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Scientists sign global letter opposing physics conference at West Bank settlement

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We are writing to express our view that Ariel University in the occupied West Bank is the wrong venue for a conference on cosmology and particle physics starting on Monday 3 September and running until 6 September. The settlements are illegal under international law and have been denounced by the international court of justice and numerous UN resolutions. Human Rights Watch has noted that Ariel’s “development is inseparable from a history of continuous dispossession of Palestinians from their land and restrictions on their freedom of movement”.

There is strong opposition to Ariel University. Due to its location in a settlement, it is excluded from receiving funds from the EU, U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. In 2012, more than 1,200 Israeli faculty members signed a petition opposing the establishment of Ariel, describing it as an attempt to recruit the Israeli academia into the service of the occupation and settlement efforts. Palestinian civil society and academia are comprehensively against the occupation and the settlements.

We, the undersigned, believe that participating in any activities held in a settlement amounts to accepting the Israeli government’s policy of gradually annexing the occupied territories to Israel. We call upon our colleagues and the wider scientific community to consider these facts before engaging in any activities related to Ariel, and not to take part in any attempts to use science to normalize the occupation of  territories. The views expressed in this correspondence are those of the authors, and may not reflect those of their employers.

Prof Ofer Aharony, Weizmann Institute
Prof Imad Barghouthi, Al Quds University
Prof Suleiman Baraka, Al Aqsa University-Gaza and Virginia Tech
Prof Robert Brandenberger, McGill University
Prof Anne-Christine Davis, University of Cambridge
Prof John Ellis, King’s College London
Prof David Gross, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Santa Barbara
Prof Thomas Hertog, KU Leuven
Dr David Marsh, University of Cambridge
Prof Ann E Nelson, University of Washington
Dr Syksy Räsänen, University of Helsinki
Prof Martin Rees, University of Cambridge
Prof Nathan Seiberg, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Prof Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute
Prof Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

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3 Responses

  1. bcg
    bcg
    September 4, 2018, 2:39 pm

    Not that someone’s scientific achievements necessarily reflect on the correctness of their political opinions, but jesus, do folks know who Edward Witten is?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Witten

    “In an informal poll at a 1990 cosmology conference, Witten received the largest number of mentions as “the smartest living physicist” “

    • Peter in SF
      Peter in SF
      September 5, 2018, 3:57 am

      Nathan Seiberg is also a big name — and he’s Israeli. David Gross is a Nobel laureate, was Witten’s PhD advisor, and grew up in Israel.

      The website for the workshop is awfully sketchy. I like how it says it’s in “Ariel” without specifying a country!

  2. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    September 4, 2018, 4:26 pm

    Martin Baron Rees of Ludlow is the Astronomer Royal and past President of the Royal Society, another super-distinguished scientist. He won the Templeton Prize, which is awarded for affirmation of the spiritual side of life, in 2013. In 2016 the winner was none other than his colleague in the House of Lords, Jonathan Baron Sacks.

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