CNRS must comply with ICJ order and end all scientific cooperation with Israel

Ivar Ekeland, president of AURDIP, wrote to Antoine Petit, President and CEO of the CNRS, to express surprise that the CNRS is relaunching new Franco-Israeli cooperation projects after the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ ) of January 26, 2024 which highlights the strong risks that Israel is currently committing genocide in Gaza.

Professor Antoine Petit
President and CEO of the CNRS

Dear President,

It is high time that the CNRS put an end to all scientific cooperation with Israel, as it has already done with Russia.

Last January 26 the International Court of Justice — the highest international judicial body — issued an order according to which “the right of the Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts identified in Article III” of the 1948 Genocide Convention was endangered. The Court ordered a series of emergency measures, among which “The State of Israel shall take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip” and “The State of Israel shall ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit any acts described” by Article II of the 1948 Convention. The Court also declared “that Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” which means that, in preventing such provision up to now Israel has acted in contravention of of international law.

Genocide is the gravest of all international crimes. For this reason, AURDIP does not understand how the CNRS can propose new French-Israeli cooperative projects that not only risk durably tarnishing its reputation but also to turning its researchers into accomplices to genocide, a risque underlined by the order of January 26 that could ultimately be confirmed by a future decision of the Court. For example, one notes that the Israeli army, in the course of its systematic destruction of Gaza, make systematic and innovative use of AI, which is one of the priorities of Franco-Israeli cooperation; and one is entitled to ask about the responsibilities of the French specialists who have collaborated with Israeli research groups on this subject. More generally, Israel’s universities and research centers are deeply involved in the actions that led the ICJ to order these emergency measures. The tight relations between Technion and Israel’s military-industrial complex, notably with Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, are well known. But it was at Tel Aviv University that the notorious “Dahiya doctrine” was conceived. This doctrine calls for the use of overwhelming force in military operations, a disproportionate use of force against the enemy, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and the lack of consideration for collateral damage, all of which are explicitly contrary to the laws of war.

In a November 7 speech, the president of Tel Aviv University made the following comments: “the State of Israel vowed to obliterate the memory of Hamas. ‘Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, as you left Egypt’ – this is what we learn from the book of Deuteronomy. And then there is the divine command to the people of Israel: ‘You shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under Heaven. Do not forget’. This is what should be done with Hamas, and I am convinced that this is what the State of Israel will do.

The allusion to Amalek by high Israeli officials was explicitly cited by South Africa in its application to the ICJ dated December 28, 2023 as evidence for the intention to commit genocide. Tel Aviv University has announced that more than 5000 of its students have been mobilized in Gaza; one can imagine how they may be influenced by their President’s rhetoric. We can even appreciate what this effect may be when we see a video, filmed December 7 and projected during a session of the ICJ, where one sees Israeli soldiers singing and dancing in the ruins of Gaza on the theme “we shall wipe off the seed of Amalek” and “there are no innocent Palestinians.” This led the Court to order Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.” Mr. President, does the CNRS really want to send French researchers to institutions populated by fanatics?

It is also high time that the CNRS take a look at what is happening on the Palestinian side and draw the proper conclusions. Palestinians also have universities and research centers. Or rather, they did before the Israeli army undertook to raze Gaza to the ground. In the 84-page document that South Africa presented to the ICJ, one reads that: “Sufian Tayeh, the President of the Islamic University — an award-winning physicist and UNESCO Chair of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Palestine —died, alongside his family, in an airstrike; Dr Ahmed Hamdi Abo Absa, Dean of the Software Engineering Department at the University of Palestine, reportedly shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he walked away, having been released from three days of enforced disappearance; and Professor Muhammad Eid Shabir, Professor of Immunology and Virology, and former President of the Islamic University of Gaza, and Professor Refaat Alareer, poet and Professor of Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at the Islamic University of Gaza, were both killed by Israel with members of their families.”

That was written on December 28, 2023, and the situation has only got worse. At the time of writing 94 university professors have been killed in Gaza, most recently the well-known psychologist Professor Abu Hein, killed by an Israeli sniper. All Gaza’s universities, without exception, have been destroyed, along with libraries, religious sites, churches and mosques, archeological monuments, even cemeteries. The destruction of the scientific and cultural heritage of Gaza, which contain no military targets, can only be explained by a deliberate intention to carry out when the Israeli professor Neve Gordon doesn’t hesitate to call “educide.” Can the CNRS fail to be moved by the destruction of an entire scientific and cultural heritage and the extermination of teachers and researchers?

Today, nearly four months after the invasion of Gaza, the Israeli army has killed more than 30000 people, two thirds of them women and children, and displaced more than two million Gaza residents, some of them more than once. The population lacks water, food, and medical care, and is at the risk of famine and epidemics; all the infrastructure has been destroyed. The International Court of Justice has opened legal proceedings for genocide and has ordered emergency measures to protect the population of Gaza. In spite of this, destructive military operations in Gaza have not slowed down and the universities and research centers in Israel continue to support them both morally and materially. The CNRS must respect the ICJ’s order and end all scientific cooperation with Israel.

Respectfully yours,

Ivar Ekeland
President of AURDIP
Honorary President of l’Université Paris-Dauphine
Member of the Royal Society of Canada and Academia Europea
Foreign member of the Academies of Science of Norway, Palestine, and Austria

  • Photo: Destroyed building of the Islamic University of Gaza