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Scientists Urge the EU to Stop Cooperation with Israel

17 April 2002

A group of some 300 French prominent scientists and university professors have urged the European Union to stop all academic co-operation with Israel.

They say the ban should remain in place for as long as the government of Ariel Sharon refuses to end the occupation of Palestinian territories and to comply with the United Nations resolutions on the Middle East conflict.

"In view of the indifference the Israeli government shows to all international appeals to end its violent repression against the Palestinian population, we call on the EU to temporarily stop all institutional co-operation with and material support to Israeli academic organizations," the scientists and professors said.

In the declaration, published Tuesday in the French daily newspaper Libération, the scientists recalled that several EU institutions, especially the European scientific agency, provides Israel with a member status. This is a privilege no other Middle East country enjoys and the benefits imply exceptional funding and the concession of official European research contracts.

"As long as Israel refuses to comply with the UN resolutions and to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, the EU should suspend this privilege," the declaration states.

The demands came after the mission by the United States secretary of state, Colin Powell, to the region proved fruitless, and the scope of the carnage in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin was revealed.

The demand was made public in the wake of new debates on the position the EU should adopt towards Israel. In Luxembourg, the European foreign ministers could not formulate a common policy towards Israel and decided to wait and see if Powell would be able to obtain a ceasefire or not.

Several French researchers of Jewish origin signed the demand to suspend all scientific co-operation with Israel, including historian Yves Cohen, psychiatrist Marcel-Francis Kahn, and mathematician Lionel Schwartz.

The demand immediately provoked a reaction from other members of the French scientific community. Sociologist Yankel Filalkows called the appeal "of the best French researchers the summit of stupidity."

Filalkows said, "It is legitimate that scientists and university professors express their support for the Palestinians. But it is stupid of them to plea to isolate some of their colleagues, on the grounds that they are Jews."

The new Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has accentuated the split within the French Jewish community, provoking angry internal debates, and even mutual physical aggression.

The attacks against synagogues, Talmud schools and Jewish stores, that have repeatedly taken place in France since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000, have reinforced the support conservative, pious French Jews show towards Israel.

In their views, both anti-Jewish vandalism and criticism of the Israeli policy towards Palestinians, is equivalent to anti-Semitism.

At the same time, liberal, secular French Jews openly advocate for the Palestinian cause. Last week, as the highest official Jewish institution in France, the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), called for a "great demonstration in solidarity with Israel", a group of Jewish intellectuals denounced this call.

Under the title "To Support Israel? Not in our name!", prominent liberal French Jews, in an open editorial in the newspaper Le Monde, accused the Israeli government and the CRIF of "usurping the Jews' collective memory of the Holocaust and misappropriating the Jewish heritage."

"In face of the Palestinians' tragic solitude and while the Israeli authorities scorn international law and UN resolutions the so called international community only shows a shameful capitulation."

Some 20 distinguished French Jews signed the declaration, including the lawyer Gisèle Halimi, the physician Rony Brauman, the university professors Suzanne de Brunhoff, Pierre Vidal Naquet, and Francis Kahn.

They concluded their declaration with an appeal before the European Union to immediately recognize a Palestinian state within the borders defined by UN resolutions.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has also provoked a new wave of confrontations between Arab immigrants and French Jewish youth. France has a population of some five million people of Arab origin, and of some 700 000 Jews.

Julio Godoy, Paris
Published by Inter Press Service © 2002 IPS

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