A retired Cambridge academic has been accused of “outrageous” and “utterly unacceptable” behaviour after she refused to help a 13-year-old Israeli girl with school project “until there is peace in Palestine”.
Dr Marsha Levine, who spent decade at the University of Cambridge’s McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research as fellow then as senior research associate, said she could not answer Shachar Rabinovitch’s questions about ancient horses because she boycotts Israel.
She told the schoolgirl: “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 on the lives of Palestinian people.
“Maybe your family has the same views as I do, but I doubt it.”
Miss Rabinovitch had emailed Dr Levine, who is an expert in the origins and evolution of horse husbandry, explaining: “I know you are a very important person and I’ve read your article about horses (Domestication, Breed Diversification and Early History of the Horse).
“I love horses very much and it will be an honour if you will answer my questions.”
She went on to send another email asking about how ancient horses lived, whether humans preserved ancient breeds of horses or created new breeds, and how modern horses have in common with their pre-historic ancestors.
Dr Levine, who completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology before taking up research posts at Columbia University and Syracuse University in New York, told The Telegraph that if a school student from a different country had got in touch with her to ask about horses, she would have responded differently.
“Kids have questions, I usually answer their questions,” she said. “But I have agreed to BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel], and I do want to see justice for Palestine.
“In Israel the majority of Israelis support the policies of the government which abuses the rights of Palestinians, so the fact is I don’t want to help Israelis, and if you don’t start with children where do you start?
“And she is not that young anyway, her English is pretty good. If people don’t stand up for justice, the world is going to come to an end.”
Shamir Rabinovitch, who posted his daughter Shachar’s email exchange with the academic on Facebook, said he was “shocked” by Dr Levine’s reply.
He told The Telegraph: “You have to ask yourself: what is there to gain from not talking to a 13-year-old girl? How does that solve anything?
“She asked a very polite question about horses, something she is interested in. Why do you reply with such anger? It really crossed the boundary.
“I think it’s ok to have different opinions about Israel and we make a lot of mistakes in this country, like in all countries. But it’s not ok to involve children in this stuff.
“How can she make all these assumptions about what we think and who we are?”
Mr Rabinovitch said his daughter had found Dr Levine’s contact details online and contacted her without prompting from teachers.
He said that his daughter was angry when she received Dr Levine’s response but had decided not to reply.
Ronnie Fraser, a retired Maths lecturer and director of Academic Friends of Israel, said that Dr Levine’s response was “utterly outrageous and unacceptable”.
“Academics should want to help people and ask their questions, it goes totally against everything that academics stand for,” he said.
“Cambridge University should strip themselves of any association with her – it is unbelievable behaviour to come from one their academics.”
A University spokesman said: “Marsha Levine is not employed by the University, was never a member of academic staff and ceased to be a senior research associate in 2010. Any views expressed are entirely her own.”
Source: Daily Telegraph