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McGill and Concordia Must Boycott Technion

May 23, 2011
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In the wake of successful/ongoing divestment campaigns at Hampshire College, UC Berkeley, Carleton University, and the University of Johannesburg, a group of students, faculty and community members in Montreal have started to organize a campaign to sever the links between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Concordia and McGill university.

In the wake of successful/ongoing divestment campaigns at Hampshire College, UC Berkeley, Carleton University, and the University of Johannesburg, a group of students, faculty and community members in Montreal have started to organize a campaign to sever the links between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Concordia and McGill university. Several months ago, this group published a report entitled “Structures of Oppression” that outlines the ‘strong bilateral student exchange programs, joint research projects, and collaborative scholarships’ that Concordia/McGill share with Technion in Haifa.

This report, and the campaign more broadly, hopes to highlight (and eventually sever) Concordia and McGill’s overt complicity in, support for, and normalization of, an academic institution that is inextricably linked with the Israeli military and weapons corporations. Further, the report emphasizes Technion’s role as an apparatus of Israel’s apartheid policies and practices, and examines how this university serves as an important tool in the denial of justice and freedom for all Palestinians.

As an engineering/science university that is heavily involved in arms research and technology, Technion is a key agent in Israel’s military-industrial complex. Through cooperative research programs with Israeli weapons corporations such as Elbit and Rafael, and programs with the Israeli military, Technion participates in the creation and development of technology funded by arms profiteers and the Israeli miltiary. The arms technology/research that is developed at Technion has been used by the Israeli state and military in a variety of guises.

Less than two years ago, Technion joined Elbit in creating a technology initiative at the University’s faculty of engineering. At the same time, Elbit (with direct and indirect help from Technion) has become one of the two main providers for Israel’s apartheid wall. Further, in collaboration with Rafael- one of Israel’s largest weapons manufacturers- students and faculty at Technion have researched and developed amongst other projects, the ‘Ramtech’ rockets and more recently, different unnamed aircrafts to be used in Israel’s ongoing occupation. Rafael is also responsible for developing certain technologies used by Merkava-4 tanks in the 2009 invasion of Gaza.

The links between Technion and weapons manufacturer Rafael are so strong, that since 2001, the company has had a three-year ‘in-house’ MBA program at the University tailored specifically for its managers.

Beyond supporting and normalizing the arms research and technology that is produced at Technion, and used in the occupation of the Palestinian territories, Concordia and McGill’s institutional links with this University signal a complicity in the unjust treatment of Palestinian students who are citizens of Israel.

At all levels of education in Israel, Palestinian students face obstacles to acceptance into many programs- which are often tied to participation in the Israeli military- access to housing and finding. (For more information see Uri Jacobi Keller’s 2009 “The Economy of Occupation.”)

Beyond these structural inequalities, freedom of speech is severely limited at Technion.

In the first few days of June 2010, following Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, students in support of, and against the assault, staged demonstrations on the Technion campus. The pro-military group was allowed to demonstrate, while the (mostly) Palestinian led student rally against the raid was brutally repressed by Israeli police, resulting in the arrest of several demonstrators.

The severe restriction of freedom of speech for Palestinian students at Technion is part of a broader racist and colonial educations system that is integral to the functioning of Israeli apartheid.

The campaign that has emerged in Montreal over the course of the last several months is directly challenging Concordia and McGill’s complicity in, and support for an academic institution with strong relations to the Israeli military, Israeli weapons corporations, and Israeli apartheid more generally.

An integral element of the report “Structures of Oppression” and the campaign in Montreal is the thorough interrogation of the claim that such an effort violates ‘academic freedom’. This claim ignores the strong intersections between academic institutions such as Technion, and the different ways in which Israeli apartheid manifests itself.

Further, such an approach underscores the privilege of Israeli academics and academic institutions. What kind of freedom (academic or otherwise) can an individual have under military occupation?  (see College and University Workers United’s (CUWU) Academic Boycott: Why Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)

The ongoing ‘Boycott Technion’ campaign rejects Concordia and McGill’s complicity in, and support for an institution that is an integral element of Israeli Apartheid.

Until all Palestinians have freedom and justice, these two universities must sever all links with Technion.

For more information, please visit the report “Structures of Oppression,” or send an email to technionboycott@gmail.com.

Elliott Frayheyt is a member of Tadamon! and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Montreal. He can be reached atelliottfrayheyt@gmail.com

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A report on the multiple levels of systemic violence and oppression that are committedat, and fostered by the Technion University - Israeli Institute of Technology, and whyConcordia and McGill University should sever their links with this institution is available here.

May 23, 2011
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