In memory of Tanya Reinhart

One of Israel’s finest intellectuals has died:

Linguist and left-wing activist Professor Tanya Reinhardt died in New York on Saturday at age 63.

Reinhardt, one of the most outspoken representatives of the radical Israeli left, was a fierce critic of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, saying they represented a perpetuation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. She was also a proponent of an academic boycott of Israeli universities to protest the occupation.

After receiving a master’s degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Reinhardt wrote her doctoral thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under renowned linguist Noam Chomsky.

Her contributions to linguistic theory dealt with the connection between meaning and context, and the interface between syntax and systems of sound.

From 1977, Reinhardt taught courses in linguistics and literature at Tel Aviv University, including classes in critical reading of media and the analysis of discourse based on Chomsky’s methods.

For the last 15 years she also taught at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

In December 2006, Reinhardt left Israel and settled in New York to teach at New York University.

Reinhardt and those close to her said the change in the university’s relationship to her was made in response to her statements calling for an academic boycott of Israel.

Reinhardt espoused the principle of non-violent resistance, and was among the leaders of the left-wing activists who called for boycotts of the 1996 and 2001 elections.

She was active in recent years in Israeli-Palestinian efforts against the West Bank separation fence and the seizure of land from Palestinians for its construction.

Reinhardt was married to poet and translator Aharon Shabtai.

During her trip to Australia last year, Reinhart revealed the bankruptcy of Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.

I spent time with Reinhart when I was in Israel in early 2005. She was generous, fiercely independent and angry at the ways in which the international community continually ignored Israel’s human rights abuses.

Her work will live on.