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Declaration of the Tel Aviv University Senate Regarding the Violation of Israeli Democracy

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“We call upon the government of Israel and the Knesset to halt legislation that fundamentally alters the democratic system of governance in Israel.”

Issued on March 1st, 2023

Since its founding, Tel Aviv University has upheld the core principles of academic excellence, improving Israeli society, and nurturing critical and creative thinking. We, the members of the Tel Aviv University Senate, are committed to the foundational values of the State of Israel as they were put forth in the Declaration of Independence, including fostering the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants, adhering to the foundations of freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel, ensuring the complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex, and guaranteeing freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture. Like other leading academic institutions around the world, the academic community at Tel Aviv University is committed to freedom of thought and expression, recognizing that these principles are the necessary conditions for research, academic thought, innovation, and scientific achievements.

In the past weeks it has become increasingly clear that these foundational values have been put in real and immediate danger by the accelerating legislative moves led by the current government coalition. The violations should concern every Israeli citizen who aspires to live in a free and democratic society.  We are adamantly opposed to any and all steps that would change the very basis of Israel’s system of governance.

The legislative measures led by the coalition go against the opinions and positions expressed by thousands of experts in Israel and worldwide, including Nobel Prize laureates, legal scholars, economists, and public intellectuals, who have stated in clear and unequivocal terms the dangers that will result from such legislation, and the real damages that Israel will likely suffer due to the legislative measures and their attending processes.

We are deeply concerned as well that these unprecedented attacks on the judicial branch are not the endpoint, but rather the preface to violations of other institutions including civil service, free media, and academia.  The legislative proposal to displace control over the National Library, which has long rested with academic experts, to the rule of political appointees, is an explicit example of inappropriate political intervention in academia, that threatens both autonomy in academic content, and research independence crucial to academic freedom.  The essential tasks of academia cannot, and must not, be conducted under political control.

­­­We call upon the government of Israel and the Knesset to halt legislation that fundamentally alters the democratic system of governance in Israel. We call upon the government of Israel to heed the voices of mass protests coming from all parts of the country and all sectors of Israeli society, and not to promote the destructive processes that are currently taking place. We call upon the government to stop legislation intended to fundamentally harm the autonomy of the legal system and to bring to a halt the dangerous trends of the past few weeks, which subvert the values of democracy, exclude populations and minorities, and lead the State of Israel into a disastrous abyss.

We are determined to struggle to preserve and protect the essential character of the State of Israel, for the autonomy of the legal system, and for the freedom of expression and research, and to take all action necessary, using all tools at our disposal permitted by law, to protect Israeli democracy and the rights of minorities.

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