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October 8, 2013 8:44 am

Solution to BDS Movement May Come from China

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A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protest against Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgAn apparent antidote to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is coming from a once unlikely source. Chinese magnate Li Ka-Shing, among Asia’s richest businessmen, recently donated $130 million to Israel’s Technion University, as part of a joint venture with Shantou University that will establish the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology (TGIT).

The gift, one of the largest ever to an Israeli university, is indicative of a pervasive deepening in the connection between Israel and one of the world’s emerging powers, China. This is the first time a school from any other country has been invited to establish an entirely new academic college based in China.

In addition to the $130 million gift to Technion, for strengthening Technion’s home campus in Haifa, Guangdong Province will invest approximately $150 million to develop the new Technion Guangdong campus.

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“While academics around the world are attempting to damage Israel’s economy with calls for boycotts and divestment, it is the Chinese who see the inherent value in Israeli ingenuity, innovation and education,” Carice Witte, executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership (SIGNAL), an institute working to advance Israel-China relations, told JNS.org.

“Economic stability is one of China’s main goals. They view this collaboration as an investment in their own future,” Witte said.

Over the past several years, China has demonstrated a growing interest in Israel’s technological contributions, particularly in the areas of water conservation and purification, agriculture, air quality and alternative energy. Further, multiple Chinese universities have established Israel Studies Centers. The development of such study centers is a strategic asset for Israel, as top Chinese academics often serve as advisors to top government officials.

At the same time, American campuses are seeing significant anti-Israel activity, including the annual “Israel Apartheid Week.” Over the past decade, many leading universities have accepted multi-million dollar donations from philanthropists in Muslim-majority nations, most notably Saudi Arabia, to establish Middle Eastern studies programs that many Jewish groups criticize for an alleged anti-Israel bias. Last month, a map used in an Arabic language course at San Diego State University labeled all of the Jewish state’s territory as “Palestine,” before it was replaced with a map that included Israel.

Academics at American universities are among the leaders of those calling for divestment from Israel, in addition to expressing other anti-Israel sentiments. University of Pennsylvania professor Ian Lustick in September wrote a controversial New York Times op-ed calling for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, under which Israel “may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders.” Last summer, the University of California (UC) Board of Regents voted in Sadia Saifuddin, a leading BDS activist, as a student regent. Additionally, several student governments in the UC system have passed resolutions calling for their schools to divest from Israel.

According to Witte, China’s investment in Israel is neither political nor ideological, but rather a practical investment in China’s own economic and social interests.

“China wants to make the transition from being a manufacturing power to becoming innovators, and they believe that the Israeli innovative spirit can help them accomplish that goal,” Witte said.

Technion President Peretz Lavie wrote in a letter to alumni, “A number of leading universities from the U.S., U.K. and Australia have already launched academic programs in China, but the Technion is the first university whose China campus and operation will be fully funded by Chinese resources.”

“With this agreement the Technion has taken another major step forward in our quest to become one of the top leading science and technology universities in the world,” Lavie wrote. “Together with our partnership with Cornell in the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute in New York City, and other strategic international collaborations, the Technion has become a world renowned powerhouse in science, technology and innovation—and this is manifesting itself east and west.”

In September, Technion was cited by Bloomberg Rankings as the world’s seventh leading university—the only university in the top 10 outside the U.S.

Undergraduate and graduate students at the new facility in Guangdong Province will receive their degrees from Technion.

In addition to the new university campus, a nearby a technological park will be built to “serve as a bridgehead for Israeli companies interested in the Chinese market,” according to Lavie.

Ka-Shing, the Chinese investor, held a significant investment in the Israeli start-up Waze, a social-based GPS app that provides real-time changes in traffic conditions and anticipated travel times. Google recently purchased Waze for nearly $1 billion. Funds earned by Ka-Shing in the sale contributed to the Technion investment.

Speaking at a ceremony in Tel Aviv Sunday marking the joint venture, Ka-Shing stated, “In a world of fluid boundaries, the transformative power of technology waves like a magic wand, bringing new models and opportunities to many frontiers and generating new solutions to entrenched problems, but we all know the wands are only as powerful as the wizards who use them, and the magic comes from the genius within.”

“Our responsibility is to invest in education to unlock that genius and enable the continuing realization of human potential, building a society rich in knowledge and securing a sustainable quality of life for all. Failing to do so amounts to a crime against the future,” Ka-Shing said.

“When you combine the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Israel with the unbelievable scale of China, you have a great partnership,” Lavie added. “We hope that by combining our research methodologies with the scale and resources of China, we will create a major research institute that will help not only China and Israel, but also mankind in general.”

Witte told JNS.org that the most significant aspect of the deal is that the Technion “offers a uniquely effective way of marrying Israeli innovation and creativity with Chinese commercialization and manufacturing capabilities to build a new engine for development.”

The Israeli government has recently invested significant energy in strengthening the Israel-China relationship, particularly as the U.S. economy remains muddled in recession, and American government debt threatens ongoing financial aid for Israel. This past month, Israel expressed a willingness to waive $55 million in financial commitments from the U.S. for the Arrow Missile Defense System.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Naftali Bennett; and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz have all made recent trips to China to nurture the relationship. The deal with Ka-Shing and Guangdong Province may prove to be just the first of many large investments.

“This joint venture is important for economic development and regional stability for both Israel’s region and China’s region,” Witte said.

“That the tiny nation of Israel, with only 8 million people, has the ability to partner with the world’s most populous nation and the world’s second-largest economy, is a very powerful sign of Israel’s unique ability to contribute on the world stage,” she added.

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  • Jet Yi

    Awesome, it will be like old friends meeting again.

  • Steven Korbin

    P.S. It also demonstrates the fact that the Chinese are completely ignoring the infantile ranting of the BDS Movement. It is doubtful they have even heard of it…which is the worst cut of all. The BDSers can keep Roger Waters, Alice Walker, Elvis Costelo and Stephen Hawking. I’ll take China. Play ball.

  • Steven Korbin

    It’s a smart move for China which demonstrates once again its deft handle on international affairs, unlike certain North American nations who shall remain nameless. China continues to ally itself with Arab and Muslim countries in geopolitical affairs as a short term strategy to grow more powerful and at the same time erode America’s strength and influence. Allying itself with those states weakens America and strenghthens China. Chinese culture is strong and driven today much more by pragmatism than ideology as it looks for ways to meet the enormous challenges it faces at home. They are quite simply (and quite brilliantly) playing all the angles while our president and junior leaguers at the State Department continue traveling around the world getting schooled by whomever they encounter. But in the long run the Arab and Muslim worlds offer very little to the Chinese people, Chinese culture and Chinese economic interests. In the long run, China will ally itself with America, Israel and any other remaining Western powers not dominated by Islamic radicalism. As always, the Chinese are thinking and acting long term. The short term calls for supporting America’s enemies and thwarting American interests around the world which strenghtens its own hand. China’s long term goal is to achieve parity with the U.S. The attainment of that goal is not far off. At that point its interests will be so closely aligned with those of the U.S., and Islamic radicalism will have become such a grave threat, America and China will find themselves on the same team for the first time since World War II. The Chinese are masters at this kind of stuff. They’ve been playing the political game for thousands of years. The wisdom of this relatively minor foray into Israel is surpassed only by its enormous symoblic value. Namely, the Chinese clearly are not concerned about any Arab or Muslim backlash. That community relies too heavily on the Chinese to advance their primary agenda item of destroying Israel. Unlike the clumsy Americans, Chinese leaders make carefully planned small steps without much fanfare. Growing their relationship with Israel is simply and clearly the smart move…for them. It’s too bad our current leader received his education abroad in Indonesia rather than China.

  • The Chinese people have always known what could work out for them in the future. We all made mistakes, but the brain power of these two ethnic groups can only work for the betterment of mankind and the improvement of both countries.

  • Lynne T

    Mr. Li, although both a very successful business man and a generous funder of good causes is not the government of China. As a supporter of Iran, Syria and other elements that are very hostile to Israel’s existence, I wait to see the government haul back on the reins of antisemetic regimes and terror groups it has coddled.

  • With all due respects, I think China is making a good
    move. Together the two countries will benefit the
    world.

  • China knows what is to let it happen! A cultural human nature by instinct, means life is as it is where the past – future is right here in present time. I love this country that knows respect to a real man. Chinese knows what responsibility is! Chinese is a marked place which every one knows what man is by his behavior, are you a real an honest man you are welcome as a human been. The power of Chinese philosophy is as life is where there is no separation between psychologies, art, science, and believe. Chinese is a child that knows to obey nature; it is like man walk with naked foot knowing his earth.

    Emil Fedida

  • China knows what is to let it happen! A cultural human nature by instinct, means life is as it is where the past – future is right her in present time. I love this country that knows respect to a real man. Chinese knows what responsibility is! Chinese is a marked place which every one knows what man is by his behavior, are you a real an honest man you are welcome as a human been. The power of Chinese philosophy is as life is where there is no separation between psychologies, art, science, and believe. Chinese is a child that knows to obey nature; it is like man walk with naked foot knowing his earth.

    Emil Fedida

  • China knows what is to let it happen! A cultural human nature by instinct, means life is as it is where the past – future is right her in present time. I love this country that knows respect to a real man. Chinese knows what responsibility is! Chinese is a marked place which every one knows what man is by his behavior, are you a real an honest man you are welcome as a human been. The power of Chinese philosophy is a life is where there is no separation between psychologies, art, science, and believe. Chinese is a child that knows to obey nature; it is like man walk with naked foot knowing his earth.

    Emil Fedida

  • Luigi Rosolin

    China opening with Israel is a blessing from the Lord, Mr Li donation is wonderful and will be beneficial for both country. The EU and USA turning to the oil interest, as they are willing and prepared to believe the lies of Islamic regime,is nothing new as the moral and believe in God had been lost for secular ideology. China had many internal issue: political change and economical reform to allowed better distribution of resourced. Human right failure like: forced abortion,in line with one child policy and occupation and mistreat Tibet are pour policy.At the same time is the most growing in Christian’s faith and even under extreme persecution will be more blessing to Israel.

  • Efram Paul

    And let us not forget the increasing vulnerability of Jewish students at increasing numbers of US campuses. Harassment, prejudice, physical violence against Jews has found a home on too many of these campuses, with the express encouragement of faculty and administration. At least in China Jewish students will be safe!

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