President David J. Skorton, Cornell University
Vice President Susan Murphy, Cornell University
Provost Kent Fuchs,
On Monday December 19 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the joint bid advanced by Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in the multi-billion-dollar competition to create a massive applied sciences and technology campus on Roosevelt Island had won. While this initiative is sure to benefit Cornell University and the City of New York in many ways, the partnership with Technion means that these benefits will come at the expense of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and, thus, also of the moral standing of the University and the City.
More than any other university in Israel, the Technion, which is involved in the research and development of military and arms technology, is directly implicated in war crimes. Its joint programs with the Israeli military and its cooperative research programs with two of Israel’s major weapons corporations, Elbit and Rafael, renders Technion a full participant in the actions carried out by the Israeli military. Those actions include targeting civilians, as in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and the 2008-2009 Cast Lead operation against Gaza, and physically contributing to Israel’s discriminatory practices in the West Bank with the construction of the separation wall that cuts sharply into the occupied West Bank and disrupts the lives of Palestinians in countless ways. The Cornell administration cannot plead ignorance of these facts. We refuse to collaborate with this.
Rafael Advanced Defence Systems LTD., which established a three-year ‘in-house’ MBA program at Technion University, has worked with students and faculty there to develop the ‘Ramtech’ rockets and different unmanned aircraft to be used in Israel’s ongoing occupation. Rafael also developed the armor used by the Merkava-4 tanks, which enabled the Israeli military forces to carry out urban warfare, as they did during the Cast Lead operation. In the course of that warfare, actions were taken that constitute war crimes under international law. We refuse to collaborate with this.
Elbit Systems, which established a training program for engineers in the Technion and has given research grants to Technion consisting of half a million US dollars a year for 5 years, is one of the two main contractors for Israel’s separation wall—which has been declared illegal by the international Court of Justice—and is the producer of the Hermes 450 drones, which were used during the flotilla attack, as well as during some of the deadlier incidents during the 2006 war against Lebanon and the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza. Human Rights Watch has condemned Israel’s use of drones for targeted killings. Such killings have prompted Amnesty International to call for a suspension of UK arms sales to Israel. Technion is complicit in these killings. We refuse to collaborate with this.
Institutional links with Technion will, furthermore, entail complicity in the unjust treatment of Palestinian Israelis within Israeli society and academia. At every level of the Israeli educational system, Israeli-Palestinian students encounter obstacles in terms of access to many programs—especially the ones tied to participation in the IDF—as well as to housing and resources. Beyond these pervasive structural inequalities, freedom of speech for Palestinian-Israelis is curtailed at Technion. For example, in the first few days of June 2010, in the wake of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a pro-military students’ group was permitted to demonstrate, while the mostly Palestinian led rally against the attack was repressed brutally by the police and several demonstrators were arrested. Severe restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for Palestinian students at Technion are part and parcel of a broader colonial and racist educational system, one that is by now integral to the functioning of the Israeli occupation. We refuse to collaborate with this.
The proposed partnership with an institution like the Technion, because of its direct and indirect assaults on the freedoms of speech and assembly, the right to education and to basic security, and because of its intimate bond with the needs and dictates of a discriminatory and brutal project of military occupation, would give the lie to Cornell’s founding values of universalism and inclusion embodied in the university’s motto “any person any study.’ We refuse to collaborate with this.
At both Concordia University and McGill University there are currently campaigns calling for divestment from Technion by ending the bilateral exchange programs with it. Norway’s pension fund, Europe’s largest investment fund, has divested from Elbit. The Swedish national pension fund, Kommunal Landspensjonkasse (one of the largest life insurance companies in Norway), Danske Bank (the largest bank in Denmark), and PKA Ltd., one of the largest Danish pension funds, have also divested. We, too, refuse to collaborate with this.
Cornell Provost Kent Fuchs commented on this successful bid with the words: "I think we were the only university that had unanimous support from the administration, faculty, staff, students and alumni." This is simply not true. On Monday December 12 2011, some of us met with Cornell Provost Kent Fuchs and with Cornell Vice President Susan Murphy and voiced our concerns about and our opposition to the collaboration with Technion. We informed them of the above facts, yet they decided to disregard them and move on with this collaboration. But we the undersigned do not and will not lend our voices to the “unanimous support” of this collaboration with an Israeli institute that facilitates war crimes. We refuse to be implicated in war crimes and we reject any attempt to normalize them.
We refuse to collaborate with this, and call on Cornell University to end the partnership with Technion!