More than 250 European academics from 14 different European countries have signed an open letter to EU research Commissioner Màire Geoghegan-Quinn calling for the exclusion of Israeli companies and state bodies that are complicit with Israeli violations of international law from EU funded research programs.
The letter, whose signatories include Gérard Toulouse, a member of the French Academy of Science, Malcolm Levitt, a member of the UK Royal Society, and renowned philosopher Slavjoj Zizek, argues that the particpation of companies like Ahava and Elbit Systems “undermines both the reputation of these programs and the stated goals of the European Union and its member states”.
Ahava is an Israeli cosmetics company based in an illegal settlement, while Elbit Systems is involved in the construction of Israel’s illegal apartheid wall and supplied Israel with drones used to kill civilians in the 2008-09 attack on Gaza. Both are allowed to participate in EU funded research projects as part of Israel’s membership the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for research.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority, which the EU’s own Jerusalem officials have stated is complicit in the colonisation of occupied East Jerusalem, also receives EU research grants.
“As advocates of a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on international law, we call upon the European Commission to exclude such companies and institutions from receiving EU funding and to introduce new legislation that would prevent them from doing so. Violations of international law and universal human rights will surely continue for at least as long as institutions such as the EU provide funding to those that perpetrate them,” the letter concludes.
The European Commission has previously stated that it would address the issue when drafting the rules governing Horizon 2020, the replacement to FP7 that will run from 2014, but is yet to make clear how it intends to do so.
There have been campaigns at a number of European universities against EU funded collaboration with complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to a call from Palestinian academics and civil society.
In the UK, the British Committee for Universities in Palestine, the National Union of Students and students at King’s College London ran a high-profile campaign against a joint research project between the university, the Natural History Museum in London and Ahava. Both King’s College London and the Natural History Museum have since expressed their regret at their involvement in the project. There have been similar initiatives in Denmark, the Basque Country, Italy and Ireland.