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July 26, 2021 4:46 pm
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EU-Funded Researchers Seek to Cut European Grants to Israeli Academics

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The entrance to Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

160 academics representing twenty-one countries signed an open letter demanding that the European Commission “use its leverage” to ban Israeli universities from receiving funds from a European Union (EU) program worth over $100 billion

Commending the EU’s existing bar on supporting Israeli researchers in the West Bank, the letter called on the body to go further and exclude all Israeli academic institutions, which it charged with “complicity in Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.”

The group took aim at Horizon Europe — the EU’s key R&D funding program, which has a budget of more than $112 billion through 2027 to support science, industrial competitiveness, and innovation in Europe.

“Given the emerging consensus among some of the most prominent human rights organizations, the crux of the problem goes beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it said. “It would be important to extend the prohibition of European research funds to include Israeli institutions complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, regardless of where they are situated.”

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It also charged Israeli universities with perpetuating “racism” against Palestinian students, and violating their academic freedom. “The knowledge production of Israeli universities supports and rationalizes practices of ethnic cleansing,” it said.

The letter’s signatories were all current or prior recipients of EU research funding, and included faculty at institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford, Paris Nanterre University, and Humboldt University of Berlin.

Similar statements advocating a boycott of Israeli universities have proliferated since the Israel-Hamas conflict in May.

On May 21, 400 New York University (NYU) affiliates signed a letter calling for “non-cooperation” with the NYU Tel Aviv campus, prompting a university spokesperson to declare that their movement was “at odds with the tenets of academic freedom.”

Earlier in July, UCLA and the University of Cape Town rejected an ultimatum that demanded the cancellation of presentations by two Israeli professors scheduled to speak at a virtual conference they hosted.

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