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Tel Aviv University
Anat Biletzki and (late) Leon Sheleff, Tel Aviv University professors from B'Tselem who advocate for Palestinian Right of Return
http://www.sheleff.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=sheleff.12765 Hebrew
http://www.sheleff.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=sheleff.12765&lan=en English
Address by Prof. Anat Biletzki, Chair of the Department of Philosophy
at Tel Aviv University and member of the board of B'Tselem 

  Tribute to Leon Sheleff on the eve of his retirement from Tel Aviv
University "The Inner Tour" [the title of a film showing Palestinians
touring Israel]: An inner trip, is, undoubtedly, an internal/external tour.
It tells a tale of people kept at a distance who are now, presumably, being
brought near. It is told by an Israeli, from the outside, trying to see
things from the inside. How would a Palestinian scriptwriter and director
have told the story, if he could tell the story? How would we have seen and
heard the story in the case of a Palestinian telling? From what point of
view can the story be told? From what point of view can it be seen and
heard? And from what point of view can it be “reviewed” or
“criticized”? Is it not a case of prettifying, of self-righteousness,
to think – here and now – that we can understand anything about the
Palestinian “inner” reaches when we are here, in the local “outer”
reaches? The only way to understand, at all, is with sensitivity; much
sensitivity. And it is sensitivity that connects all of this with Leon

  Complexity and sensitivity Many roads lead from the first 'intifada',
when I met Leon in 'Ad Kahn', to the here and now; shared political roads
that are academic roads, activist roads, and moral roads... The inner trip
is complex: it travels between politics and morality, and its complexity
demands sensitivity – that same sensitivity that Leon is blessed with,
and the same complexity that he knows how to recognize. So let me tell two
internal stories from 'B’Tselem' that represent, for me, the complexity
and the sensitivity.

 		 Controversial candidate 
                                        When Leon’s candidacy for the board of
directors of B’Tselem was broached, I had already been a member of the
board for several years. To my surprise, a heated and painful discussion
ensued; surprise, because it was obvious to me that his persona was most
appropriate for B’Tselem’s board. But it turned out that on the
subject of torture, and on the absolute prohibition of torture accepted by
human rights discourse, Leon had “dared” to ask questions, to make
comments, to address details. There, during that discussion, I learned how
the dogmatic can become destructive – even if it be a dogma of human
rights. At the end of the day, Leon was elected by majority vote to
B’Tselem’s board. It may be obvious, though somewhat poignant, to add
that when the staff of B’Tselem write their reports, they turn to Leon,
more than to any other member of the board, when in need of moral and legal
counseling – counseling that is complex, sensitive, and non-dogmatic. 

  Plain and simple: "It doesn't seem right to me." 
                                                   My second story is the
story of the refugees, or, to be more precise, the story of the board’s
discussion on addressing the refugee problem. The debate was not about the
right of return per se – yes or no – but rather about the question of
B’Tselem’s obligation to investigate and report on the question of
refugees. This was a question posed, in general, to any human rights
organization and in particular to an Israeli human rights organization such
as B’Tselem; it was, and is, a loaded question having to do with a
political agenda. It was, and is, a complex question needing sensitive
answers. Leon’s words at that board meeting were so typical of him:
“…This is really one of the most embarrassing subjects because it may
harm the political process. Let me remind us all that one of the arguments
aired [at our previous meeting] was the political situation and its
relationship to the human rights aspect of the problem.” Leon continued,
emphasizing the ambivalence in us all, the gap between the moral and the
“Each of us here is acting on two levels – the level of politics and
the level of human rights…There are expulsions all over the word, but the
injustice cannot be ignored. I think this is the type of work that
B’Tselem can and is capable of doing.” His final, “decisive”,
words were so Leon-like: “To say that we won’t touch the issue because
it is politically sensitive – that doesn’t seem right to me.” Gentle
and moderate, with a supposedly noncommittal statement – “That
doesn’t seem right to me” – Leon could make us all understand the
need for recognition of complexity and sensitive action.  
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