(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Some 20 scientists, including an Israeli professor, wrote an open letter to the organizers of the 2019 International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) against holding its July competition in Israel.
The letter was signed by Professor emeritus Emmanuel Dror Farjoun of the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Though Farjoun no longer actively works at the university, his author page and contact information continue to appear on the university’s website.
“The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has lecturers from all sides of the political divide,” the university’s international media director, Tali Aronsky, told The Jerusalem Post. “We maintain a respectful, academic environment on our campuses and do not police statements made outside the classroom.
“In this particular case, Prof. Farjoun is retired,” Aronsky continued.
The open letter is being hosted on the official website of the BDS movement and was disseminated to the media. The IPhO is the premier international physics competition for high school students that includes competitors from some 80 countries.
The letter protests holding the contest in Israel due to what it describes as Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights, including the right to education.
“We the undersigned protest against the organization of the next International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) in Tel Aviv, Israel, from the 7th to the 15th of July 2019,” the letter begins. “The organizing committee states that the aim of the International Science Olympiad is to plant ‘the seeds of cooperation and friendship among students from all over the world.’ Under the present circumstances, citizens of many countries are de facto excluded from entering Israel and attending the IPhO, not to mention Palestinian students from the West Bank and Gaza.”
Specifically, the protesters write, they would like to draw attention to the “serious situation facing Palestinian school children, students and teachers. The people in Gaza live under a harsh blockade, students and academics cannot leave even if they have a scholarship to study abroad. The people in the West Bank live under military occupation and are routinely detained by Israeli forces.
“We call on all students and mentors from all over the world not to participate to the next International Physics Olympiad in Israel and to stand for Human rights of the young Palestinian pupils and students, including their right to education,” the letter continues. “We call on the boards of other International Science Olympiads to refrain from organizing their future contests in Israel, as long as it continues its military occupation and apartheid policy, in defiance of international law.”
Farjoun is an outspoken proponent of the BDS movement. In 2006, he penned an article titled “Boycott,” in which he stated that “the academic boycott is legitimate and necessary.”
Farjoun was an active professor at Hebrew University at the time.
While he is the only Israeli signatory on the document, there are 19 others, including 13 academics from France, two from the United States, two from Canada and one each from Argentina and the United Kingdom.
The US signatories are Michael Harris, professor of mathematics at Columbia University in New York, and George P. Smith, professor emeritus of biological science at the University of Missouri. Smith is a 2018 Nobel laureate in chemistry.
Matan Peleg, CEO of the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu, expressed concern about Farjoun’s signature on such a letter.
“While tremendous amounts of resources are invested in Israel and throughout the world to combat the international BDS movement, there are professors at Hebrew University undermining these efforts by promoting BDS from within Israel,” Peleg told the Post. “It is disgraceful that Hebrew University, which is supposed to be a beacon of academic light, has become a political incubator of anti-Zionist professors who devote their lives to attacking the State of Israel.”
Earlier this month, the Post reported that HU professor Amiram Goldblum called pro-Israel student activists “Nazi dogs” and threatened to prevent them from getting accepted to advanced degrees. Last month, 10 HU professors were among the signatories of a letter sent to the German government urging them to reject their “BDS is Antisemitism” law.
Added Peleg, “The University must immediately work to root out this severe phenomenon.”
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