anne Lieberman
Boulder, Colorado

Oxford campus