May. 31, 2011

International rock star and activist Bob Geldof, KBE challenged the political leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to move beyond their “narrow and restricted” viewpoints and understand that only through education could there be any move beyond the “rejectionism of now”. 

“Only through education and the expansion of the mind can we relieve the siege of the soul, the ghetto of the mind. How can political leaders be so narrow and restricted to understand that it was only the knowledge of the mind that kept them going through the years,” the force behind eradicating poverty in Africa demanded upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Monday night.  

“I reject the rejectionism of now. The two sides must have leaders that one day must sit down and talk, that respect one another.  I am certain that where it begins is in the expansion of the mind that enables creativity,” he said, adding that he was qualified to express these sentiments as an Irish citizen who grew up in a country at war with itself.  

Eminent British historian and honorary doctorate recipient Sir Martin Gilbert called for universities to be a “forum for discussion and not quarrels” as he vigorously rejected calls for an academic boycott of Israeli universities. 

“The world of academia knows no borders and rises above petty quarrels. Let universities be a forum for discussion, a place for harmony not hatred,” he told the audience at BGU’s Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva. 

University of Miami President Prof. Donna E. Shalala echoed Gilbert’s calls to reject an academic boycott.

“It is vital to condemn discrimination against Israeli universities. The more we communicate ideas the stronger the bridges we will build,” the distinguished academic and former US government official declared.  She added that as a Lebanese-American she was deeply touched to receive the honorary doctorate. 

BGU and the University of Miami signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier in the day to promote cooperation between the two universities.  

BGU conferred five honorary doctorates on Monday night to distinguished individuals for a lifetime of achievement as part of the University's 41st Annual Board of Governors Meeting. The recipients included Prof. France A. Córdova, Bob Geldof KBE, Sir Martin Gilbert, Prof. Donna E. Shalala, and Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen. 

BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi remarked at the event, “Our ceremony this evening celebrates a group of individuals who each in their own way, has benefitted mankind by making a major contribution to education, to society and to the world. These are people who effect change and create an impact which resounds amongst communities and nations.” 

“Your actions and accomplishments are models and inspiration for all of us here today,” she added. 

The five recipients were given scrolls with a personal dedication.  

Here are excerpts from the scrolls:


Prof. France A. Córdova, USA: In appreciation of a highly regarded academic, President of Purdue University, Indiana, who has guided the institution towards academic excellence, pluralism, equality and  social justice; in honor of a brilliant, award-winning researcher in the field of astrophysics, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, who was appointed the youngest ever chief scientist at NASA and who won the organization's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal; and with gratitude to an influential leader among the Hispanic community in the United States, who has made a significant contribution to the promotion of students from minorities and women in academia by providing equal opportunities for all people to achieve their goals.


Bob Geldof KBE, UK: In recognition of a talented singer, songwriter and actor and a prominent fighter for human rights and aid for the poor, whose inspiring actions have raised awareness around the world of poverty and famine in Africa; in acknowledgement of his long-standing contribution to the global music industry and his dedication to the noble cause of supporting those in need; in admiration for an exceptional artist who has produced international events, including the notable Live Aid and Live-8 concerts, all the revenues from which were designated to eradicating hunger in Africa; and in honor of a man for whom peace between all people is close to his heart, and who devotes his time and efforts to creating a just and better future for coming generations.


Sir Martin Gilbert, UK: In recognition of a leading historian of the modern world, one of the most prominent researchers of 20th century political and military history, whose penetrating vision and original thinking set down the essential foundations for studying international relations, thus facilitating our understanding of developments unfolding today; in acknowledgement of the author of numerous scholarly books on a broad range of subjects that provide a rich mine of information for future generations, including the official biography of Sir Winston Churchill and pioneering historical atlases; who has loyally served his country as a member of the official governmental commission of enquiry into the war in Iraq and as a representative at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva; and in deep appreciation of a loyal friend of the State of Israel, who has provided an enduring voice for those whose  stories would otherwise not have been told.


Prof. Donna E. Shalala, USA: In recognition of a woman of action who has dedicated her life to public service, promoting health and education to bridge social inequalities; in acknowledgement of the leadership and vision of the President of the University of Miami, who has led the institution to remarkable achievements; with respect for an eminent political scientist, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, who has mentored generations of students as President of Hunter College and Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison; in appreciation of one of the first volunteers in the Peace Corps, who harnessed her multiple skills and deep commitment for the benefit of humanity while filling key roles in the American government, including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.


Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, UK: In appreciation of a man who began his career as a financial journalist and went on to found a thriving publishing group, a successful entrepreneur and owner of leading theaters in the United Kingdom who has left his mark on the cultural world; in acknowledgement of the Chairman of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts who has produced renowned plays including the world’s longest running show “The Mouse Trap”; with esteem for the initiator of projects that provide new opportunities for thousands of young people in the UK and elsewhere, driven by his fervent belief in their ability to realize their potential; in honor of a man who harnessed his talents on behalf of the State of Israel and who, as Chairman of the ICA, contributes significantly to the development of the Negev and Galilee by promoting agriculture, rural tourism, education and scientific research; and in deep gratitude to a true friend for his active involvement in fostering higher education in the periphery and for his support of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev for the benefit of the residents of arid zones in Israel and around the world.


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Above: Dr. Bob Geldof making his acceptance speech.



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Above from left to right: Sir Stephen Wiley-Cohen, Bob Geldof, BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi, Prof. Donna E. Shalala, Prof. France A. Cordova, Sir Martin Gilbert.