September 25, 2009, (Pal Telegraph)- Spain has expelled a group of Israeli scientists from a state-funded solar energy competition because they are based in occupied areas of the West Bank, it said today.
The decision to expel the team from the Ariel University Centre of Samaria from Solar Decathlon Europe, an international competition involving 20 universities, has provoked angry reactions in Israel. The team was one of 20 finalists in a competition to design solar-powered housing that is part-sponsored by the US energy department.
Spain is hosting the first European version of the event next year and claims ultimate say over who takes part.
“All the ministry has done is apply the policy of the European Union,” a housing ministry spokesman said. “The EU does not recognise the occupation of the West Bank, which is where this university is.”
The university said it “rejects with disgust the one-sided announcement”. It claimed the decision “contravenes international law and international charters on academic freedom” and harms 10,000 students at the university, including 500 Arabs.
It was only after the Israeli project joined the finalists, which include the University of Nottingham, that officials at Spain’s housing ministry became aware that the university was in the West Bank. The Israelis and the US energy department were advised of the decision a week ago.
The Israeli team had described their “Stretch house” project as being inspired by the “Tent of Abraham”. “It is adaptable according to its owner’s wishes and is able to expand and create hospitable spaces,” they said. “In its closed state, when additional space is not required, it uses only half the energy necessary to operate a regular house.”
Pro-Palestinian groups claimed allowing the Israeli team to take part was a breach of international law. They said the university was in the second biggest zone in Israel’s expanding West Bank presence.
“I wonder how the Solar Decathlon can accept a project submitted by an institution that has stolen our land and will build its project on our stolen land,” said Fayeq Kishawi, coordinator of a Palestinian campaign group against the settlements, in a letter to the Spanish housing minister, Beatriz Corredor.
Jewish groups have recently claimed anti-semitism is on the rise in Spain.
A decision by El Mundo newspaper to publish an interview with the British historian and holocaust denier David Irving angered the Israeli ambassador, Raphael Schutz, who claimed it showed a lack of moral and ethical judgement.
He said he been subjected to racial abuse in Madrid, where three men shouted “dirty Jew,” “Jew bastard” and “Jewish dog” at him.
A report this week by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League complained of what it claimed was a rise in anti-Semitism across Spain and, especially, in its mainstream media. “We are deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance of classic stereotypes,” said the league’s director, Abraham H Foxman.
“Among the major European countries, only in Spain have we seen viciously anti-Semitic cartoons in the mainstream media, and street protests where Israel is accused of genocide and Jews are vilified and compared to Nazis.”