Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Appalling attempt to boycott Israeli uni
No wonder Jordan's former king Hussein declared that the "Technion has been a beacon of learning in our region".
About 20 per cent of the university's students are Arabs, which is proportionate to the Arab component of Israel's population.
For more than 12 years, the Technion has been running an outreach program that specifically prepares Israeli Arab high school students for university. As a result, the dropout rate has decreased and students have been integrated successfully into the Technion community.
This is why a new resolution passed by the University of Sydney's Students' Representative Council calling for academic co-operation to be cut with the Technion is appalling.
Australia prides itself on the excellence and tolerance of its education system and values and collaboration with universities across the world.
The SRC motion is an attempt to stifle a partnership with an institution that contributes so much to the world in medicine, sciences, engineering and technology.
As the Technion's president Peretz Lavie has stated, science is "a most effective bridge, perhaps a means of overcoming political differences. Science is a language shared even by enemies. It can bridge the gaps and help in the political conflict. Some of the most successful collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis is in the field of science."
Jake Lynch, an associate professor who strongly supports the SRC resolution and is a staunch advocate of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, cites the Technion's work with the Israeli government and military as justification for an academic boycott.
The sophisticated defence system of the Israel Defence Forces is widely respected all across the world. The aim of any military is to defend its citizens from harm, and few countries in the world understand this reality of defence more than Israel. Australia has a military and no doubt uses the expertise of its brightest students and researchers to develop a more sophisticated form of defence, so why have the Technion and Israel been singled out? Does the SRC believe Israel has any less of a right to defend itself?
The motion aligns itself directly with the insidious BDS, which aims to isolate and ultimately delegitimise the state of Israel, rather than develop co-operation and better relations between Israel, its Arab citizens and Palestinians. Notably, this campaign has been entirely rejected by both sides of the Australian parliament.
The SRC's campaign has compared with campaigns at other universities, including Cornell in the US and McGill in Canada. However, neither institution caved in to such pressures by terminating its relationship with the Technion.
The University of Sydney is Australia's oldest university, with a rich history and a worldwide reputation for co-operation with institutions around the globe.
It would be a terrible shame and indeed a betrayal of the principles of the university if it were to give in to such a campaign and turn its back on an important academic partnership.
Philip Chester is president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.
Posted by Geoff Seidner at 9:04 am