Marsha Levine – the Cambridge academic who refused to answer Israeli child's question, citing BDS


Dr Marsha Levine was a fellow and senior research associate in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University, which “serves as an interdisciplinary hub aiming to provide a shared intellectual home for archaeologists at Cambridge with a programme of seminars, workshops, conferences, publications and research grants as well as laboratory space for a wide range of archaeological research which crosses continents, periods and approaches in its exploration of the diversity of the human past”.

Excluding Israelis.

Or is it Jews?

She is a world renowned expert in archaeology and anthropology, with a particular interest in the history of the domestication of horses. She also enjoys photography, explaining that her research travels put her “in a position to meet people and visit places inaccessible to most other travellers”. She tries “to take advantage of this as much as possible, photographing people, places, nature, landscapes, cityscapes, wild and domestic plants and animals, traditions and life-styles in a rapidly changing world”.

Except Israelis.

Or is it Jews?

A young Israeli Jewish girl named Shachar Rabinovitch, from the small town of Zichron Yaakov near Haifa, wrote to Dr Levine for help with a school research project:


My name is Shachar Rabinovitch and I’m from Israel.

I know you are a very important person and I’ve read your article about horses. I love horses very much.. 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 humens used the most and what were those uses?

4. Where did the ancient horses breeds lived?

Thank you for reading my questions,

Shachar Rabinovitch

The letter was respectful, polite, inquisitive and impressively precise for a 13-year-old. You might think that it would be the sort of wide-eyed enquiry at which an Oxbridge academic might smile and nod contentedly while poring over the Guardian and munching their morning muesli. The girl is, after all, only 13, and took the initiative to write to Cambridge herself: there was no prompting from parents or schoolteachers. Here is Dr Levine’s response:

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

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?‘ (Mt 7:9f). Remember that Shachar Rabinovich is just 13 years old. You might wonder if Dr Levine would be so sneeringly dismissive of (say) Chinese children, citing the appalling treatment of Tibet; or Iranian children, citing the flogging of bloggers and the beheading of democracy activists? Well, wonder no more. Dr Levine told the Telegraph “that if a school student from a different country had got in touch with her to ask about horses, she would have responded differently”.

So, it’s only Israeli children who get given stones and snakes when they ask for bread and fish. Which is a bit odd, when you think about it.

Does Marsha Levine have any idea how the Egyptians have treated Palestinians since 1948? Does she know the social deprivation they suffer in Lebanon, or the economic hardship the endure in Jordan? Has she not heard of Assad’s fierce persecution of Palestinian communities or the fact that he has “starved and murdered” thousands of them? And what about the Palestinians in Iraq who are subject to “discrimination, sectarian violence and ruthless killing by the Iraqi government”?

Has she bothered to research the mass expulsion of Palestinians by Arab Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, Libya and Kuwait, of which Yasser Arafat declared that “what Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories”?

Israel has indeed killed Palestinians in its offensives against Gaza. Every death is a tragedy, especially those of children. Some of the pictures coming out of the war zone are brutal, distressing and heartbreaking. God weeps at the suffering. If there is meaning and purpose in the pain, it is lost to the world’s baffled intellects.

But it is a curious that Dr Marsha Levine should single out Israel for special treatment. After all, the Palestinians have suffered far greater atrocities at the hands of their Arab brothers and co-religionists than they have the Jews. The Arab persecution of Palestinians is well-documented. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced; tens of thousands terrorised, persecuted and ethnically cleansed; and many hundreds summarily slaughtered.

But the Arab League has been mute. There have been no resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council or by the General Assembly. Not a word is heard from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or any of its special committee dedicated investigating Israeli transgressions. And not a peep from the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights.

All remain silent.

Of the 1991 Kuwaiti mass expulsion of 300,000 Palestinians, one observer lamented: “You can call it deportation… But I call it the third catastrophe after 1948 and 1967. Imagine what would happen if Israel deported 300,000 people. The whole world would be up in arms. But when an Arab deports or kills his Arab brother, it’s all right; nothing happens.”


But those who dare to speak up for Israelis against BDS or defend Netanyahu’s actions are subject to all manner of verbal or physical abuse., especially on the university campus. It is almost a conspiracy of silence: a global collusion to demonise Israel and deflect from the greater horror the world is about to face.

But to penalise a 13-year-old Israeli child for the actions of her country’s government is not just petty: it is singly spiteful, educationally malicious and racially vindictive. After all, Dr Levine spurned this child’s innocent questions purely because they came from an Israeli Jew: there was no enquiry at all into the child’s (or parents’) personal political beliefs (should they have any).

Marsha Levine doesn’t give a fig for Palestine or the Palestinians: she just hates Jews, who, she told the Jewish Chronicle, “have become Nazis”. She justified her response to this child thus:

I didn’t ask her to email me. I don’t know how she got my email address. I can do whatever I want. I didn’t invite her to email me. If she wanted to read anything I had written she could find it on the internet.

I made the decision that I have the choice not to waste my time on people who tread on the rights of other people. I didn’t do anything to her. 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 and I sent her a link. I did it as a matter of conscience. The way Israel treats Palestinians is totally disgusting.

The violence against Palestinians never stops. 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.

Jews have turned themselves into monsters? The Jews have become the Nazis? The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Marsha Levine isn’t an objective, compassionate critic of Israeli politics: she is an antisemitic, racist bigot. The child asked about the bread and fish of equine history: Marsha Levine gave her the stones and snakes of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

Whether professional educators or not, the mature, adult parental impulse is to guide children to turn their callow eyes to the light so that they might see and understand for themselves. Their ideas are formed through inquiry and interrogation, chiming with their developing tastes and interests. They derive knowledge of what is good and true as they grow in wisdom, sitting at the feet of the wise and keeping company with selfless and steadfast of society. Education builds character and transforms the mind. Sadly, not even a Cambridge PhD enlightened Marsha Levine in the philosophy and purpose of education.