This week I spoke with Sarah Posner of Bloggingheads.tv about Friday's confrontation at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which saw thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews protesting the pluralistic prayer group Women of the Wall. I explain why I think this was a watershed moment for Israeli feminism, and put it in the broader context of last week's other feminist victories, including the introduction of a new bill aimed at criminalizing gender-based discrimination in Israel.
In our Bloggingheads conversation, Sarah and I also ask: Have Women of the Wall's goals become blurred, over time, with the goals of their American Jewish egalitarian supporters? To what extent do mainstream Israeli Jews support Women of the Wall—or even follow this story closely? And finally, were the thousands of ultra-Orthodox girls sent to protest Women of the Wall's activities inadvertently offered a radical opportunity to encounter feminist activism firsthand? Click through below to watch a clip, and then head over to the Bloggingheads site to watch the whole video.
A rusty, iron key to the past sits on a windowsill in my home. Three years ago, when the man I married left the refugee camp he was born and raised in to move to The States, this clunky key came with him. It is his prize possession. The key opens the door to a house that no longer exists, in a village that no longer exists called Dar Abayn. Dar Abayn is located underneath present-day Mahseya, which was founded by Israel in 1950, two years after my refugee’s grandparents fled their farming village and began the trail of tears that led them to Dheisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Six decades later, and older than dirt, they have never given up hope that they will someday miraculously return. That hope is symbolized by the keys they carry to this day.
A key belonging to the author's husband, a Palestinian descended from refugees who were expelled from what is today Israel during the state's founding, on top of a shirt commemorating the Nakba. (Maysoon Zayid)
Dar Abayn is one of the over 500 villages whose name is remembered by Palestinians on Nakba Day 2013. Now in its 65th year, Nakba Day has become a global event, making it a challenge for Israel to escape a history it would much rather forget. It is not a celebration, but a commemoration of all the cities and villages that were depopulated to make room for Israel in 1948, and the folks who lost everything in the process. My village, Deir Debwan, is not one of those villages. Nestled in the hills near Ramallah, we still exist. I like to tease my refugee husband by claiming that we weren’t yellow-bellied and didn’t run and get displaced like his people. We also weren’t being massacred and chased at that time, because my people lived on the right side of the Green Line. While hundreds of thousands, on the wrong side, ran for their lives during the original Nakba, some 150,000 Palestinians in grave danger held strong and refused to leave. They and their offspring now comprise the over 1 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship.
While some Israelis acknowledge the harsh reality of the Nakba, most seem to have severe issues with it. The Nakba deniers are a fun bunch. They claim Palestinians didn’t exist; that there was nothing there before Israel made the desert bloom and these so called refugees were just marauding gangs of Arabs that rushed to the empty land, when they heard the Jews were moving in. I like old people. They love to tell me their stories and I’ve talked to a bunch that fled during the Nakba. They most certainly did exist. They had communities, businesses, schools, fashion sense, and farms and they lost everything except those darn keys. As much as Israeli extremists like to deny it, the Nakba most definitely did occur and there are pictures to prove it.
I was not going to begrudge the Netanyahus their ice cream.
When it emerged in February that Israel’s Prime Minister was spending hundreds of dollars every month at a local ice cream parlor, I honestly thought “C’mon, now. Let the man have his ice cream!” Because you know what? He’s the Prime Minister, and I’m comfortable with the notion that heads of state get little perks here and there. You want $2,700 worth of ice cream every year? Go ahead. You’re Prime Minister.
But dagnabbit, even in those rare moments in which I’m feeling magnanimous toward Bibi, he has to come along and ruin it.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images
You see, on Monday we learned that the Netanyahus have been extravagant with much more than just dessert. According to Ynet, between 2009 and 2012 the Prime Minister’s food and hosting bills more than doubled; cleaning expenses went from $17,000 to $30,000; and “representation expenses”—clothes, shoes, makeup, and hair—“nearly doubled.”
And then, then—then there was the in-flight rest chamber.
In a rambling essay on Al Jazeera, Columbia University professor Joseph Massad seeks to establish what he calls the “anti-Semitic” roots of Zionism. It’s not the first time this year that an alleged relationship between Zionism and Nazism has been tossed into the wind. Back in January, Mahmoud Abbas made similar claims, prompting historian David N. Myers to respond in Open Zion.
But Massad’s argument goes beyond historical aspersion and into the realm of the philosophical. It can be summed up by this sentence:
What Israel and its American and European allies have sought to do in the last six and a half decades is to convince Palestinians that they too must become anti-Semites and believe as the Nazis, Israel, and its Western anti-Semitic allies do, that Jews are a race that is different from European races, that Palestine is their country, and that Israel speaks for all Jews.
Let’s start with the least controversial—but still lacking—of these three claims, namely that Israel and its allies attempt to cast Israel as the legitimate speaker of the Jewish people. Certainly there is some truth to this observation. But Massad misses an important component of the dynamic.
It seems as though in recent weeks, Israel’s Labor Party has returned its attention to the peace process. This is a good thing, because Shelly Yachimovich has an opportunity to push the issue and throw Labor’s weight behind real progress.
Yachimovich has urged Benjamin Netanyahu to respond positively to the revised Arab Peace Initiative and, even more interesting, has met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss how to move forward. What’s more, she did so without consulting her party, indicating she wants to both keep control over party ideas and to claim the spotlight on the issue.
Israeli Labour party leader Shelly Yachimovich attends a press conference in the Knesset. (Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images)
Although the Labor Party has long been identified as the political representative of the peace camp, these recent developments are noteworthy because Yachimovich made the decision to all but ignore the Palestinians, the settlements, and the peace process during the election campaign. She took heavy criticism for it; analysts thought she was being too cynical for playing politics. She certainly made mistakes, but I maintain that her election strategy was the right one for the time—Israelis were simply not interested in thinking about the peace process, and it’s not clear she could exude much credibility on the issue. But given that this is the most propitious moment for real progress in negotiations in a long time, this is an opportunity for Yachimovich to exert leadership and to make a real difference.
There is an odd convergence of themes around the festival of Shavuot. The Book of Ruth is read in synagogues, the enigmatic story of a stranger/convert (Ruth the Moabite) who makes her way into the Israelite family through a semi-illicit sexual encounter and then ironically becomes the mother of redemption (King David is born from her progeny). The festival also converges with the beginning of the recitation of the Book of Numbers that includes a string of conflicts from inside Israelite society, the Korah rebellion to unseat Moses, Pinhas’s murder of Zimri, and from without, Balak and Balaam’s attempt to curse the Israelites out of existence. Finally, Shavuot always falls in early summer, a time when people again take to the streets, where communal strife that simmered during the rainy winter months begins to emerge. This season gave us the social protests in Israel two years ago and always produces conflicts between the police and haredim on a variety of issues.
The blessing (or is it the curse?) of Balaam that Israel “shall dwell alone” (Numbers 23:9) still echoes throughout the Jewish world even as Zionism was supposed to accomplish just the opposite. “Normalization” was Herzl’s clarion call, “alienation” the spirit of the pre-Zionist Jewish diaspora, the Judaism of the ghetto. Normalization was not simply between Israel and the world but inside Israel as well, a society that did not live in the amoral universe of victimhood, did not blame all its troubles on anti-Semitism, a society where fear was not the norm but the exception. And yet, as this Shavuot season shows, normalization (tolerance being one of its salient features) is hardly a word to describe the internal strife that plagues contemporary Israel.
An Israeli policeman grabs an Ultra Orthodox Jewish man as he shouts slogans against the liberal Jewish religious group Women of the Wall on May 10, 2013 at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. (Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty Images)
While the conflict with the Palestinians is ongoing and the engine of occupation continues to churn, many Israelis seem almost bored by it all. Instead, internal eruptions have caught the headlines. Hate-speech from the hasbara machine and the righteous defenders of Israel has reached a heightened pitch against any who dare criticize Israel (Stephen Hawking and Dustin Hoffman being the latest victims). Anti-Semitic tropes are shamelessly deployed against Israel’s critics. Now that the government, after decades of inaction, has finally decided to allow Women of the Wall to pray at the Kotel, haredim gather to spit and throw stones and chairs at the women and their supporters (religious and secular) and unleash verbal abuse, calling the Israeli police “Nazis,” crossing a red line in the Jewish psyche.
"They stepped on me like a dog."
--Coptic Priest Father Arsanius on being beaten by Israeli police on Holy Saturday of Light.
- Settlers exhume graves, spray racist graffiti - Settlers from the Eli settlement exhumed a number of graves and sprayed racist graffiti in the Sawiya village near Nablus. He added that a plant nursery and two tractors, belonging to local Abdel Azziz Nasserallah, were also damaged in the attack. (Maan)
- Tel-Aviv: Left-wing activists commemorated the Nakba; Students protest - Arab and Jewish students demonstrated yesterday at Tel-Aviv University requesting to commemorate Naqba Day. Students and right-wing activists from 'Im Tirtzu' expressed opposition to the ceremony. Jerusalem police prepared for Nakba Daytomorrow by increasing forces, although it received no intelligence information about intentions to disturb the peace. (Israel Hayom, p. 11)
- 'PMO freezing Jerusalem construction for diplomatic reasons' - Plan to build 1,500 new houses in northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo on hold despite having necessary approvals. Housing official: We are not engaged in peace talks, but we are also not building. It is a lose-lose situation for us. (Israel Hayom)
- PA to stop paying Israeli prisoner fines in June - The boycott of fines levied by Israeli courts will begin on June 1. "Paying the fines to Israeli courts is theft, illegal economic plunder and funds the Israeli occupation," said Minister of Prisoners' Affairs. Relatives of prisoners on Thursday criticized the move. (Maan)
- IDF to stop using shells with white phosphorus in populated areas, state tells High Court- Human rights groups say the announcement does not obviate their demand for a prohibition against the munition, which they say killed dozens of Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- The inspectors poured chlorine into the cooking pots of the N. African migrants - Day after Health Ministry inspectors and Tel-Aviv municipality officials raided the restaurants of N. African migrants and poured chlorine bleach into their cooking pots, claiming poor conditions, the asylum seekers living in the area were still upset. "It was more humiliating than what we went through in Sinai." (Maariv, p. 6/NRG Hebrew andHaaretz+)
For the full News from Israel.
The new Israeli government recently raised the idea of amending the existing referendum law to require the Israeli people to vote on any future peace accord, along with other measures designed to raise the bar needed to pass an agreement. The current law from 2010 requires a national vote only in the event of concessions over territory Israel considers sovereign, such as East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. But Israel never formally annexed the West Bank. So in an imaginary world where Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are revived, a fantastical world where an agreement is reached, and a hallucinatory parallel universe where the leaders are actually prepared to sign and seal the deal to create a Palestinian state there, the Israeli people would have to vote on it first.
Does the Israeli public even want such a role? Is the country within the Green Line not already sufficiently democratic? Aren't elections lively and famously competitive enough, with over 30 parties contending in the last round?
In the first poll about this to be made public since the revival of the topic, conducted exclusively for Open Zion, we gave respondents two positions and asked which was closer to their view: "A referendum should be held on any final status accord with the Palestinians. Because the subject is so sensitive, it's important to check if the people support it," or "A referendum should not be held on a final status accord with the Palestinians, because the people already chose the government in a democratic process." The options were rotated so as not to bias the answers; the survey was conducted by New Wave Research, using the internet, among a representative sample of 500 adult Jewish Israelis, on May 7 (margin of error +/-4.4%).
The results of a New Wave Research poll of Israelis conducted exclusively for Open Zion on a potential referendum for Israeli peace with Palestinians. (Dahlia Scheindlin)
The poll found that for a clear majority of Jewish Israelis, vibrant democracy just isn't enough: 53 percent of respondents side with the view that on this sensitive subject, people should prove their support. One-third (34 percent) chose the option that democratic elections were sufficient, and about 14 percent either didn't know or expressed conflicting feelings (choosing "both" or "neither").
Rabbi Sholomo Amar has been the Sephardi Chief Rabbi in Israel since 2003, but his 10-year term is almost up, and he will soon be replaced. The man expected to be nominated by the Jewish Home party to replace him is none other than the current chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
Unfortunately, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu happens to be a racist. The most well-known incident came in 2010 when he purportedly ruled that it was forbidden by Jewish law to rent or sell property to Arabs. At the time, many of those in Safed felt his ruling was spot-on. A great many signs around town read: "Don't rent rooms to Arabs. Don't give work to Arabs. Don't give Arabs any foothold in our community." Perhaps the thing that got him in the most trouble was a letter, signed by more than 40 other municipal rabbis, in support of his ruling. The letter said that anyone who sold or rented to Arabs "causes his neighbor a great loss, and his iniquity is greater than can be borne." It also recommended communal ostracism for those who failed to comply:
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on June 14, 2005 in Israel. (Yoel Ben-Avraham / Flickr)
It is incumbent upon the seller's neighbors and acquaintances to warn and caution, first in private and then they are entitled to punish him in public, to distance themselves from him, to prevent trade from being done with him, not to have him read from the Torah and so forth until he reverses his decision that causes harm to so many people.
Although the charges of incitement brought against him were eventually dropped by the Ministry of Justice, it's hard to get past the fact that a letter like that was written at all, inspired by a man who may very well become the next decade-tenured Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.
As Peter Beinart wrote in his piece, “Collapse of the American Jewish Center?”, the way Alan Dershowitz was treated at the recent Jerusalem Post conference in New York is another indication of the marked rightward shift of many, if not most, of the traditional American Jewish organizations. Beinart’s observation that the decision by the leadership of these organizations to double down on an “Israel right or wrong” position, while at the same time trying to maintain nominal support for a two-state solution, is one of the main causes of this rightward movement.
This does not mean, however, that the community’s center has collapsed. What has happened is that these organizations have moved out of mainstream Jewish thought, making themselves less and less relevant to the debate. Their over-the-top attacks on Chuck Hagel reflect how far out on the limb some of these organizations are willing to go and how they are marginalizing themselves with their positions.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center on March 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Where Beinart errs is in defining the whole of the community in relation to these organizations, as being either with them (on the right) or against them (on the left). In this paradigm, the center is reduced to nothing more than its geometric definition—a middle point chronically subject to the shifting of the poles and, implicitly, without an ideological integrity of its own.
On May 8th, Israelis marked the 46th anniversary of Jerusalem Day. For those of you unfamiliar with the holiday, this annual love fest features angry mobs of Israelis of all ages, marching through the streets of the Old City in celebration of the reunification of Jerusalem. I have often wondered if part of the reason they are so angry is because, deep down inside, they know Jerusalem is nowhere near united.
Some of the fun-filled activities to partake in on Jerusalem Day include: blocking the entrances to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; bullying Palestinian shops in The Old City into closing; canceling the Muslim call to prayer; and running hog wild through the holiest of cities shrieking lovely epithets like, “Die Arab Die!” and random facts like "Mohammed is dead." How's that for unity?
Need more hate in your parades? Join the storming of the Damascus Gate and be sure to wear your most offensive t-shirt. May I recommend the one featuring a picture of the dome from The Dome of the Rock being demolished by a Caterpillar bulldozer? It's a fashion risk, but also an incitement must.
Stephen Hawking (L) visits Israel in 2006 (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images), and Israeli revelers entering the Old City on Jerusalem day. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty Images)
Jerusalem Day 2013 was a feel-good romp that ended with several Palestinians arrested, a gaggle of protestors beaten down, and one Mufti randomly detained for six hours. Is this a snapshot of what the future holds for Palestinians living in an “undivided” Jerusalem? A life of inequality where their shops are arbitrarily closed so bigots can frolic, where prayer calls and church bells are silenced on a whim, and where the omnipresent Israeli Army provides cover for the thugs who harass them? It sounds like paradise. Why wouldn’t the world want that instead of a mixed city where all can worship and buy useless tchotchkes freely?
I love a good museum fight. Symbolic kulturkampf (like the squabble over whether the Simon Wiesenthal Center was building its Museum of Tolerance on a Muslim graveyard) draws all the ire and bile of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but without, you know, actual artillery shells. This round of hostilities was ignited by Washington's journalism-themed Newseum, which included, in its list of “journalists who died or were killed while reporting the news,” Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, two Palestinians with Hamas affiliations killed by an Israeli Army airstrike during last November’s hostilities.
The usual suspects (right-wing blogger Jennifer Rubin, Adam Kredo of the neo-conservative Washington Free Beacon, the Anti-Defamation League) hollered angrily that the Newseum is honoring terrorists. Today, Newseum announced it will "re-evaluate their inclusion" on its list of journalists. So are al-Kumi and Salama heroic journalists, or scurrilous terrorists? The truth is, they are sort of both. Those outraged over Newseum’s decision are using “terrorist” sloppily, muddying the waters of international law and morality.
Journalists from different agencys run after an Israeli air strike on an office of Hamas television channel Al-Aqsa in Gaza City on November 18, 2012. (Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images)
Critics of the museum confuse two basic claims about the Palestinian journalists: first, that they were propaganda agents for Hamas, helping propping up a savage band of thugs, and second, that they were materially aiding a terrorist operation, and thus participating in hostilities as combatants. Anyone who doubts the first point is welcome to watch this video from their employer, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, in which Mickey Mouse menaces the Zionists with death. Hateful filth. And so it’s good that, as Tablet’s Adam Chandler noted back in November, the United States Treasury considers Al-Aqsa TV a “terrorist financing organization,” and has frozen its funds. Which means, technically, that Al-Aqsa TV’s employees are terrorists.
Technically, sure, but not in any way that’s relevant to the question of whether they deserved to be taken out by an IDF airstrike. That, according to the rules of law (as Human Rights Watch explains) depends on whether they were actually participating in hostilities. Anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist journalists remain civilians until they aid an ongoing attack. During World War II, for instance, Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl (who makes Al-Aqsa look like PBS), as vile as she was, was not fair game. For that, you don’t need to be a member, in the words of Israeli Army Spokesperson Avital Leibovich, of “legitimate media outlets.” You just need not to be a soldier. And no one on the right has supplied any evidence that al-Kumi and Salama were terrorists in the sense of actually being combatants.
On April 29, at Blair House, Arab League ministers led by Qatar's Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani reiterated their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, including a (by now, familiar) proposed finesse, that the 1967 border might be adjusted with land swaps to accommodate the large settlement blocs. Three days later, on May 1 (and again on May 3), Israeli aircraft attacked an apparent cache of Hezbollah-bound Iranian weapons near Damascus, attacks embattled President Assad called an act of war demanding retaliation, and which the same Arab League ministers, no friends of Assad, roundly condemned.
It is hard to imagine a juxtaposition capturing so vividly Israel's way forward in "the region." Benjamin Netanyahu's government did not exactly reject the Qatar initiative and even dispatched Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to explore things with Secretary Kerry. But the attacks in Damascus seem a truer, or at least more urgent, expression of popular attitudes the government derives its mandate from. Israelis have always seen the logic of current military preemption more clearly than that of eventual diplomatic engagement. This won't change.
In this image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News, smoke and fire fill the the skyline over Damascus, Syria, early Sunday, May 5, 2013 after an Israeli airstrike. (Ugarit News via AP video)
One former intelligence head—a man who, fearing a general regional war, has been outspoken in his opposition to attacks on Iranian nuclear installations and even advocated negotiations with Hamas—told me in Washington last week that if Iran grows its military footprint in Syria (elements of the Revolutionary Guard are already there), then all Israelis would be united behind the IAF attacking Iranian forces there. "We simply cannot tolerate Iranians on our borders," he said. And what of the Arab Peace Initiative? "The original Saudi Plan made no mention of Palestinian refugees," he added gravely. Hameivin yavin.
Stephen Hawking’s announcement that he is joining the Palestinian academic boycott on Israel is both hypocritical and counterproductive. By spurning the invitation to President Shimon Peres’s presidential conference for this spurious reason, this widely-respected scientist has sacrificed his credibility on the altar of Palestinian extremism and anti-Zionism. This is a man who has traveled to Iran and China with no compunction. This is a man who has not repudiated the United Kingdom or the United States for the controversial moves they have made in the fight against Islamist terrorism. And yet, he cannot visit liberal democratic Israel, to attend a conference convened by its left-leaning, peace-seeking President.
Boy, it is quite a coincidence. If we lived in a world in which some progressives boycotted Iran, and others boycotted China, and others boycotted Israel, perhaps Israel would take Hawking’s criticism more to heart. But the trendy selectivity of the pile-on is not credible. When, again and again, Israel is the first and only country fashionable intellectuals decide to boycott, we have to take former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s advice and challenge the “accuser” not the “accused.”
British physicist Stephen Hawking attends the 2010 World Science Festival opening night gala performance at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 in New York. (Evan Agostini / AP Photo)
Hawking’s decision gives the totalitarian anti-Zionists a victory they do not deserve. Like it or not, it puts him in league with the obstructionists, the extremists, the exterminationists. Boycotting a country is the equivalent of a blunt, lethal machete not a delicate scalpel. It rejects the country itself, not some of its controversial policies, saying that its actions are so heinous—so much worse than other countries you choose not to boycott—that you cannot interact with anyone there, with any aspect of civil society, even its critics.
"This is a theater of the absurd. The Netanyahu government has frozen construction for Jews and is handing out state land to Palestinians as a present."
--Settler official tells Maariv about government's plans to permit construction of new Palestinian city.
- Turkey: Israel to compensate only those who drop lawsuits - Deputy PM Arinc confirms reconciliation agreement will obligate families of Marmara raid victims to drop lawsuits against IDF officers. Families' rep: Inappropriate to talk compensation prior to removal of Gaza blockade, Turkish daily Zamaan reported. (Ynet)
- Palestinian Teachers denied access to school near Yatta - Israeli troops on Sunday morning stopped the teaching staff of a Palestinian school in Jinba south of Hebron in the southern West Bank - near the illegal Israeli outpost Mitzpe Yair. (Maan)
- Israeli settlers split over local IDF commander's West Bank policies - The Yesha Council representing West Bank municipalities is at odds with grassroots settler groups over whether or not to work with the head of the IDF Central Command, who some feel lack sensitivity to terror victims and give easy hand to Palestinian protesters. (Haaretz+)
- Abbas slams settler attacks, Al-Aqsa violations - President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday condemned settler attacks on Palestinians and violations at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. "We cannot stand idly by and allow such atrocities to continue," he said. (Maan)
- Israeli police, municipal staff deliver demolition orders in Silwan - Israeli police escorted staff of the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem on Sunday who hung demolition warrants on doors of four Palestinian families' homes in the Silwan neighborhood of (E.) Jerusalem. (Maan)
- Israeli interrogator accused of torture: Suspects must believe anything goes - Army major known as Capt. George, accused by Lebanese terrorist Mustafa Dirani of torture and rape, told Channel 2 News on Friday that terror suspects have to believe there are no boundaries to interrogation tactics. (Haaretz+)
- Israel detains ex-prisoner freed in Shalit deal - Israeli forces took Tahrir Sati al-Qinna, 35, and her brother Saddam, 25, to an unknown location after raiding their village, Kafr Qalil, south of Nablus. (Maan)
- Gaza ministry: Collaborator campaign a success - A recent Hamas campaign to target collaborators with Israel was a success, noting that Israeli intelligence activities had decreased along the northern Gaza border. All collaborators who handed themselves in during a month long amnesty were enjoying the guarantees promised at the start of the campaign, the government said. (Maan)
For the full News from Israel.
Matthew Kalman broke the story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s boycott of Israel. Then Cambridge University tried to falsely deny it.