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170 Italian Scholars Boycott Israeli Universities Over Palestinians’ Rights Violations
Some 170 professors and researchers in Italy have announced that they are boycotting Israeli universities because the schools are complicit with the State of Israel in violating the fundamental human rights of Palestinians.
The scholars are said to come from more than 50 Italian universities and research organizations. They have already signed the pledge committing to the boycott.
The boycott is also aimed supporting Palestinian scholars who have experienced grave human rights violations and denial of their basic academic freedoms.
The signatories described themselves as a solid critical block of scholars who were no longer willing to tolerate Israeli academic complicity with Israel’s state violence.
According to Al Jazeera, the scholars teach and work at prominent universities, including the University of Bologna, the University of Rome and the University of Milan.
The scholars noted that they are now part of a growing global trend of scholars taking a stand against Israel for violating Palestinian rights. In October 2015, more than 300 academics from dozens of British universities pledged to boycott Israeli academic institutions to protest against what they called intolerable human rights violations against the Palestinian people.
The scholars said the boycott action is very important because Italy and Israel has a special relationship in academia.
“The utter lack of any serious condemnation on their part since the foundation of the state of Israel led to the initiative. Italy is one of Israel’s key military and academic partners in Europe. A military cooperation agreement between the two countries provides for joint military research, training exercises and development of weapons systems”, the scholars said in a statement.
The boycott will specifically target the Haifa-based Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), which is said to have been developing technologies such as remote-controlled bulldozers over the years for the Israeli military to demolish Palestinian houses.
The signatories to the boycott said that a number of Italian universities including the Polytechnic Universities of Milano and Turin, and the universities of Cagliari, Florence, Perugia, Rome and Turin all have cooperation agreements with Technion. And the boycott will therefore have severe impact on Israel.
A professor at the University of Siena, Gabriele Usberti told Al Jazeera in an interview that some of Italy’s largest universities have collaborated with Technion which develops dangerous technologies for the systematic colonization of Palestine.
Local media outlets in Italy report that the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies will host a panel discussion on the general implications of academic and cultural boycott campaigns against Israel during its annual conference in Catania in March 2016. And it is said this will mark the first time an academic association in Italy has publicly debated the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led campaign that calls for economic and political pressure on Israel to give equal rights to its Palestinian citizens. The BDS movement is said to be spreading fast on campuses across Europe and the United States.
The assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Turin, Simona Taliani also added that Italian academics had just started to become engaged in boycott efforts in order to put pressure on Israel to end its aggression against the Palestinian people.
“The campaign is important because it better informs academics in Italy. It’s so urgent to let people become aware of the complicity of Israeli universities in military investments and the repressive system against Palestinians”, Taliani said.
Meanwhile, in Israel, the Association of University Heads has angrily reacted to the boycott. The association accused the BDS of spreading falsehood, causing key organizations to hate Israel.
It called the BDS an aggressive global anti-Israel campaign, orchestrated by a fringe interest group, who for several years has supported the spreading of demonic lies against the State of Israel, adding that “Such ideas have no place in academia. Academic boycotts clearly contradict both academic ethos and values and contaminate academic collaborations and international research overall.”
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