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LSE: New concerns over human rights
Ben White
The Independent

Last year, the London School of Economics (LSE) found itself mired in controversy over ties to the Gaddafi regime, one of a number of universities accused of complicity with human rights abuses through funding sources and research ties.

Now new concerns are being raised by human rights campaigners about LSE. Through its involvement in an EU initiative called ‘Policy Incentives for the Creation of Knowledge: Methods and Evidence (PICK-ME)’, LSE is partnering with The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology – and students are calling for a rethink.

Last month, LSE Students’ Union Environment and Ethics Officer Lois Clifton spoke at a meeting on whether LSE should boycott the programme in question. Technion, based in Haifa, is the oldest university in Israel. Famous for scientific research in the fields of engineering and computer science, Technion, in the words of Israel researcher Uri Yacobi Keller, “has all but enlisted itself in the military”.

Experts at the university have developed a remote-controlled D-9 bulldozer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that is used to demolish Palestinian homes, as well as collaborating with state-owned Rafael Armament Development Authority. The latter has signed an agreement with Technion for “research cooperation”, with more ties in the pipeline.

There are many such links; from “tailored” programmes offered to the “IDF and Ministry of Defense”, to a “wide range of benefits given by the Technion to [army] reservists”. There is also ‘Brakim’, “the latest in a series of joint IDF/Technion academic initiatives”, where participants “work on their master’s theses through projects selected for their military service”, and graduates serve “as technological leaders in the IDF”.

Last year, Technion entered into a “multiyear cooperation agreement” for conducting research with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Technion has also forged a close relationship with Elbit Systems. In 2008, Elbit and Technion announced “a joint research agreement” that committed the arms manufacturer to awarding “research grants” for five years – an “annual donation” seen as reflecting “the fruitful, reciprocal cooperation between the Technion and industry”. Technion collaborates with Elbit in training initiatives, and other projects.

These numerous ties, say Israel’s critics, make Technion complicit in the crimes associated with Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli military breaches international law daily, as it enforces an apartheid regime in the occupied territories that goes strictly against the Geneva Conventions.

Millions of stateless Palestinians are subjected by the IDF to forms of collective punishment: like the checkpoint and permit system restricting movement and access. The IDF demolishes Palestinian houses in a practice condemned in the strongest terms by the UN, EU, and international human rights groups.

IAI, Rafael, and Elbit Systems are accused of playing an important role in the IDF’s crimes. Elbit, for example, Israel’s largest arms and security company, provides technology for both the illegal settlements, and also the Separation Wall that was condemned by the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 2004.

While Technion proudly embraces closer ties with Elbit, various bodies around the world have divested from the company, because of its involvement in human rights abuses. That includes the Norwegian state pension fund; at the time, in 2009, the country’s Finance Minister said: “We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law”.

Elbit – as well as other Technion partners IAI and Rafael – are key players in the production of drones that “have been used by Israel” in “attacks on civilian and humanitarian targets” (Amnesty International). A Human Rights Watch report has documented how in January 2009, the IDF “killed dozens of Palestinian civilians”, including children, with missiles launched from drones. One example is Elbit’s Hermes drone (“a workhorse” of the IDF), as well as IAI’s Heron – both of which carry the ‘Spike’ missile made by Rafael.
As Palestinians call for international solidarity to help end the denial of their basic rights, the increased interest in the ethics of British universities’ global relationships must not exclude what appears to be a clear case of complicity in gross violations of international law.

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