UK museums won't boycott Israeli exhibition

400 UK academics demand museum stop promoting scientists "complicit in Israeli occupation."

anti israel in spain 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
anti israel in spain 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Pro-Palestinian activists are expected to turn out in force Thursday at London and Manchester's Science Museums to demonstrate against a science day event for high school students that will look at the contribution of Israeli science to the world. Organized by the Zionist Federation of the UK, some of Israel's leading scientists will talk to over 1,000 students, from an array of social and religious backgrounds, at Israel Science Day. The 11th and 12th grade students will listen to lectures, presentations and take part in workshops with the Israeli scientists, who herald from all of Israel's leading universities. An exhibition of innovative Israeli products that have impacted on the world will also be a part of the day. The event is to raise awareness of the innovative and vital contribution of Israeli science to the lives of people around the world and to encourage students to study science subjects at university. In a letter published in The Guardian newspaper last month, around 400 pro-Palestinian academics called for the museum to cancel the event as it promotes Israeli universities "whose research was used in the country's military campaign in Gaza" and are "complicit in the Israeli occupation and in the policies and weaponry so recently deployed to such disastrous effect in Gaza." Signatories included Mona Baker, an Egyptian academic at Manchester University who fired two Israeli academic from the editorial board of her journal in 2002; Steven Rose, from the Open University, who was one of the first to promote the idea of a boycott of Israeli academia in 2002, and Jonathan Rosenhead, a London School of Economics academic who recently returned from a trip to Gaza with the Free Gaza movement, where he met with Hamas officials. In a statement, the Science Museum said the event had been planned for nearly a year and has no political theme. "It is aimed at all secondary schools, the majority of which are non-Jewish. Scientists speaking at the event include a marine biologist, a physicist who works on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, a nanotechnology expert, a water scientist and a geneticist," the statement said. It continued by saying the museum stood by its decision to host the event: "The Science Museum is aware that a number of groups and individuals have publicly criticized the museum for holding this event. The museum is an apolitical organization and this is a scientific event sponsored by an organization from a country with which the UK has normal diplomatic relations. "Having considered the issue very carefully, and while fully respecting the right for everyone to express their views, the Science Museum believes that not to proceed with the event would mean taking a political stand, which would be wholly inappropriate," the statement concluded. Lior Ben Dor, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London, said that "science transcends borders and continents and therefore, one does not need to be a great scientist to understand that the Israel bashers have crossed the border towards insanity." A letter from leading Jewish and non-Jewish scientists opposing the call to cancel the event will be published in the Independent newspaper on Thursday.