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April 7, 2016 10:47 pm

Ties With Italian Universities ‘Stronger Than Ever’ Says President of Israeli University Following Boycott Calls

avatar by Andrew Pessin

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Photo: WikiCommons.

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Photo: WikiCommons.

The president of Israel’s leading institution of science and technology responded today to recent calls by Italian students and professors for a boycott of the Jewish state’s universities, The Algemeiner has learned.

Peretz Lavie, President of the Israel Institute of Technology (or “Technion”), told The Algemeiner that while he does not underestimate the potential damage of such boycott movements, “Our ties with Italian universities are stronger than ever.”

He shared with The Algemeiner a half-dozen letters he had received in recent weeks from the heads of different Italian universities, affirming their ties with the Technion and condemning the boycott movements.

One wrote:

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This email is to let you know that I consider, just like many other Rectors in Italy, the [boycott call] a stupid and futile arbitrary act which does not represent the Italian academic and scientific community. Science and technology should always stay above politics …

Another wrote to share his “dissent” to the boycott calls, and to state that “this initiative damages science, a discipline opened to the world without geographical boundaries.” He added that it was his pleasure to have invited a Nobel laureate who teaches at the Technion to serve on the Advisory Board of his university.

A third echoed the sentiment that their cooperation in the fields of water, nanotechnology, and energy “have nothing to do with politics, war, or related issues.” Further, he added, “I found in your institution an extraordinary openness toward both the scientific Arabic and Palestinian community as well.”

A fourth stressed that latter point as well, noting that after a recent visit to the Technion, his Vice-Rector “had the opportunity to appreciate not only the impressive record of scientific results achieved by the Technion in the last decades but, as well, its climate of tolerance, democracy and cultural openness.”

Several had particularly harsh words for the individuals calling for the boycotts. One noted that the persons at his university who had endorsed the boycott call “are scientifically not relevant and considered not active in science any more, which is probably the reason that they have time to spend in politics.” Another called the boycott “the outrageous initiative of a single or few researchers.”

President Lavie concluded, to The Algemeiner, “The letters speak for themselves.”

The letters came as a group of Italian students announced their call for a boycott of the Technion, as reported by The Algemeiner on Tuesday. The students’ campaign followed a broader one launched in January, when 168 Italian scholars from more than 50 universities signed a statement demanding their institutions cut ties with the Technion. That statement had surpassed 330 signatures as of this week.

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