The Academic Friends of Israel
Norwegian University to vote on Israel boycott
Vol 8 No10 5 November 2009
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the NTNU in Trondheim could become the first European university to adopt an academic boycott of Israel. The vote on a boycott proposal submitted by 34 professors at the NTNU will be taken by the University’s Board of Governors on 12 November.
The Professors’ letter calls for academic institutions to pressure Israel “so that real negotiations between Israel and democratically elected Palestinian authorities and the international society can begin." The letter also claims that places of Higher Education in Israel "have played a key role in the policy of oppression."
You are urged to sign a petition opposing the boycott proposal initiated by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) which has been signed by more than 2000 academics worldwide, including 13 Nobel laureates. Torbjorn Digernes, the Rector of the NTNU, which is a Norwegian State sponsored University, has according to some reports paid for a series of six anti-Israel hate lectures which have been held at the University this autumn. There is no precedent for this in the Western world. For the lectures they invited prominent anti-Israeli speakers -under the guise of supposed educated discourse and debate- to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The speakers include well known anti-Israelis, such as Ilan Pappe, Moshe Zuckerman, the American Stephen Walt.
It is worth noting what Professor Malcolm Grant, Chairman of the Russell Group of 20 British Universities and President and Provost of University College London, said about academic boycotts in 2007:
"We reject outright the call for an academic boycott. It is a contradiction in terms and in direct conflict with the mission of a university. It betrays a misunderstanding of the academic mission which is founded squarely on freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech. Any institution worthy of the title of university has the responsibility to protect these values, and it is particularly disturbing to find an academic union attacking academic freedom in this way.”
"The Russell Group universities will uphold academic freedom by standing firm against any boycott that threatens it."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has urged the European Union to disqualify any university that adopts an anti-Israel academic boycott from participating in the EU’s student exchange program, Erasmus. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is a participant in the Erasmus program It is very important that the International academic community makes their positions clear to NTNU before the vote next week.
Ronnie Fraser Director
The Academic Friends of Israel
SPME's Petition to Refute and Condemn the Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Campaign at Norway's Trondheim University
Nobel Laureates who have signed to date are: Kenneth Arrow (Economics), Aaron Cienchanover (Medicine and Physiology), Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics), Edmond Fischer (Medicine and Physiology), Ivar Giavever (Physics), Avram Hershko (Chemistry), Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry), Tim Hunt (Physiology and Medicine), Finn Kydland (Economics), Eric Maskin (Economics), Andrew Schally (Physiology and Medicine), Steven Weinberg (Physics), Torsten Wiesel (Medicine and Physiology).
“Norway University to vote next month on boycott of Israel” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1124667.html#at
NTNU Boycott Proposal
The boycott proposal was initiated with a petition signed by 34 staff members of NTNU and its neighboring Sor-Trondelag University College (HiST). The petition begins by stating:
Since 1948 the state of Israel has occupied Palestinian land and denied the Palestinians basic human rights. In December/January this year, Israel made a brutal attack on Gaza, resulting in immense human suffering. People all over the world were shocked by the attack, and it led to fierce protests...The petition goes on to charge Israel's academic institutions for enabling "the policy of oppression."
It details the allegations: A substantial proportion of academics are directly involved in the country's advanced weapon industry; social scientists play a central role in the construction of a nation of occupation; historians and archaeologists are important in the development of the Zionist ideology and renouncement of Palestinian history and identity. Israeli academic institutions systematically discriminate against Palestinian students.
The eleven Palestinian universities in Gaza and the West Bank are hampered in their activities and students and staff are under constant fear of harassment and disruption of studies and teaching. In these ways Israel goes against all the ideals of open universities and academic freedom.
The petition calls upon the boards of the NTNU and HiST to approve an academic boycott which would "cover the educational, research and culture institutions of the state of Israel and their representatives, regardless of religion or nationality" and "refrain from participating in any kind of academic or cultural cooperation with Israeli institutions and their representatives."
In addition, it urges the boycott to "to cooperate with, and give support to, institutions, organisations and persons working against the occupation and violation of the Palestinians' human rights."
Counter Boycott Petition
To the Boards of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Srr-Trrndelag University College (HiST) A group of employees at NTNU and HiST have earlier this year in an open letter requested their respective Boards to perform a cultural and academic boycott against Israel.
We who sign this letter are employees of the same institutions. We are generally positive to unbiased and objective internal discussions at NTNU/HiST on the Palestine-Israel conflict. However, we are of the opinion that it is very unfortunate if the institutions as such give their unreserved support to one of the parties in the conflict.
In our view, the following arguments support that the proposed boycott should be rejected: The primary tasks of NTNU/HiST are research and education, not constructing their own foreign policy. To take sides in difficult political issues gives the impression of not being objective and unbiased. This goes against the university role as a meeting place of a wide range of thoughts and ideas.
- To be associated with a controversial viewpoint in such a difficult conflict will have negative consequences for NTNU/HiST internationally. Do we really want to be known as the first western university to make an academic boycott against Israel?
- Within NTNU/HiST there are also different opinions on this conflict, and a decision of boycott will tend to make internal divisions. Even we who sign this petition have different views as to how the conflict should be solved.
- We do not know if NTNU/HiST have considered all the legal aspects of a possible boycott resolution. What means are for instance the institutions willing to employ against researchers who may defy the boycott? Will their salaries be reduced, or could they be fired?
- We do not believe that a boycott decision will contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict, but rather that it will result in an increased polarization.
- NTNU would also lose by cutting the ties of scientific contact and collaboration with the various internationally renowned academic groups of Israel.
- If NTNU/HiST decide to boycott Israel, it will also be very difficult to produce rational arguments for why we should not also boycott other nations who perform far worse human rights violations. It would thus mean that the institutions initiate an ongoing process where boycott will be used to flag our standpoint in other conflicts as well.
We therefore request that the Boards of NTNU and HiST vote against the proposal of boycotting Israel. Individuals at our universities are of course free to involve themselves in international conflicts, but it is unwise that the institutions as such choose one side. Our universities will loose [sic] more than we might win by involving ourselves in a boycott.
Signed by Professor Bjrrn Alsberg
Patron: The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
Advisory Board: Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Vivian Wineman - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East
Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA
Dr Robin Stamler
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE
Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham
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