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On the same day that Prof. Ada E. Yonath, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for X-Ray Crystallography, Israeli scientists from Ariel University of Samaria were still not being allowed to participate in the Solar Decathlon Europe competition to be held in Spain in 2010 due to "political guidelines."
On Wednesday, Shimon Samuels, director of International Relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Europe, called for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), a branch of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), to condemn Spain for its "discriminatory behavior" in violating its commitments to the OSCE for barring the Israeli team in the competition.
In the letter, Samuels argued that barring the Israeli team demonstrates "political discrimination against free academic discourse, [an] impugning of their professional reputation and [the decision] potentially damages the career advancement, of those disinvited.
"In a country where polls indicate a high increase in media-inspired anti-Semitic expression, this decision by the Spanish authorities certainly violates the OSCE Berlin Declaration on Anti-Semitism of April 24, 2004, and the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, disseminated in March 2004 on the grounds of incitement to hatred."
Samuels added, "The Spanish action, moreover, is collective punishment of both the Jewish and Arab students of the targeted Israeli university."
Before being dismissed, the Israeli team had worked for two years designing a self-sufficient home named the "Tent of Abraham" which uses solar power as its sole means of energy requiring half the amount of power needed to run a regular house.
Samuels wrote the decision limits the sharing of "vital knowledge for the use of free solar-powered housing."
In late September, after the Israeli team had reached the final round of 20, the decision to bar the Israeli team was made by the Spanish Housing Ministry. The dismissal was explained by the ministry as "European Union political guidelines" because Ariel University is located in the West Bank.
Ministry spokesman Javier Ramos Guallart sent a letter to Ariel University stating: "The fact that your center is actually located in the occupied territories, and being obliged to respect the European Union position in relation to this matter, we are forced to inform you that the continuation of your center in this competition will not be possible."
Calls to Guallart for comment on the claim that Span was in possible violations of the OSCE declarations went unreturned Wednesday.
In a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Michael Salberg, Director of International Affairs of the Anti-Defamation League said his organization had also recently written to the Spanish government and the US Dept. of Energy complaining about the decision and calling for a reversal.
"Put in the context of today's news that yet another Israeli has won the Nobel Prize," Salberg said, "the barring appears to be a prime example of discrimination against Israel and Israeli scientists that directly interferes with the benefits of Israeli technology being shared with the world. Spain has prevented Europe from getting the benefit from the Israeli team's know-how. It just does not make any sense."
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