Academics & Scientists Call For Boycott Of Israeli Conference In Occupied Territories

Banner on the ‘Justice Now’ demonstration in London earlier this year demanding a boycott of Israel
Banner on the ‘Justice Now’ demonstration in London earlier this year demanding a boycott of Israel

IN an Open Letter published on Friday in the Guardian newspaper, 15 academics and scientists from around the world expressed opposition to holding a conference on cosmology and particle physics in the Israeli Ariel University because it is located in an illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory.

‘We are writing to express our view that Ariel University in the occupied West Bank is the wrong venue for a conference on cosmology and particle physics starting on Monday 3 September and running until 6 September,’ said the letter. The settlements are illegal under international law and have been denounced by the International Court of Justice and numerous UN resolutions.

‘Human Rights Watch has noted that Ariel’s “development is inseparable from a history of continuous dispossession of Palestinians from their land and restrictions on their freedom of movement”.’

The academics said that due to its location in occupied land, Ariel University is excluded from receiving funds from the European Union, US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development.

In 2012, more than 1,200 Israeli faculty members signed a petition opposing the establishment of Ariel, describing it as an attempt to recruit the Israeli academia into the service of the occupation and settlement efforts.

They called on fellow academics and scientists not to engage in activities at Ariel University because it will be tantamount to accepting Israeli annexation of occupied territories and normalising the occupation.

‘We, the undersigned, believe that participating in any activities held in a settlement amounts to accepting the Israeli government’s policy of gradually annexing the occupied territories to Israel.

‘We call upon our colleagues and the wider scientific community to consider these facts before engaging in any activities related to Ariel, and not to take part in any attempts to use science to normalise the occupation of the Palestinian territories.’

The letter was signed by:

• Prof Ofer Aharony Weizmann Institute

• Prof Imad Barghouthi, Al Quds University

• Prof Suleiman Baraka, Al Aqsa University-Gaza and Virginia Tech

• Prof Robert Brandenberger, McGill University

• Prof Anne-Christine Davis, University of Cambridge

• Prof John Ellis, King’s College London

• Prof David Gross, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara

• Prof Thomas Hertog, KU Leuven

• Dr David Marsh, University of Cambridge

• Prof Ann E Nelson, University of Washington

• Dr Syksy Räsänen, University of Helsinki

• Prof Martin Rees, University of Cambridge

• Prof Nathan Seiberg, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

• Prof Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute

• Prof Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Prieton

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership are considering going to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Security Council to challenge the US decision stopping all aid to the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, which was created by an UNGA decision in 1949, in order to take the necessary measures to prevent getting the situation out of hand, said presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh on Saturday.

He said in a statement that UNRWA was established by a UNGA resolution in 1949, which stipulates that it will continue its role until a solution to the refugee issue is found. He said President Abbas will touch on this matter when he addresses the UNGA later this month when he speaks about important issues such as the refugees and Jerusalem.

‘This American decision does not serve peace, but rather promotes terrorism in the region and is also an attack on the rights of the Palestinian people,’ he said, pointing out that this US decision is only one in a series of decisions and policies that are hostile to the Palestinian people, which include Jerusalem, attempting to separate Gaza from the West Bank and now ending all aid to UNRWA.

Abu Rudeineh stressed that this decision violates all UN resolutions and therefore requires from the United Nations to take a firm stand against it and to take the proper decision regarding it. ‘No matter the number of conspiracies aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause, this will only increase the resolve of the Palestinian people and their leadership to continue in the struggle and steadfastness to thwart all these conspiracies and achieve our legitimate rights by establishing our independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital with all its holy places and a just agreed solution to the refugee issue in accordance with the UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative,’ concluded the president’s spokesman.

• The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep regret towards the United States’ decision to end all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), on Friday.

The spokesperson of Guterres, Stephane Dijarric, said in a statement ‘we regret the United States’ decision to provide no further funding to UNRWA, which provides essential services to Palestine refugees and contributes to stability in the region.’

He added that ‘UNRWA has a strong record of providing high-quality education, health and other essential services, often in extremely difficult circumstances, to Palestine refugees who are in great need.’

The Secretary-General called upon other countries to help fill the remaining financial gap in order for the UNRWA to be able to continue to provide vital assistance. The spokesperson of UNRWA, Chris Gunness, also expressed the agency’s ‘deep regret and disappointment’ towards the decision.

Gunness tweeted on his official Twitter account that ‘this decision is all the more surprising given that UNRWA and the United States renewed a funding agreement in December 2017 which had acknowledged the successful, dedicated and professional management of the Agency.’

‘We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centres, and emergency assistance programmes are ‘irredeemably flawed’. These very programmes have a proven track record in creating one of the most successful human development processes and results in the Middle East. The international state community, our donors and host countries have consistently praised UNRWA for its achievements and standards.’

He also said that UNRWA ‘will continue to provide high quality services and assistance to over 5.4 million Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.’

• The government of Germany pledged to increase funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a response to the United States’ decision to cut all funding to the agency. The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the funding crisis for the UNWRA was fuelling uncertainty.

Maas said that ‘the loss of this organisation could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction’.

Germany has already provided $94 million in funds for UNRWA this year and that the country was preparing to increase its contribution, Maas added.

Maas said that it is obvious that the added funds would not cover a $217 million deficit left by the US withdrawal, however, he urged the European Union and other states to work towards ‘a sustainable finance basis for the organisation.’