Former chief rabbi Lord Sacks has said that higher education around the world should “imitate Israeli universities” where there is freedom of speech and association.
Sacks, who handed over the rabbinate in 2013, was speaking after being given an honourary doctorate by Tel Aviv University for his “gifts as a teacher of Jewish heritage, history and values” and for his Israel advocacy.
Fresh from bagging the £1 million Templeton Prize, Sacks received the doctorate in philosophy to mark the institution’s 60th birthday, and warned his audience that there was a threat to free speech on university campuses.
Supporters of Israel and pro-Palestinian groups have repeatedly clashed in universities in the U.S. and Europe, and Sacks said: “Academic freedom means letting all sides have their say, it means giving respectful hearing to views which differ from your own.”
He added: “When universities allow students to ban views with which they disagree and make Jewish students feel threatened then they are betraying the very principle on which a university should be based.”
Praising his hosts for their spirit of inclusivity, he said: “If there were justice in this world, the world would not be attempting to boycott Israeli universities, the world would be attempting to imitate Israeli universities because where [there is] freedom of speech and association.”