Should British academics boycott Israeli science?
Protests have been made against the Israeli Day of Science events held on 3rd March at the Museum of Industry and Science in Manchester. Despite the Museum's assurances that it is an 'apolitical institution' and that the event 'has no political theme' but is a celebration of scientific progress, there are worries that it is advertising scientific projects funded by Israel's defence ministry and it is inappropriate to hold such an event so shortly after the controversy over the use of disproportionate force in Gaza. Opponents of the call to cancel the event say that it is an attack against academic freedom and an attempt to 'prevent schoolchildren from being inspired by scientific discovery and innovation' (Jonathan Hoffman, Zionist Federation).
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Israeli scientists largely funded by defense research.
According to the annual review of Tel Aviv University, one of the institutions involved in the event, Israel's defence ministry was funding 55 of its projects and the University was actively helping to enhance the country's 'military edge'. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7921824.stm) All seven of the institutions are in some way involved in military research.
There are two reasons why this should not be used as a reason to boycott Israeli science:
1. Many technological efforts of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) revolve around reducing the aggressiveness of fighting: more accurate ammunition to reduce colateral damage; robotic fighters to reduce the aggressiveness required to protect Israeli soldiers fighting terrorism; intelligence equipment to help weed out the terrorists from the uninvolved. Discouraging this kind of reserach would lead to more harm to innocents, not less.
2. The IDF takies part in multinational security efforts, such as the anti-piracy naval force in Africa. The IDF's research, therefore, helps these efforts as well.
Both these points serve to show that the assumption that Israeli defence research is oppression-oriented is false.
science cannot be politically neutral
Even though the exhibition itself has no overt political theme, it is unrealistic to expect it to have no political implication at all or to be interpreted as such by people who view it. Science exists in the real world and has practical applications in all sorts of political and military situations. In the words of former chairman of the House of Commons Science Select Committee Ian Gibson , 'Science is not neutral. It is part of the political process, and very much so in that part of the world.' This is why the Museum needs to be considerate of the political climate around it when it decides upon which exhibitions to hold at what time.
will affect the Museum's reputation as an educational institution
The exhibition is aimed at children with a view to giving them a positive impression of science. Many children will not be unaware of the situation in Gaza and may have been affected by it. Their parents might also not appreciate them going to such an exhibition. This will negatively affect the child's ability to learn and their impression of science, and earn the Museum a bad reputation as a useful academic tool.
It will affect the museum's reputation in a good way: it will show most people that it is able to give their children a scientific, rather than political experience, and to allow them to get good education regardless of the political attacks on the museum. The children may be aware of the political controversy, which is exactly the right place to teach them that there are many sides to each story, even to Israel's story.
We must remember that anything can be made a tool for political bantering: for example, in the US many parents disapprove of teaching evolution science - yet museums still have exhibitions about evolution, despite the political charge.
an anti-academic stance
Cancelling the exhibition would be a blow for the proliferation of intellectual thought. Banning any academic event that is politically controversial would lead to banning most academic events, precisely because science cannot be isolated from politics. It implies that scientific progress is not itself important enough to justify holding an event. The huge benefits of the variety of projects being showcased are ignored – projects that 'focus on subjects such as stem cell, cancer and brain research, nanotechnology and solar energy'. One scientist speaking at the event was a physicist at the Large Hadron Collider.
If the scientists are going to talk about how great and wonderful Israel is and not about science: very likely given the current political scenario , then 'this' is not the time to hold this exhibition.
The exhibition can and should be postponed to a later date when the Israeli government and its armed forces are at their best behavior.
Israel needs to face retribution,so that she may understand that there are consequences for her actions in Gaza. Israel should no longer be excused for her atrocities, nor should she be treated as sacrosanct, just because the British played a vital role in her birth.
No nation is without its faults, including Britain. For instance, we would not ban American science events. If we went further and boycotted science based upon past history of human rights abuse, we would pretty much ban all scientific development.
We will/did not ban American events 'indefinitely'. But at the start of the Iraq War, the British press only propagated anti-war sentiments and blurted, not a word, in support of the war. American journalists/columnists/writers in Britain, often complained about being mistreated by Brits during that time.
This event will also, not be banned forever. But Israel needs to be sent a clear & strong message that the British People do not approve of its present actions.
holding such an event would help improve race relations in the UK
Many of the projects being advertised in the event are collaborations between multiple nations, such as the collaboration between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian researchers to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly. They have positive outcomes and prove that nations can work together and that the Israeli government is funding something useful other than war. By portraying Israel in a more positive light, the Museum is fighting prejudice and racial hatred in the UK.
All Jews qualify as a single race(which is why anti-Semitism is racist). A lot of Jews are opposed to the existence of Israel.
This web link provides a listing of orthodox anti-Zionist jewish organizations: [http://www.jewsnotzionists.org/groups.htm]]
"UK Jews for justice for Palestinians' is a Jewish organization in the U.K that condemns Israel's actions.
Anti-Zionism is not 'racial' hatred. The British should ban this event as the very unpopular Israeli government(not the multi-ethnic scientists) will benefit most from it and it(their Government) should not be rewarded at this crucial moment in time.
Israel was justified in the actions it took in Gaza
Israel fought the war against Hamas in early 2009 to defend itself from an onslaught of rockets into its' territory that has been going on for five years. Tens of thousands have rockets have been shot at Israel throughout that time period, wounding and killing many civilians, and causing an atmosphere of intense fear. No other country would not react with force to another country who shoots rockets into it. Not even Britain. Imagine the scenario: A terrorist group situates itself right outside Britain and shoots one single missile. The missile hits a civilian and kills him. Would Britain not immediately go to war against this terror organization? Israel has taken five years to do this obvious and basic action!
Israel took extreme care in its' operation in Gaza not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel did this by broadcasting over the Gazan radio where it is going to bomb, so that the civilians stay clear of said place. Israel dropped pamphlets in areas they were going to hit. Israel even called terrorists homes so that there families could escape before the house was bombed and the ammunition was destroyed. Hamas, however, shoots rockets with the intention of killing Israeli men, women, children and elders. Hamas sends suicide bombers into Israel, and dynamites their own children's schools. Hamas uses human shields. So if anybody needs to be boycotted, it's not Israel, it's Hamas.
It was Gandhi who said "An eye for an eye and the whole world will go blind", when will the fighting stop? Israel causes a lot more damage to organizations such as Hamas than they do to Israel, simply because Israel has better weaponry and technology(It is the nation with the greatest concentration of scientists in the world,It is nuclear power, how can you even imply that 'Israel' is defenseless?) And Israel does not hesitate in using it. Why attack Lebanon if you a problem with Hamas? If Hamas enters your territory you attack them there. If they caused problems in Lebanon, then Lebanon would handle it. The fact that Israel cannot control her borders or the resentment from her citizens(both Jewish and Palestinian) is no excuse for attacking a foreign country or running tanks over Palestinians or bulldozers over Americans for that matter.[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Corrie]] [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3JI-axaRF4]]
Britain has a lot to lose
Practically, the net flow of knowledge is from Israel to Britain, not the other way around. Israel, as the proposition reminded us, has the highest concentration of scientists in the world. Among the fields where Israel excels are renewable energy, medical research, electronics and optics, and several others. Boycotting Israeli science would backfire on British scientists which will be deprived of co-operations, mutual projects (such as those under the EU Framework Programs for research), conventions and other contacts into this important brain-pool.
It discourages the wrong people
Israel is a democratic country with lively debate over its actions. Like much of the rest of the world, Israeli universities are a hotbed of peace activity, cooperation with so-called "enemies", and peaceful pursuits.
Boycotting academicians who were all along against the actions of their government only causes resentment toward Britain, and fosters a siege mentality that drives these academicians closer to the nationalist side.
What do you think?