Logistical Support UAV developed for the military supply chain. Photo: Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering

BDS: Italian academics call for boycott of Israeli universities

PNN/Bethlehem

Almost 170 academics from more than 50 Italian universities and research institutes have signed a petition committing to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It was launched in solidarity with the BDS Campaign. 

The Italian call, which was published Wednesday, January 27, is signed by 168 Italian academics from more than 50 institutes, including the universities of Rome, Turin and Florence, as well as the European University Institute.

It focuses on the Technion Institute of Haifa due to its role in supporting and maintaining Israel’s policies of dispossession and military violence against the Palestinian population.

The petition urges Italian institutions and their colleagues to suspend all forms of institutional collaboration with the Technion once that a great number of Italian universities such as the Polytechnic Universities of Milano and Turin and the universities of Cagliari, Florence, Perugia, Rome and Turinhave have cooperation agreements with it.

Below, the entire letter:

THE CALL

We, the undersigned scholars and researchers at Italian universities are deeply troubled by the collaboration between the Israel Institute of Technology “Technion” and Italian universities, including the Polytechnic of Milan, Polytechnic of Turin, the University of Cagliari (medicine) , Florence University (medicine), the University of Perugia, the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and “Roma 3”, the University of Turin.

Israeli universities collaborate on military research and development of weapons used by the Israeli army against the Palestinian population, providing undeniable support to the military occupation and colonization of Palestine. [1] Technion is involved more than any other university in the Israeli military-industrial complex. [2] The Institute carries out research in a wide range of technologies and weapons used to oppress and attack Palestinians. For example, one of its best known projects led to the development of remote control functions on the Caterpillar “D9” bulldozer  used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian homes and the implementation of a method for detecting underground tunnels, developed specifically to maintain Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip. [3]

Technion develops joint research programs and collaborates with the Israeli army and the main weapons manufacturing companies in Israel, including Elbit Systems. Among the largest private weapons producers, Elbit Systems manufactures the drones used by the Israeli army to fire on civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008-2009 [4] and in 2014 and provides surveillance equipment for Israel’s Apartheid Wall. [5] In addition, Technion trains its engineering students to work for companies directly involved in the development of complex weapons systems. For example, Elbit Systems has funded approximately half a million dollars in scholarships as a reward for Technion students who carry out such research. [6]

Technion also has close relations with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a major government-sponsored weapons manufacturer, which developed an advanced system of protection for Israeli Merkava tanks. The institute has also promoted a master’s degree in business management adapted specifically for Rafael managers, further strengthening the relationship between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex. [7] Just as other Israeli universities, Technion rewards its students completing  their compulsory military service. For example, military reservists who participated in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-2009 were granted additional academic benefits beyond those normally provided for reservists. [8]

The operation of the vast Israeli military-industrial complex largely depends on the willingness of governments, companies and research centers around the world to collaborate with universities and research centers in Israel. The longstanding and active ties Technion maintains with the Israeli military and weapons industry makes it directly complicit in their violations of international law. Accordingly, cooperation with Technion means becoming an active participant in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid and, as such, in the system of oppression that denies Palestinians their most basic human rights.

We therefore call on fellow scholars and researchers to end all forms of complicity with the Israel military-industrial complex and urge the suspension of all forms of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Technion.

In addition, in response to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel [9] until it ends the systematic violations against the Palestinian people, we declare that we will not accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions; we will not act as referees in any of their processes; we will not participate in conferences funded, organized or sponsored by them, or otherwise cooperate with them. However, in compliance with the guidelines of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [10], we will continue to work and cooperate with our Israeli colleagues individually.

Given that critical intellectuals, free spirits and men and women of conscience have historically taken the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa;

considered that a growing number of universities [11], associations or individual academics [12] and student groups [13] around the world have organized against the collaboration with Israelis universities and research centers complicit in violations of international law and human rights, and fully consistent with the international campaigns for the revocation of the agreements with Technion [14];

We invite all those in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle to join the BDS campaign until Israel recognizes the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and complies with international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The BDS movement rejects all forms of racial, political, religious and gender discrimination, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all ideologies based on alleged ethnic or racial supremacy.

We further appeal to student associations, solidarity movements and all those who believe in justice to continue their mobilizations to pressure the relevant parties to suspend the agreements between Technion and Italian universities and research centers as well as to organize protests, debates and actions aimed at raising awareness among academic communities on the implications of collaboration with Technion and in general with Israeli universities and research centers.

Italian Campaign for the Revocation of Agreements with Technion

The Israeli committee of university heads responded to the Italian call saying that:

“Israeli universities are under attack from the BDS movement as well as other parties, who are distributing deceitful and inciting material against Israel and its higher academic institutions. The committee of university heads is acting with everything it has against this ugly phenomenon. But it’s not quite enough. We request the involvement of the state to act via all possible means to stop this dangerous process.”

The Italian call is just the latest in the BDS academic campaign. In recent months, over 500 academics in the United Kingdom, 450 in Belgium, 200 in South Africa and 120 in Ireland have signed similar pledges.

The number of academic associations supporting the Palestinian call for boycotts continues to grow and includes the American Anthropological Association, National Women’s Studies Association, American Studies Association, African Literature Association, Association for Asian American Studies, Association for Humanist Sociology, Critical Ethnic Studies Association, National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the Peace and Justice Studies Association.

More information on the Italian campaign can be found here:  https://stoptechnionitalia.wordpress.com/the-call/