Gideon Levy owes an apology to each one of the IDC students he offended by calling undemocratic.

In an article on these pages last week, I was said to possess "dangerous and dark views", and it was claimed that I am raising "a generation ignorant of democracy" at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Because I had expressed reservations about the B'Tselem organization, columnist Gideon Levy concluded that I favored a society devoid of self-criticism ("Democracy according to Reichman," Haaretz May 20 ).

I am absolutely in favor of self-criticism. After Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Prof. Amnon Rubinstein and I published a demand for a state inquiry. Monitoring the Israeli military's behavior in the territories is a positive thing, if its aim is to improve the morality of our armed forces.

My difficulty with B'Tselem is not related to the subjects the organization deals with, but has to do with the politics of the people who head it. People who try to impose their views by forcible means such as boycotts by foreign states and organizations, who advocate actions aimed at liquidating the Jewish majority in this country by means of giving the Palestinians the right of return or establishing a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, are interested, in my view, in spreading anti-Zionist propaganda and not in redressing injustice.

Some will claim that it makes no difference if there's a Jewish or a Muslim majority here, that the nation state is an anachronism, and that the main thing is that we should live under a regime of "human rights."

No one in Israel prevents the ideologues of post-Zionism from having their say. The problem is that anyone who takes a principled stand against them is immediately accused of incitement and causing damage to democracy.

It is almost certain that a state with a Muslim majority will function in the same way as most Muslim states do, and in general binational (as distinct from multinational ) states are characterized by internal disputes. But beyond this, opposing the idea of "the Jewish state" is tantamount to opposing the core constitutional concept of Israel itself, namely maintaining a state that is Jewish and democratic.

Moreover, the existence of a Jewish nation-state is a uniting adhesive, a reason for our achievements, the source of our devotion, and the hope of generations. There are many partners to the vision of establishing an exemplary society here, and there is room for criticism, but those who come out against the very backbone of our existence should not be surprised if they are not accepted as partners.

The B'Tselem booth that gave rise to this discussion was part of Democracy Day at IDC, but Levy nevertheless pronounced that we do not teach democracy.

Top scholars of this generation, the possessors of differing opinions, people responsible for shaping Israel's constitutional and democratic principles, are on our faculty. IDC educates toward the values of democracy, liberty and responsibility, encouraging students to advance their personal enterprise alongside social commitment and responsibility.

IDC is the only institution is Israel that is teaching refugees from Darfur, and also the only one that maintains academic cooperation projects with Al-Quds University and with the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman. Recently we waged a successful struggle to secure entry visas for two female students from Jordan who are now enrolled with us.

Levy calls the IDC "an institution of army officers and the rich" although it has never received any public financial support, and every sixth student receives financial help. The "Keren Or" (Ray of Light ) program in computer sciences gives students from poor socio-economic backgrounds full scholarships, and further resources are invested in projects for young people with leadership potential from the Ethiopian community. Our students take part in dozens of projects that assist poor people.

Levy owes an apology to each one of these students and to the scholars of the IDC.


The writer is the founding president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.