Prof. Ofer Aharony from the Weizmann Institute is leading efforts to boycott an academic conference on cosmology and particle physics, the first of its kind in Israel, which opens at Ariel University on Monday and will run through Thursday.
In an open letter to The Guardian last Friday, Prof. Aharony leads 14 other academics from Al Quds, Al Aqsa, and universities located in the West, in calling on fellow academics “not to take part in any attempts to use science to normalize the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” because Ariel University’s development “is inseparable from a history of continuous dispossession of Palestinians from their land and restrictions on their freedom of movement.”
According to Israel Hayom, Aharony also sent personal emails to the conference’s speakers, urging them not to attend.
Promoting boycotts against Israel by Israeli professors has been outlawed by the country’s Council for Higher Education, which in March instructed academic institutions to implement a new code of ethics at the start of 2019, which bans professors from promoting an academic boycott of Israel.
But the Weizmann Institute defended Aharony in a statement saying: “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.”
It’s true that the letter to the Guardian states that “the views expressed in this correspondence are those of the authors, and may not reflect those of their employers,” but the very force of the letter is founded on the names of the academic institutions next to the relatively anonymous names of the signatories. Clearly, it’s a bait-and-switch trick, where the academics claim independence from the very institutions that provide their message with gravitas.
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg, whose organization was the driving force behind the new code of ethics, called Aharony’s behavior a “disgrace.
“It is inconceivable that such a thing can pass unnoticed,” Peleg stated. “We expect Education Minister Naftali Bennett to summon the president of the Weizmann Institute and inquire why such an outrageous act was met with silence and tacit agreement from the Institute.”
“If the academic code of ethics was created for any purpose at all, it was to combat academic boycotts of Israel,” Peleg stressed.
Incidentally, Arabs on either side of the green line are benefiting from Ariel university, which has recently launched a medical school on its campus. The school, funded by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, will admit 100 students a year—both Jews and non-Jews. According to Ha’aretz, “Palestinians in Samaria will have access to the school’s clinical facilities; those needing health care will be able to obtain it close to home. The medical school at Ariel should be able to make a substantial contribution to relations between Israelis and Palestinians.”