Petition to oppose the agreement between the École Polytechnique and the Technion: No to the collaboration with the Technion, complicit in war crimes

AURDIP, France’s Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine, along with French scholars and intellectuals, are demanding an end to the relationship between the École Polytechnique and the Technion, because of the Technion’s deep relationship with the Israeli state and military.

Petition to oppose the agreement between the École Polytechnique and the Technion: No to the collaboration with the Technion, complicit in war crimes

If you are an academic (active or retired) you can sign the petition. Your signature will appear on the list of signatories. Students and alumni of the École Polytechnique can also endorse the petition.

In 2013 the École Polytechnique signed a double agreement with the Technion, the Israeli Technological Institute.

The first agreement foresees the exchange of invited professors and students, along with a partnership in research development. One might think that this is a collaboration like any other, between two well-reputed scientific institutions. The real situation is much less attractive.

In fact, for a number of years the Technion has practiced discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel while, at the same time, supporting the Israeli Army (1); it has enrolled its know-how in the service of the Israeli military-industrial complex (2). In doing so, it has become an important part of the Israeli system of occupation of the Palestinian territories and of its long train of illegal acts there (disproportionate use of force, colonization, expropriations, destruction of houses, expulsions, arbitrary arrests, assassinations, etc.) As a consequence it exposes the students, researchers and professors of the École Polytechnique to the risk of complicity in war crimes (3). It is not clear that the École Polytechnique has understood the legal risk it runs — not to mention the moral problem.

The second agreement opens the way to a double diploma, with exchanges of students at the Master level. In this framework, theoretically École Polytechnique students can follow courses at the Technion and carry out their research internship there, particularly those in engineering and computer sciences.

This partnership is particularly shocking because it goes against the French Constitutional principle of equality for all in access to education, irrespective of race, religion or national origin. In 1960 the École Polytechnique unanimously showed its solidarity with Professor Laurent Schwartz who had been fired by the Ministry of Defense for having spoken out against the use of torture in Algeria. Can we accept today, without a word, that a Palestinian student at the Polytechnique be denied access to a course open to his classmates? And what to say of the numerous students at the École, French or foreign nationals, whose name might sound Arab or Muslim? Their identity, like a stigma, will prevent them signing up for the double diploma in order not to be exposed to the bullying and humiliation that the Israeli border police regularly inflict on their fellow human beings. Is it worthy of the École Polytechnique to be obliged to advise a non-negligible proportion of its students not to apply for an in-house training curriculum, muttering in hallway conversations that “with your name you shouldn’t make waves”?

The AURDIP (Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine), joining together several hundred French university staff demands that the École Polytechnique cease all forms of support for or collaboration with the Technion. A sense of ethics, a rejection of discriminatory practices, as well as a respect for international law requires it. A concern not to implicate the students, researchers and teachers of the École Polytechnique in the commission of war crimes necessitates it.

We ask therefore all persons having links with the École Polytechnique (students, alumni, professors, researchers, invited speakers, employees, members of the supervisory authority, donors) to sign this letter, to mobilize, and to demand that the administration renounce this partnership.

We ask all members of universities who are shocked by this partnership to sign this letter and to write as well to the administration of the École Polytechnique.

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Some Facts

- 1. The Technion, like a number of Israeli universities, maintains a discriminatory policy with respect to Palestinian students citizens of Israel. These constitute nearly 20% of the student-age population in Israel but only 5% of those pursuing a Masters and 3% of those studying for a Ph.D. At the same time, the Technion is the Israeli university which has the highest proportion of students and professors coming from the military, former military and reservists. Those students who are serving in the military or in the reserves benefit from advantages aimed at facilitating their academic career; the Technion even proposes special training in mechanics for officers in the Israeli army.

The freedom of expression and to demonstrate of Palestinian students citizens of Israel is limited: those who demonstrate peacefully their disapproval of Israeli policies on campus are sometimes arrested. They are not authorized to form student associations or to organize events on campus which criticize Israeli policy towards Palestinians. On the other hand, associations favorable to Zionism and demonstrations in favor of the Israeli army are authorized on campus.

- 2. The Technion maintains solid research relations with companies in the Israeli military-industrial sector. For decades it has contributed towards the development of technologies used in the armament and systems of armament used against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. In recent years, the Technion’s students and researchers have participated in work on the creation of an armored, remote-controlled bulldozer (IDF Caterpillar D9) which has been used to destroy the homes of the Palestinian civil population (25,000 houses destroyed since 1967). They have also participated in the development of drones, conceived and used for military purposes in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Technion has close links with the computer science and telecommunications corporations: Verint, NICE Systems, Amdocs, Check Point and Comverse, which furnish the Israeli army with surveillance and monitoring programs aimed at the Palestinian population; but also programs used to assist airplanes and drones in the course of military operations.

Finally, Technion works in close collaboration with two of the largest Israeli arms manufacturers, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems.

In 2001 the Technion announced the creation of an MBA program, conceived specifically for managers of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, further reinforcing the already-existing links between the university and the arms company. Starting in 2006, joint research has been carried out in developing missiles. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems thus benefits from the research carried out by students and scientists at the Technion. The company makes not only missiles but also the electronics for Israeli armored units. The armament and systems of armament produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are employed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Similarly, in 2008, Elbit Systems created within the Technion a joint research center for electron optics. Elbit Systems recruits an important part of its managers and engineers from the Technion. Its CEO has even declared that the relationship that exists between his company and the Technion played an essential role in guaranteeing the success of Elbit Systems in the competitive and globalized world of armament manufacturers.

Elbit Systems produces not only drones but also a whole series of arms and munitions (for artillery, armored units and aircraft) used by the Israeli army in its military operations in Gaza and the West bank, during which numerous unpunished war crimes have been committed. Moreover, Elbit Systems provides and maintains surveillance and spying material for the Israeli army along the Wall of Separation and around a number of Israeli colonies in the West bank and East Jerusalem. In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared the Wall, like the colonies, contrary to international law; as in apartheid, they give rise to discriminatory measures against Palestinians. A certain number of European pension funds and banks have withdrawn their participation in Elbit Systems because of its implication in violations of international law.

- 3. Through its close and long-standing links to the Israeli military-industrial complex, the Technion has contributed to the elaboration and implementation of armament and systems of armament. Now all this has been and is still being used by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, subject to a blockade that is illegal under international law and to intense bombings and incursions of the Israeli army, such as:

  • Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 and January 2009) which provoked the death of 1,350 Palestinians of which nearly two-thirds were civilians—men, women and children;
  • Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012) which provoked the death of 160 Palestinians of which at least 70 were civilians—men, women and children;
  • Operation Protective Edge (July–August 2014) which provoked the death of 2,150 Palestinians of which nearly two-thirds were civilians—men, women and children.

These armaments and armament systems have been and still are being implemented by the Israeli army in the West Bank—subject to an active policy of colonization, illegal under international law, just as are the numerous repressive measures taken against the Palestinian population—not to mention their use during the murderous 2006 war in South Lebanon of unhappy memory with its bombings of the village of Cana which caused the death of 28 civilians, including women and children.

Now international law considers that the supplying of arms and material to the perpetrator of a war crime amounts to aiding and abetting the criminal act and thus incurring criminal responsibility of the supplier as an accomplice (Art. 25, §3 and §30 of the Statutes of the International Criminal Court: Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone, Judgements of 16 March 2006, §40, and of 26 April 2012, §149).

It follows that a strong presumption of complicity in war crimes falls on Israeli arms corporations but equally on Israeli universities and laboratories such as the Technion. This presumption may indeed concern French professors, researchers and students having participated in scientific programs which facilitate the development or the use of armaments and armament systems used by the Israeli army and, of course, those who have supervised or financed their research. Such a presumption would be liable to give rise to criminal complaints in France and to the opening of a preliminary inquiry or a judicial investigation. The presence of students of École Polytechnique or of French researchers at the Technion poses a criminal risk for them.

These elements should clearly lead the École Polytechnique to end all collaboration with the Technion.

Although informed of this, for the moment the administration of the École Polytechnique refuses to suspend this partnership. See the letter of AURDIP to the General Director of the École Polytechnique of December 6, 2013.

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