Israeli professor says West Bank university 'wrong place' for conference

Open letter calls for this week’s conference to not ‘legitimize occupation’

Ariel University in the West Bank (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Ariel University in the West Bank
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Professor Ofer Aharony of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot wrote on Monday Ariel University in the West Bank is the wrong venue for a science conference. Aharony, together with 14 other academics, published an open letter in The Guardian referring to the conference on cosmology and particle physics that is scheduled to take place this week at Ariel University in the West Bank.
The university has been the target of previous petitions by Israeli professors, as reminded by Aharony in the letter.
“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,” he said. “Don’t let science legitimize Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Aharony noted that according to international NGO Human Rights Watch, Ariel’s “development is inseparable from a history of continuous dispossession of Palestinians from their land and restrictions on their freedom of movement.”
Israeli professors expressing their own political opinions about settlements has stirred controversy in the past years. Earlier in 2018, the Council for Higher Education elaborated a new academic code of ethics to be implemented in 2019 which intends to ban professors who promote academic boycott of Israeli universities.
Five principles comprise the code, including a ban on lecturers from promoting academic boycott of Israel, as well as a ban on promoting party propaganda in classrooms. It also prohibits lecturers from presenting personal political beliefs as those belonging to the institution.
“It is inconceivable that such a thing can pass unnoticed,” said Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg.
Im Tirtzu is a grassroots Zionist movement in Israel. It advocates for the pro-Israel voice on Israeli campuses and has caused public uproar in past years for a controversial campaign which featured a list of Israeli artists the organization accused as being foreign-agent moles for left-wing groups, which the movement later apologized for.
Peleg added that “if the academic code of ethics was created for any purpose, it is to combat academic boycotts of Israel.”
Weizmann Institute stated that “Professor Aharony clearly noted that he is addressing the conference participants as a private citizen. As such, he is entitled to express his opinions and his worldviews.”