Daily Mail

Academic won’t help Israeli girl, 13, with project ‘until there’s justice for Palestine’

- By Eleanor Harding Education Correspond­ent

A FOrMer Cambridge academic refused to help a 13-year-old Israeli girl with a school project ‘until there is peace in Palestine’.

Dr Marsha Levine, 66, allegedly told the youngster she would not answer any questions because she boycotts Israel.

The girl, Shachar rabinovitc­h, emailed her asking questions about ‘ancient horses’.

Dr Levine, who is Jewish, spent a decade at the University of Cambridge’s McDonald Institute for Archaeolog­ical research as a fellow then as a senior research associate.

But according to an online post by the girl’s parents, she was devastated to be rebuffed because Dr Levine refuses to engage with Israelis.

Dr Levine’s reply read: ‘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

‘I did it as a matter of conscience’

If you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn how Israeli history has impacted on Palestinia­n people

Dr Marsha Levine, left

how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinia­n people.’

Shachar’s email to Dr Levine, who is an expert in the origins of horse husbandry, said: ‘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 and it will be an honour if you will answer my questions.’

She asked how ancient horses lived and how much modern horses have in common with their ancestors.

Dr Levine, who did her PhD at Cambridge and was a researcher at Columbia University and Syracuse University in New York, defended her response yesterday.

The retired academic told the Jewish Chronicle: ‘I have the choice not to waste my time on people who tread on the rights of other people.

‘I said that when there is justice for Palestine I will answer her – that’s a fair answer. I’m a signatory to Jews for Justice for Palestinia­ns. I did it as a matter of conscience. The way Israel treats Palestinia­ns is totally disgusting. I have to stand up for what I believe in.’

Shachar’s father, Shamir rabinovitc­h, said children should be ‘out of the equation’ when discussing the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict. The family live in a mixed Jewish and Arab area north of Tel Aviv, near a school for Jews and Arabs.

Mr rabinovitc­h said: ‘I was so angry. We live in an area which is very mixed — the claim of racism doesn’t fit us at all. Political argu- ments should be conducted by adults. It was an apolitical and innocent question from a girl. She’s not responsibl­e for bad things that happen around her.’

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.’

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