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Who benefits from EU-Israeli Academic Cooperation
David Cronin--March 10, 2011

David Cronin, *The Electronic Intifada,* 10 March 2011

One of the most enjoyable things that has happened since I wrote a book on
Israel`s relations with Europe is that I have been asked to speak at various
universities. So when an invitation appeared in my email inbox to visit
King`s College London (KCL), I immediately accepted. Big mistake.

The request came from the International Center for the Study of
Radicalization (ICSR), a partnership between King`s College and the
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. I only became aware of
the partnership one day before I was scheduled to address an ICSR seminar in January. Following a hasty consultation with some friends in the Palestine solidarity movement, I withdrew from the event, informing the organizers that I fully supported the campaign to boycott Israeli goods and

In hindsight, I am relieved to have taken that decision. Set up in 2008, the
ICSR boasts on its website that it is the first initiative of this kind in
which Arab and Israeli academic institutions can work together. This appears
to be a reference to how the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy is also involved
in its research on political violence. However, the participation of an
academic body from an Arab state does not exonerate the ICSR for embracing
the Herzliya center, which has long tried to cloak Israeli apartheid with
intellectual gravitas.

Each year the IDC hosts the Herzliya security conference, attracting
Israel`s political, military and business elite, as well as illustrious
foreign guests. Speakers at this conference can spout racist invective
without fear of being challenged; in 2003, Yitzhak Ravid, a senior
researcher with Israel`s weapons development authority Rafael, called for
coercive measures to curb the birthrate among Palestinians. The delivery
rooms in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba have turned into `a factory for the
production of a backward population,` he said, alluding to an area with a
considerable number of Bedouin inhabitants.

Furthermore, the IDC expresses pride in its links with the Israeli army,
despite the army`s role in enforcing the occupation, which includes the
brutal siege on the Gaza Strip. Representatives of Israel`s most profitable
arms manufacturers frequently sit on the IDC`s management committee, while
10 percent of its student places are reserved for veterans of elite combat
units in the Israeli army.

John Bew, director of the ICSR, told me there is no `financial relationship
between ourselves and Herzilya.` He added `You will see that we also have
contacts with universities across the world, including Jordan. This is not
an expression of support for any political position on any state -- Israel,
Pakistan, India, wherever. It is part of our belief that academic
institutions should be a source of dialogue and discussion and the first
port of call for discussion between divided peoples. Having grown up in
Belfast, I am personally committed to that sort of dialogue. I don`t think
demonizing or boycotting one side or another has any constructive impact.`

Bew`s comments are disingenuous. Although he is opposed to a boycott of
Israel, he is happy to put his name to pamphlets defending the boycott of
Hamas by western governments. In a 2008 paper he wrote with fellow scholar
Martyn Frampton, Bew urged the West to be wary of negotiating with Hamas,
lest that doing so would strengthen its position against more moderate
alternatives (`Talking to
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs). In his writing, he habitually labels
Hamas as terrorist, without applying that term to the State of Israel, a far
more prolific killer of civilians than Hamas. Moreover, he appears reluctant
to learn from the situation in his native Belfast, where a peace settlement
could only be achieved after the British government agreed to hold talks
with Irish Republicans.

Bew`s flawed analysis chimes with the stance from chief administrators in
King`s College. In November 2008, KCL awarded an honorary doctorate to then
Israeli president Shimon Peres, an inveterate warmonger (his status as a
Nobel Peace laureate notwithstanding). The award sparked protests from
student activists sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Along with his post with the ICSR, Bew is listed as a vice president of the
Henry Jackson Society, a think tank that defends America`s imperial
machinations. The society`s founding principles commit it to advocating that
the US and Britain maintain a strong military with global expeditionary

A Palestine solidarity campaigner studying in KCL, who asked not to be
named, said `The idea that the International Center for the Study of
Radicalization is there to combat radicalization is quite absurd. If it
wanted to follow the Northern Ireland model [to conflict resolution], it
wouldn`t be covertly pressing to exclude Hamas from the so-called peace

The case for an academic boycott of Israel was bolstered by a 2009 paper
from the Alternative Information Center
a group combining Israeli and Palestinian researchers and activists. All
major Israeli academic institutions, certainly the ones with the strongest
international connections, were found to provide unquestionable support to
Israel`s occupation, the paper stated. Such support ranged from how the
Technion in Haifa developed a remote-controlled bulldozer for the demolition
of Palestinian homes to how Tel Aviv University has welcomed arms
manufacturers to symposia on robotics and electro-optics.

Uri Yacobi Keller, an author of the AIC paper, said the Palestine solidarity
movement is not seeking that European academics cease talking to their
Israeli counterparts. Rather, the movement is urging a boycott of Israeli
universities as institutions and that the flow of finance to them be cut off
until they sever their links with the occupation. `This would make Israeli
universities understand that these [international] contacts are in danger if
they continue to cooperate with the Israeli security establishment and the
settlement project [in the occupied territories],` he said.

Academic cooperation between Europe and Israel has been encouraged by
governments on both sides. In July 2008, the Britain-Israel Research and
Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX) was launched by the two prime
ministers then in office, Gordon Brown and Ehud Olmert. This $1.6 million
scheme, which involves the allocation of grants to science researchers, is
mainly funded by the Pears Foundation, which presents itself as a
philanthropic body. All of the Israeli universities taking part have links
to the Israeli military, according to the aforementioned AIC paper.

Mike Cushman from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
(BRICUP), which has called for an academic boycott of Israel, noted that
some of the activities sponsored by BIRAX exclude Palestinian institutes.
`BIRAX funds research on the Dead Sea ecology without the involvement of
Palestinian universities but the Dead Sea is a vital resource for
Palestinians,` he said.

`Israeli universities develop the arms and control technologies that
directly support the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza,`
Cushman added. `Their alumni magazines proudly boast of their links with the
Israeli military and security services. Israelis who have done military
service get privileged entry into universities -- one of a number of ways
the universities directly and indirectly discriminate against Palestinian
citizens of Israel.`

The European Commission, meanwhile, is a major provider of grants to Israeli
universities and to private Israeli firms, including weapons manufacturers.
Israel is the main foreign participant in the European Union`s multi-annual
framework program for scientific research, which has an overall budget of 53
billion euros (US $73.5 billion) between 2007 and 2013. Israel is taking
part in 800 EU-financed research projects, worth a total of 4.3 billion
euros. Israeli officials have told me that they hope they will have directly
drawn down more than 500 million euros worth of science grants by the time
the EU`s program concludes in 2013.

Cordis, a searchable database on the EU program
is a useful resource for activists wishing to find concrete cases of
European universities linked to Israeli institutions and the private sector.
When I gave a talk in Ireland`s University of Limerick towards the end of
last year, a member of staff told me she was shocked to discover the extent
of its cooperation with Israel. By checking Cordis, I found five examples
linking Limerick to Israel; several of the beneficiaries are profiting
directly from the Israeli occupation. Among these projects was one with the
unwieldy title Innovative and Novel First Responders Applications (INFRA),
which aims to develop communications services in tunnels and other locations
where mobile phones prove unreliable. Athena GS3, a company founded by
Shabtai Shavit, a former head of the Israeli secret service Mossad, is
involved in this project; the firm belongs to the Mer Group, which provides
surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and to
military bases and checkpoints in the wider West Bank. Another Israeli
beneficiary of this project is Opgal, a maker of infrared cameras. Opgal is
partly owned by Elbit, a leading supplier of warplanes to the Israeli air

Contrary to Israel`s claims that it is the only democracy in the Middle
East, its university authorities are actively seeking to quell dissent.
After Israel attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, killing nine activists, in
May 2010, Haifa University banned its students from protesting. Ben Gurion
University of the Negev has also begun disciplinary proceedings against
students who demonstrated against the flotilla massacre and for improved
conditions for workers hired to clean the campus.

With deep cuts imposed on education spending in many countries, it is
understandable that student unions and academics are preoccupied with
domestic economic issues at the moment. But those cuts are being taken as
part of a greater ideological effort to make universities more subservient
to the private sector and restrict third-level education to people from
wealthy families. Cooperation with Israeli universities needs to be viewed
in that context.

Indeed, Israel`s experience should be a wake-up call for everyone concerned
about social justice. Whereas most industrialized countries spend around
$8,000 on each student attending school or university per year, Israel
spends $6,000. By contrast, Israel devotes eight percent of its gross
domestic product to military expenditure, almost six times the average for
industrialized countries (see `Reforming education and raising unemployment
key ...,3746,en_21571361_44315115_44411365_1_1_1_1,00.html>,`
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 20 January 2010).

Israel`s political elite is clearly more concerned with prime-pumping its
arms industry and tightening its grip on Palestinian land than in ensuring
that education helps people realize their potential. That is one of many
reasons why an academic boycott of Israel is so vital.

*David Cronin`s book *Europes Alliance With Israel: Aiding the
Occupation*is published by Pluto Press (
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