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Tunisia: Conference participation of Israel professor sparks widespread controversy

September 30, 2023 at 10:33 am

Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole in Tunis, Tunisia [Amine Landoulsi/Anadolu Agency]

The President of Tunisia’s University of Sfax Abdel Wahed Al-Makni on Friday clarified the controversy surrounding the participation of an Israeli professor in a scientific conference it organised a year ago.

Al-Makni explained that the professor’s participation in September 2022 was part of preparations for holding a symposium titled “Meetings of Francophone Sociology”, organised by the International Association of French-Speaking Sociologists and a scientific laboratory at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

Al-Makni shared that the Israeli academic entered Tunisia using an Argentine passport, noting that she always participates as an Argentinian national and had previously participated in a virtual symposium with Tunis El-Manar University in this capacity, according to Tunisian Nessma TV satellite channel.

The University of Sfax’s president admitted that the university did not know the professor held Israeli nationality on the symposium’s first day and called for an investigation to determine responsibility.

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He stressed: “The University of Sfax and the Tunisian Ministry of Education had no role in selecting the participants in the conference.”

The University of Sfax affirmed: “The principled and honest position of the Scientific Council against all forms of normalisation with Israel, especially academic normalisation, and denounced the suspicious entry of a researcher from an Israeli university into the college.”

The university also expressed: “Strong condemnation of the slander against it, the questioning of its principled position and involving it in matters it had not hoped would happen due to a miscalculation on the part of the parties organising the forum.”

It also conveyed: “The importance of distinguishing between the principle of academic freedom and openness to foreign universities on the one hand and boycotting all forms of normalisation with Israel on the other.”

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