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The Cambridge horse expert in need of horse sense

When a 13-year-old Israeli emails you a research question, climb off your BDS soapbox and just answer her!

What are we to make of Dr Marsha Levine, enough of a world class academic expert in the descent lines of ancient breeds of horses to be a former senior associate researcher at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge?

Yet so lacking in horse sense and common decency that she feels it necessary to refuse to answer a question sent her by a 13-year-old Israeli girl, so eager for that extra bit of cutting edge knowledge for her class project on horses. And on the grounds that she’s boycotting Israeli Jews like her — even children — ’till such time as she deems there’s peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine.

Here’s the exchange of emails between them:

My name is Shachar Rabinovitch and I’m from Israel. 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. 1. What ancient horses breeds preserved and were a base to the breeds we know today? 2. How did the ancient humens created new breeds or kept the ones who already were existent? 3. What ancient horse breed the ancient humans used the most and what were those uses? 4. Where did the ancient horses breeds lived?

Thank you for reading my questions,

Shachar Rabinovitch

Dear Shachar Rabinovich,

I’ll answer your questions when there is peace and justice for Palestinians in Palestine.

I am a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. I support Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. 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. So, I suggest that you look at this link.

Yours Sincerely,
Dr. Marsha Levine

So eager is this expert on ancient horses to snub and patronise this eager 13-year-old Israeli that she seems ready to overlook her own utter hypocrisy.

Because Wolfson College was established and endowed by one of the most ardent and generous UK Zionist philanthropists of the twentieth century, Isaac Wolfson. He also endowed professorships at the major Israeli universities of his day and paid for the establishment of two small towns in Israel, both named Kiryat Wolfson.

Why did the boycott-Israeli-Jews enthusiast Dr Levine accept, and hold for years, a post at an institution specifically established by and to commemorate the name and honour of this great Zionist?

What has Shachar Rabinovitch achieved by the age of 13? She’s demonstrated that, unlike so many girls of her age, she isn’t just another horse fan. She’s so eager to learn in depth and go the extra mile that she seeks out a world expert in the recondite history of human horse breeding, based in far-away Cambridge. Those of us who’ve taught this age group, or who have, as university academics, been on the receiving end of emails from school students who want us to do their projects for them, will recognise she’s something very rare. A potential researcher and academic in the making, with a dollop of initiative and readiness to reach out to the experts that should take her far.

Dr Levine’s expertise may have taken her to the top of the world tree in research into the ancient world’s horse breeders and the horses they bred.

But she hasn’t gone past first base in the rules of academic behaviour in the universities of a thriving democracy like Britain.

For a start, despite continuing to describe herself as a University of Cambridge associate researcher, she left her paid post in the University’s archaeology department five years ago, but still continues to trade on the  University’s name on the Researchgate and Academia.Edu personal research pages for academics. And she lists herself as currently at the Mongolian and Asian Studies Unit of the the University on her LinkedIn page.

UK universities are committed to being a bastion for free speech, whilst recognising that that doesn’t mean free speech to shout others down, or preach murder and destruction.

The University of Cambridge is our premier University, ranked second in the world after Harvard.

It’s a great place for Jewish students and academics, including Israelis and Jews of every stripe of religious, non-religious and political allegiance, and has a particularly lively Jewish society. I declare a Jewish motherly interest here — my daughter and son-in-law were both active members, and she had a daughter as President of CUJS, though she was a student and subsequently part-time tutor at the Anglia University Ruskin Art School.

It has very clear rules of conduct for academics, as for lowly undergraduates.

Unfortunately written in management speak, here are two key extracts:

“Communication” — Level B sets out: “Communicates effectively and appropriately with senior management, external partners and with people at all levels across the University and outside the University in the wider community”. Level C sets out: “Communicates effectively and appropriately with a variety of stakeholders including external partners, teams, colleagues and contacts”.

Hmm, Dr Levine. Your communication with 13-year-old Shachar Rabinovitch seems to fall somewhat short of the standards expected.

What’s more, you’ve succeeded in doing reputational damage to the University of Cambridge and Wolfson College, as well as yourself, despite your no longer being on their payroll.

I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from the University authorities and those of Wolfson College.

Especially in the light of these charming statements made to the hapless correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle who contacted you about your actions:

The violence against Palestinians never stops”, the Cambridge-based former academic said. “The people who live in Gaza cannot get education, health, water. What does it say about Jews that they support that? Jews have turned themselves into monsters.
I want this girl not to worry about horses. I don’t need people emailing me. I’m not an academic anymore. My research was all in the past. I’m doing other things now. I don’t see any obligation to further her ego or make her feel better about herself. I don’t think it’s about her — I think it’s about her parents. I gave her useful information which might help her for the rest of her life. I have to stand up for what I believe in.

Benjamin Netanyahu wants 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.

It’s really fascinating that the JC and the people behind it claim they speak for Jews. You don’t speak for me. Never once was I quoted correctly in the past, not even about the bloody horses. I want justice for Palestine.”

You seem not to have drawn on the horse sense that should inform even the most distinguished authority on subjects unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Or that should tell you you shouldn’t continue to represent yourself as a current academic on Researchgate and LinkedIn, if you’ve relinquished your academic interests.

To say nothing of betraying an astonishing degree of blinkered self importance.

About the Author
Judy Keiner is a London based, retired senior Lecturer in education at the University of Reading and former teacher, school inspector, government education and schools consultant.