Early in December, a 13-year-old Israeli girl, Shachar Rabinovitch, asked ex-Cambridge professor Dr. Marsha Levine for some assistance on a school assignment that was related to her field; Dr. Levine is an expert on horse domestication. It was an innocent inquiry, which violently turned political when Dr. Levine refused to help Rabinovitch until “there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine” (via JPost):
I’m from Israel,” her e-mail began. “I’m doing an assessment for school about horses, and it will be great if you can answer a few questions that I will ask.”
Instead of receiving answers to her questions, Rabinovitz was met with criticism over the plight of Palestinians in Israel.
“I’ll answer your questions when there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine,” Levine wrote.
She explained that she is a member of the organization Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted the lives of Palestinian people,” Levine wrote.
She included a link to the pro-Palestinian organization’s website, urging Rabinovitz to educate herself about Palestinian history.
It doesn’t stop there (via Times of Israel):
In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, Levine said: “I made the decision that I have the choice not to waste my time on people who tread on the rights of other people. I didn’t do anything to her. I said that when there is justice for Palestine I will answer her – that’s a fair answer.
“I want this girl not to worry about horses. I don’t need people emailing me… I don’t see any obligation to further her ego or make her feel better about herself,” she added. Levine said she gave Rabinovitch “useful information which might help her for the rest of her life.”
The former Cambridge University lecturer and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement also accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “ethnic cleansing.”
“The Jews have become the Nazis. Jews are behaving just like the people who treated them. It’s not all Israelis or all Jews,” she said.
Yeah, saying the “Jews have become the Nazis” isn’t probably the best description when voicing opposition to the perceived injustices within Israel’s policies on the subject. Then again, this was a homework assignment on horses. Was it necessary to jack this up to 11? Was it necessary to make a homework assignment another front in the Israeli-Palestinian debate? Dr. Levine seems to think so (via Daily Mail):
Dr Levine told the Mail she had been targeted because of her response to Shachar, adding: ‘I have been getting hate mail.’
Asked if she thought it unfair to bring a child into a political debate she said: ‘Children are the future, children should understand.
‘I think her parents set her up. They would have checked on Facebook and they would have known my position on Israel.
‘It is insane. The real issue isn’t the horribleness of a woman who refuses to talk about horses. The issue is why is Israel, on a daily basis, is trying to destroy Palestinian society.’
A Cambridge spokesman said of Dr. Levine: ‘She is no longer part of the McDonald Institute and is not employed by the university. The views expressed are her own.’
Of course, Dr. Levine says the media has taken her words out of context. At the same time, I see little to be gained by refusing a teenager’s question about horses just because she’s an Israeli citizen. No matter what the cause, taking on children in an antagonistic light is probably not going to give you the best press for you or your causes; in this case, the BDS movement, which has been criticized for being anti-Semitic.
Dr. Levine has her opinions. We may disagree with them, but turning a simple homework inquiry into political theater seems to have been a silly exercise. No Palestinian’s life is made better because you refuse to answer questions about horse domestication. Moreover, maybe groups, who might be vociferously against Israel’s policies with regards to the Palestinians, might want to throw some criticism the other way, especially after it was discovered that Hamas was spending millions on terror tunnels to attack Israel from Gaza. Money that could have been spent on developing the area for civilians.