Don’t let science legitimise Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories

Academics express their disquiet at a science conference being held in a settlement in the occupied West Bank

We are writing to express our view that Ariel University in the occupied West Bank is the wrong venue for a conference on cosmology and particle physics starting on Monday 3 September and running until 6 September. The settlements are illegal under international law and have been denounced by the international court of justice and numerous UN resolutions. Human Rights Watch has noted that Ariel’s “development is inseparable from a history of continuous dispossession of Palestinians from their land and restrictions on their freedom of movement”.

There is strong opposition to Ariel University. Due to its location in a settlement, it is excluded from receiving funds from the EU, US-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. In 2012, more than 1,200 Israeli faculty members signed a petition opposing the establishment of Ariel, describing it as an attempt to recruit the Israeli academia into the service of the occupation and settlement efforts. Palestinian civil society and academia are comprehensively against the occupation and the settlements.

We, the undersigned, believe that participating in any activities held in a settlement amounts to accepting the Israeli government’s policy of gradually annexing the occupied territories to Israel. We call upon our colleagues and the wider scientific community to consider these facts before engaging in any activities related to Ariel, and not to take part in any attempts to use science to normalise the occupation of the Palestinian territories. The views expressed in this correspondence are those of the authors, and may not reflect those of their employers.

Prof. Ofer Aharony, Weizmann Institute
Prof. Imad Barghouthi, Al Quds University
Prof. Suleiman Baraka, Al Aqsa University-Gaza and Virginia Tech
Prof. Robert Brandenberger, McGill University
Prof. Anne-Christine Davis, University of Cambridge
Prof. John Ellis CBE FRS, King’s College, London
Prof. David Gross, Nobel laureate, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara
Prof. Thomas Hertog, KU Leuven
Dr. M.C. David Marsh, University of Cambridge
Prof. Ann E. Nelson, University of Washington
Dr. Syksy Räsänen, University of Helsinki
Prof. Martin Rees OM FRS Astronomer Royal, University of Cambridge
Prof. Nathan Seiberg, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Prof. Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute
Prof. Edward Witten, Fields medallist, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton