Open Letter to Cornell University: Don’t Collaborate with Apartheid

The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is gravely concerned about Cornell University’s plans to collaborate with Israel’s Technion Israel Institute of Technology to build a joint campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, including the use of $100 million in public funds.[1]

Israeli academic institutions provide the technological foundation for Israel’s military occupation and colonization of Palestine, Syria’s Golan Heights, and of southern Lebanon. They provide the knowledge that undergirds Israel’s ongoing colonial project. Technion, like all Israeli academic institutions, is deeply complicit with Israel’s military, providing it with the technological infrastructure to maintain and expand its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land.

Technion’s role in ethnic cleansing is extensive. One of their most notorious projects led to the creation of “a remote-controlled ‘D9’ bulldozer used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses and the development of a method for detecting underground tunnels, specifically developed in order to assist the Israeli army in its continued siege on the Gaza Strip.”[2]

Technion’s partnership with Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturers, has played a leading role in the construction and surveillance of the Apartheid Wall in Palestine as well as along the U.S.-Mexico border with its subsidiary Kollsman. Technion trains its engineering students to work for companies like Elbit dealing “directly in the development of complex weapons in the process of researching their academic theses.”[3] As a reward, Elbit has been funding research grants in upwards of half a million dollars to Technion’s students conducting research.[4]

Technion’s deep relationship with the Israeli military also includes work with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel’s largest government-sponsored weapons manufacturers famous for its “advanced hybrid armor protection system” used in Israel’s Merkava tanks.[5] Technion developed an “MBA program tailored specifically for Rafael managers” in order to solidify its relationship between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex.[6]

Like its peer institutions in Israel, Technion rewards its students who perform their compulsory military service. Technion, however, also grants Israeli army reservists who participated in the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009 “academic benefits in addition to the usual benefits for reservists.”[7] This is in addition to a number of benefits that Technion and other Israeli academic institutions grant to those who serve in the Israeli army. Thus, not only does Technion participate in the development of weapons used to massacre and oppress Palestinians, it also rewards those students most actively involved inside and outside the classroom. Moreover,  while rewarding Jewish students who serve in the Israeli army, Technion participates in the Atidim program while actively discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel.[8]

We call on our colleagues–students and faculty alike–at Cornell University to join our peers at McGill and Concordia Universities in Canada to refuse complicity in Israel’s military-industrial complex.[9] Cornell’s project means the active participation in an apartheid regime that oppresses Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese people through its military apparatus, bolstered by its academic institutions. We call on our colleagues to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions until Israel meets its obligations to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: 1) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 2) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and 3) respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.[10]

[1] Max Bluemnthal, “New York to Host Israel’s Top Drone Lab.” Al Akhbar. (24 December 2011).

2 Uri Yacobi Keller, The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin. (Jerusalem: Alternative Information Center, 2009), 9.

3Ibid., 10

4 Ibid., 10-11

5  “Structures of Oppression: Why McGill and Concordia Universities Must Sever their Links with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology,” 4.

6 Ibid., 3-4

7 Keller, 12-13

8 Keller, 40.

9 “McGill and Concordia Must Boycott Technion.”


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