March 06, 2009

Science sans frontieres?

There's been a little flurry of articles and letters in the Independent this week over an event or series of events called "Israel Science Day". The day was yesterday but it's still worth a look at the way the Independent and various zionists handled the whole thing.

Tuesday's front page was quite promising with the headline, Science Museum accused over links to Israel and the sub-title, Protesters claim it is promoting universities that aided recent military assault on Gaza.
More than 400 academics, a Nobel laureate and the former chair of the Science Select Committee called on the museum to cancel workshops due to be held this week that promote Israeli scientific achievements to schoolchildren.

The critics plan to picket the event and accused the museum of promoting scientists and universities who are "complicit in the Israeli occupation and in the policies and weaponry recently deployed to such disastrous effect in Gaza".

Many of the critics were behind a campaign in 2002 to impose an academic boycott on Israel. That campaign failed but it provoked debate worldwide over whether Israeli academics should be penalised for the actions of their government.

Remember this was the front page.

A couple of pages in, science editor, Steve Conway, pops in on the zionist side but he hasn't quite mastered the art of hasbara. His piece is headed, Science makes a difference to a small nation. Here's the concluding paragraph:
One British scientist who has close links with Israel said that many of his Israeli friends and colleagues strongly disapprove of the recent actions in Gaza. But his view is that it is counter-productive to call for a boycott of Israeli science and scientists: isolating the most liberal-minded Israelis would only make matters worse.
Oh dear, is that the best he could do? But look what preceded it:
For a desert land surrounded by hostile nations, [like Egypt and Jordan?] Israel has traditionally viewed science as a vital intellectual activity that holds the key to its future prosperity and security. Apart from defence, Israel has spent much of its scientific effort in understanding water management, and was one of the few countries to understand the practical importance of climate change.
So defence and security are the main aspects of Israel's scientific endeavours? Yes? Yes.

But what about these liberal minded Israelis?
there have been attempts to forge more direct links between Israeli scientists and their Palestinian colleagues. An umbrella organisation called the Israeli- Palestinian Scientific Organisation was established in 2002 to distribute grants worth about £50,000 for joint research projects.
2002? Sound familiar? Wasn't that the first year of the academic intifada? I think it may have been. But having a gauche science editor on their side might not be enough for Israel and its apologists.

So next day, a couple of letters. First, a rather predictable one from WeizmannUK chair, Lord Mitchell. Oh no, I won't post the whole after having said it was predictable. You can guess what precedes:
I am chair of Weizmann UK, part of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, which is one of the world's leading centres of basic science. I would be happy to promote such a cross-Israeli-Arab scientific initiative.

Lord Mitchell

I'm sure Weizmann would have approved.

And the second?
Your report (3 March) on the proposed Israel Day of Science programme sponsored by the Zionist Federation quotes the chair as saying that his organisation – and the programme itself – is "non- political". This is not correct. The Federation's declared aim is to "advance the case of Israel". What could be more political than that?

The sixth-form seminars are essentially a propaganda exercise designed to showcase the publicly acceptable face of Israeli science and technology at a time when its military applications have been all too evident in the destruction of Gaza. It is disingenuous of the Science Museum to claim that by merely renting out the space, it is somehow absolved of all responsibility for staging the event .

That does not necessarily mean the programme should be cancelled, only that the young people attending should be made fully aware of the wider context of debate in which it is taking place. Ideally their teachers will have already encouraged them to follow the controversy as reported in the press during the past few days. Surely it is important that those who may be intending to pursue a scientific career should be given this opportunity to explore, in a concrete case, some of the key issues raised by Professor Rosenhead and his colleagues concerning the ethics and politics of research?

Professor Phil Cohen

University of East London
Oops, there's three in this couple but the third equates the boycotting of Israeli propaganda exercises with Israel's slaughtering of the Palestinians so I won't post it here.

But panic has really set in with many great and good zionists:
Dear Sir,

We were saddened by attempts to cancel the "Israel Science Day" lectures and workshops for schoolchildren. Whatever our opinions on the actions of the Israeli Government, scientists and academics should not be punished simply for their nationality.

Science crosses borders, builds bridges and transcends national and political divides. It can unite people, but the protesters seek only to divide and exclude. At a time of high community tensions, these boycott calls are especially pernicious.

The group of protesters peddled a discredited academic boycott inside the University and College Union, which was widely condemned as discriminatory and was abandoned. After failing in their union, they have continued the boycott campaign in wider society, trying to prevent British schoolchildren from being inspired by scientific discovery and innovation.

We welcome the Science Museum's principled position in refusing to cancel this event, and hope that the "Israel Science Day" events inspire British pupils to pursue a future of their own scientific innovations and successes.

Signed: [you don't wanna know]
But let's have this again:
Science crosses borders, builds bridges and transcends national and political divides. It can unite people, but the protesters seek only to divide and exclude.
So it's all about crossing borders, building bridges and uniting people? Then why is it Israel Science Day and why is it being promoted by the Zionist Federation.

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