A controversial Israeli academic who called for a boycott of the country has been defended by Ben Gurion University (BGU) after receiving a death threat.
The university president, Professor Rivka Carmi, said a “red line” had been crossed after Dr Neve Gordon, a politics and government lecturer, was sent a letter which read: “You're a traitor. I'm coming to Ben-Gurion to kill you!”
Dr Gordon was criticised by the university in 2009 after publicly demanding an international cultural, economic and political boycott of Israel in the Los Angeles Times.
He wrote that all “foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organisations, unions and citizens [should] suspend co-operation with Israel”.
At the time Professor Carmi said BGU was “shocked and outraged by his remarks, which are both irresponsible and morally reprehensible”.
But following the threat to Dr Gordon, she said the letter should be condemned and criticised “without regard to religion, political affiliation, ethnic origins and gender”.
Adding that the political debate in Israel was “difficult” and “polarising", she said there was “a very thin line between our democratic obligations and values such as freedom of speech, and our obligations to the security, strength and future of our nation.”
Professor Carmi said: “The dispute is divisive and painful and each person is convinced that truth is on his side. We have already seen that we are not suited for balanced discussion–not even in academia.
“But no matter how much we oppose and disdain the view of another we must remember that an atmosphere that condones the shedding of blood is a crime, no more and no less.”
She said BGU “will not tolerate hatred of any kind, be it physical or verbal violence, and will act vigorously to eradicate it”.
The death threat bore the signature of Im Tirtzu, a hard right-wing Zionist youth organisation, which has denied it was behind it.
Dr Gordon won £10,000 damages in a slander case in 2006 against a colleague who called him a “Judenrat wannabe” and a “fanatic antisemite.”
Israel’s Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said recently that he would take action against Israeli professors who call for academic boycotts.