By Vacy Vlazna
‘It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. [Ben Gurion University] is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.’ — Desmond Tutu.
Bluntly put-Israeli universities are military laboratories funded by Israeli and US war mongers and war profiteers. While, the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has a growing global momentum and success by consumers, the campaign for the boycott of Israel academic institutions integral to maintaining Israel’s illegal/apartheid occupation is lagging far behind.
Until now, amongst the thousands of universities worldwide, only the University of Johannesburg (UJ), after prolonged internal debates, severed ties in 2011 with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU) for discrimination against Palestinian students and its complicity in the occupation. The expected domino effect among universities never took off. Why?
Until recently universities had a proud history as centres of discovery and of the transmission of knowledge and skills with dissent elemental to the morality of scholarship. This prestige and ethos has withered since the 1980’s measured by the steep decline in political activism on campuses due to the onset of academic capitalism.
“The impression that universities can be bought and sold, held by businessmen and fostered by university administrators trained in playing for the highest bid, is a reflection of the deterioration of western civilization. To buy universities is to destroy them and with them the civilization for which they stand. “(Harold Innis)
After decades of government funding cutbacks, universities have turned to the marketplace for funds creating a symbiotic win-win for government and business while corroding academic autonomy. As universities have become businesses, there has been a shift in values with the privatization and commercialization of research as intellectual property meeting the demands of market and military globalization.
“Since 2004, the structure of the university has become corporatist,” says Dr. Iris Agmon of Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). “The name of the game is money, which means that the donors are extremely important.”
The acceptance by Israeli and Western universities of welcome funding from Israeli defence companies and Zionist foundations plus the absurd charge of anti-semitism for any criticism of Israel intensifies the constriction against academic boycott. While there is plenty of student activism on campuses, most academics and academic freedom are constrained and controlled by the Zionist corporate partnership. Championing academic and intellectual independence takes principled courage because the loss of or the threat of loss of tenure and /or attacks by Zionist groups are real as the examples in the USA of Norman Finkelstein, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Juan Cole and most recently, David Klein testify.
Israeli academics and students who challenge the state are spied on and added to a McCarthyesque blacklist of Israel’s enemies kept by right wing groups- Im Tirtzu, Isra-Campus and Israeli Academia Monitor. Im Tirtzu is an extra-parliamentary fascist movement that is bent on enforcing Zionist values. Im Tirzu has sent a death threat to Professor Neve Gordon (BGU), recently attacked Professor Yehouda Shenhav for criticising it, and in March demanded an Tel Aviv University (TAU) inquiry into Dr Anat Matar for her participation on campus in a solidarity demonstration with hunger striking Palestinian prisoner, Hanaa Shalabi.
The ‘corporate creep’ spreads an incestuous net of Zionist influence and defence interests over Israel’s universities. Im Tirzu, the aforementioned rabid academic watchdog is funded by The Azrieli Group, Israel ‘a shareholder in Bank Leumi and LeumiCard, which has 13 malls throughout the country and a controlling share in the Sonol, Tambour and Supergaz companies – Im Tirtzu keeps its accounts at Bank Leumi’. The Azrieli Foundation is also a patron of The Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies at BGU’s The Buchmann Faculty of Law.
Leo Schachter Diamonds, Israel’s largest polished diamond exporter also funds Im Tirtzu and its CEO, Elliot Tannenbaum is on the Board of Governors of Bar Ilan University (BIA) about which Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), asserted “Bar-Ilan University is the only Zionist university left in Israel” at a gala dinner of the Zionist Organization of America ( attended by US presidential contender, Michele Bauchmann who stated she would move the American Embassy to Jerusalem when sworn into office). In March, Inbar called for a large-scale renewed war on Gaza to bolster Israel’s Iran agenda “Not only would most or all of the Gaza missiles and the organizations preparing to use them be destroyed, but deterrence against the missiles from Lebanon and elsewhere would increase. Such an action would also bolster credibility in the international community that Israel really might attack Iran’s nuclear sites,” BESA holds conferences and seminars for academic, military and Jewish leaders.
Professor Moshe Arens , a retired major-general and ex-Minister of Defence, is a member of BESA’s International Advisory Board and Chairman of International Board of Governors of The Ariel University Center of Samaria (AUCS) within Ariel, a mega-colony built in violation of international law on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank. In 2011, 150 Israeli academics (out of 7000) , including three Israel Prize laureates – professors Yehoshua Kolodny(HU), Benjamin Isaac (TAU) and Itamar Procaccia of the Weizmann Institute of Science signed a petition boycotting Ariel University because “Ariel was built on occupied land. Only a few kilometers away from flourishing Ariel, Palestinians live in villages and refugee camps under unbearably harsh conditions and without basic human rights. Not only do they not have access to higher education, some do not even have running water. These are two different realities that create a policy of apartheid”.
Arens is also chairman of the board of the Teuza Fund which has 38% holdings in Sagatec that boasts US Motorola as a customer. Motorola provides surveillance and communication systems for illegal Israeli colonies and military camps in the occupied West Bank.” Motorola is the provider of the primary mode of communication for the Israeli military, meaning that Israeli soldiers—whether operating checkpoints, firing on the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, tear-gassing nonviolent protesters, or descending on the Free Gaza Flotilla in the middle of the night—are receiving their orders via a Motorola system.”
Furthermore, Motorola holds a 9% stake in Afcon, one of Israel’s largest industrial groups. Along with Israel Defense Forces HQ and bases, Afcon’s clients include the Weizman Institute of Science, BGU, TAU, Technion, The Jewish Agency, The Azrieli Center, and Strauss –Elite which supports the brutal Golani and Givati brigades accused of war crimes in Gaza and Jenin. Afcon is owned by the Shlomo Group which, in 2011, acquired Tadiran Telecom that also serves the US Department of Defence. The Arrow system of ballistic missiles, jointly produced by Israel and the US, consists of the joint production hypersonic Arrow anti-missile interceptor, the Elta EL/M-2080 “Green Pine” early-warning AESA radar, the Tadiran Telecom “Golden Citron” (“Citron Tree”) C3I center, and the Israel Aerospace Industries “Brown Hazelnut” (“Hazelnut Tree”) launch control center. The system is transportable, as it can be moved to other prepared sites.”
The Zionist symbiosis of academia and militarism is evident by the embedding of Israel’s primary defence manufacturers, Elbit Systems and Rafael ADS in Israeli universities. “TAU Professor Avraham Katzir observed: One of the things which helps the State of Israel […] is the fact that each one of us is both an Israeli citizen and working in these fields [military] I’m an academic at university and I’ve also done my [military service], and I was also at [state arms manufacturer] RAFAEL for some years. All of those things come together; we’re helping one another – something which doesn’t happen [elsewhere]”. Typical of many academics, Dr Joseph Frey, Senior Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, Bar-Ilan University, Israel gained industrial R&D experience while working at RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems. There is a thorough expose of military links with TAU in Tel Aviv University – A Leading Israeli Military Research Centre prepared By SOAS Palestine Society.
Michael Federmann, the Chairman of Elbit Systems is a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of Hebrew University. His son, David Federmann, the Director of Elbit Systems is on the board of directors BGN Technologies,’ the Technology Transfer Company of Ben-Gurion University responsible for the commercialization of know-how and inventions of the university’s researchers’.
Elbit Systems Ltd is one of Israel’s largest military security and surveillance companies producing defence electronics, radio communications systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) remote weapon systems, radar, naval systems. David Rubner, Director of Elbit Imaging board of directors is a member of the boards of trustees of Bar Ilan University . In 2008 Tadiran Communications and Elbit Systems merged. Tadiran’s military communications technology operates hand-in-hand with the Israel Occupation Force, “Tadiran Communications is the IDF’s signal corps’ main supplier of communications equipment. Consequently, the company benefits from immediate battle-tested results [italics mine]and is able to hone its technology to perfection.”
The state owned RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems Ltd promotion reads- “Drawing on Israel Defence Forces’ vast combat experience and with over 6 decades of development [italics mine]and manufacturing of a wide range of battle-proven, pinpointed solutions for air, land, sea and space systems – Rafael is one of the world’s most sophisticated defense companies.” It derives its economic strength from international sales and US funding. It works with the US Raytheon Missile Systems to market the Iron Dome weapon system. In May 2011, a senior Israeli official said Israel plans to spend $1 billion to buy Iron Dome systems. The U.S. also has committed $205 million to help Israel buy the systems. During the March attack on Gaza, the Israeli media was urging even greater funding allocation for the Iron Dome system.
Gen. (Res.) Ilan Biran is Chairman of the Board of Rafael ADS. He was a former General Director of the Ministry of Defense and served in the Israel Defense Forces for 32 years in various staff and command positions, including Commanding General, Central Command, Head of the Technology and Logistics Branch, and Head of the Operations Division at the General Staff. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. He is also Chairman of the Kinneret Academic College on the Sea of Galilee which is affiliated with the Bar Ilan University and awards Bar Ilan degrees in the social sciences and humanities.
In February 2012, Rafael ADS convened the 52nd Israel Annual Conference on Aerospace Sciences 2012 along with Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Tel-Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Elbit Systems Ltd, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Israel Military Industries. Rafael ADS is a client of The Israel Center for Negotiation and Mediation (ICNM) at the Neaman Institute, Technion University along with Israeli government ministries, the IDF, Elbit, EAI Ltd, Loreal, Strauss –Elit etc.
Armament manufactures’ promotion hype such as “immediate battle tested results “and “vast combat experience and with over 6 decades of development” means in real and bloody terms that Gaza and the West Bank and Lebanon are testing grounds for Israel’s military industry. The extrajudicial assassination in March of Zuhair al-Qaisi, the Secretary General of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip was planned as was the subsequent military escalation and air raid attacks to test the Iron Dome system and the Israeli media were in raptures with the success which included the precision slaughter of a loving schoolboy, 12 year-old Ayoub Asalya who was blown to pieces.
Do arms CEO’s and their academic designer/consultants gloat with success when missiles strike 311 children dead in Operation Cast Lead or view survivors of drones as a failure? Did their spirits lift on April 3rd when Aseel Ara’ara, eventually died from an IOF sniper wound that turned a lively four year-old into a paraplegic? One wonders what makes them immune, in their offices and seminar rooms, to the unbearable wail of the grief-stricken mother of little Islam Qaraqi who was about to start kindergarten or to the cruel cold of death when a father in Ni’lin kisses his 10 year-old son, Ahmed Mousa, for the last time. Then again, it’s not that surprising, considering these hollow men and women are brutalized citizens of a nation saturated with a racism (resembling Nazi Aryanism and South African Apartheid) that regards the deaths Palestinian children to be less than the deaths of Jewish children in Toulouse.
Academic boycott of Israeli institutions and of the infestation of Israeli military interests in our own universities, as well as BDS generally, is a matter of life and death for the people of Palestine. It is an action, we the people can achieve while our governments and the UN stand by and collude in war crimes against Palestine that for 65 years have accelerated and gone unpunished.
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 and was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.