On March 1, 2017, the Student Council of the University of Turin approved by wide majority (76%) a motion (text below) supporting the academic boycott of Israel, calling for revocation of the agreements between the university and the Israel Institute of Technology – Technion in Haifa. For the first time, an Italian academic body has endorsed the BDS movement as a nonviolent method aimed at ending the continuous and systematic denial of the rights of the Palestinians by the State of Israel.
The decision of the Student Council is part of an ongoing campaign launched in 2016 at several Italian universities in response to a call by professors and researchers – 351 to date – to end the collaboration between Italian universities and Technion, a research institution directly involved, through its collaboration, in the Israeli military-industrial complex. The campaign targets Technion due to the fact that the institute is involved more than any other university in the Israeli military-industrial complex. The institute contributes to the Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid in Palestine.
Technion collaborates with the Israeli military and the main weapons manufacturing companies in Israel, such as Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense, companies that produced various weapons systems used against civilians, such as the drones used to fire on civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008-2009, or the surveillance equipment for Israel’s Apartheid Wall that transforms what remains of Palestinian territory into an open-air prison. The collaboration with the Israeli military and weapons industry makes the Technion an institution directly complicit in Israeli violations of international law.
The decision of the Student Council of the University of Turin, supported at an academic level, it to be considered a bold statement calling for the end of any collaboration with Israeli institutions that contribute to or benefit from the violations of international law perpetrated by the State of Israel and that have ties to its armed forces. The students of the University of Turin refuse all collaboration with the Israeli regime.
Students Against Technion
Text of the motion
Turin, March 1, 2017
Following the address of a student representative of the organization “Progetto Palestina” (Palestine Project) on 20th January 2017, who spoke before this assembly, the Student Council of the “University of Turin
ACKNOWLEDGES AND MAKES KNOWN
TO THE STUDENTS AND THE ENTIRE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY
That “Progetto Palestina” is a student organization of the University of Turin (UniTo), which has been active for several years in awareness raising among their fellow students, faculty and all members of the academic community and in action in support of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and which has, since its creation, experienced limits imposed on available space within UniTo by the academic administration in several occasions, despite the organization’s democratic and open spirit;
That in 2005, 170 Palestinian civil society organisations called for a campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the State of Israel as a means to apply non-violent pressure on Israel to end its violations of international law;
That Amnesty International has accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians, civilian infrastructure and committing war crimes during its summer 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed over 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children;
That Israel continues to impose an air, land and naval blockade on Gaza, severely restricting movement of people and basic goods. A UN report stated that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” by 2020, if the blockade persists;
That in 2004, the International Court of Justice deemed Israel’s construction of a separation wall and Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal;
That a 2009 report by the South African Human Sciences Research Council described Israel’s systematic discrimination and forced displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank as amounting to apartheid and colonialism, as defined in international law;
That in 2014, Richard Falk, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, stated that Israeli policies bore “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing”;
That in December 2016, UN Security Council resolution 2334 reaffirmed that Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, have no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law;
That more than 50 laws currently in force in Israel have the sole purpose of discriminating against 20% of its population composed of over a million and a half citizens of Palestinian origin. The U.S. Department of State has regularly criticized Israel for its system of institutional, legal and societal discrimination;
That more than 6 million Palestinian refugees are denied their right to return to their homes as sanction by UN resolution 194;
That Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid impacts the right of Palestinian students to access education;
That Palestinian civil society organisations argue that Israel is only able to maintain its system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid because of the support from international governments and the complicity of corporations and institutions around the world;
That Israeli universities are engaged in justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, rationalizing the gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, providing moral justification for extra-judicial killings;
That Israeli universities are involved in developing weapon systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza, considered by a UN commission as “war crimes and crimes against humanity”;
That Israeli universities systematically discriminating against “non-Jewish” students, and commit other implicit and explicit violations of human rights and international law;
That Technion – Israel Institute of Technology is a public research university in Haifa that boasts “exceptionally close ties” with the Israeli defence ministry and military as well as the country’s top weapons producers;
That the Technion has a partnership with Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturers. Elbit produced the drones that Israel used in its crimes against civilians in Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2008-09. This partnership played a leading role not only in the construction and surveillance of the Apartheid wall in Palestine, but also along the U.S.-Mexico border through its subsidiary Kollsman;
That Technion trains its engineering students to work with companies dealing “directly in the development of complex weapons in the process of researching their academic theses” (Yacobi Keller 2009);
That Technion developed a remote-control function on the Caterpillar ‘D9’ bulldozer used by the Israeli army to illegally demolish Palestinian homes;
That Technion has strong relations with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (RADS), one of Israel’s largest government-sponsored weapons manufacturers. RADS is famous for its “advanced hybrid armor protection system” used in Israel’s Merkava tanks. The institute has developed an “MBA program tailored specifically for Rafael managers,” which further solidifies its relationship between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex. (Structures of Oppression: Why McGill and Concordia Universities Must Sever their Links with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology);
That Technion rewards its students who perform their compulsory military service. It also granted Israeli army reservists who participated in the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009 “academic benefits in addition to the usual benefits for reservists.” (Uri Yacobi Keller, 2009);
That through co-operative research programs with Israeli weapons manufacturers 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 military;
That as of 2016 more than 350 Italian academics have joined the “Italian Campaign for Revocation of Agreements with Technion” in support of the Palestinian campaign for boycott of Israeli academic institutions”;
That the University of Turin has cooperation with Technion.
In this regard, the Student Council states
That Palestinians should be accorded their basic rights, and Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights should be opposed and condemned, as the movement for BDS has done and continues to do to this day;
The Student Council further recognizes
That the BDS movement, despite intimidation and threats by prominent members of the Israeli administration, is proving increasingly capable of persuading universities, other public bodies and private companies to cease their complicity with Israeli violations of international law;
That in this context the University of Turin should commit to revoking the agreements currently in force with the Technion of Haifa and to refraining from signing future agreements with any institution that contribute to or benefit from Israeli violations of international law or from its ties with the Israeli armed forces;
In view and consideration of the above, the Student Council resolves
1) To adopt the motion of the Student Union of the University of Manchester, from which this motion takes direct inspiration in the premises;
2) To publicly endorse and support the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and to inform students of this decision via an email to be sent to all students though the Education and Student Services administration and published on the university website;
3) To urge to all student organizations, representative and non, to publicly support the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS);
4) To call on the University of Turin to take a public stand against Israel’s violations of the international law and the Universal Declaration of Human rights;
5) To support the campaign “Students Against Technion” and urge all University of Turin students to support this campaign by signing the call for the revocation of the agreements;
6) To urge the University of Turin to break all ties with Technion and commit to not signing any new agreements with Israeli universities due to their role in the support and maintenance of Israel’s regime of occupation, apartheid and settler-colonialism, until Israel ends its violations of Palestinian rights and international law.
7) To call on the University of Turin, in the person of the Rector Gianmaria Ajani, to withdraw from the agreements currently in place with the Technion Institute of Haifa within the time determined by the agreement (no later than the Academic Senate of 11 April 2017);
8) To transmit the text of this motion to the administrative and support offices so that the topic is debated promptly and in respect of the time required to terminate the agreements with the Technion in Haifa;
9) In addition, considering that the topic is of interest of to the entire academic community, the Student Council notes that to date the Statute of the University of Turin provides for, while not making norm of, the possibility of convening a special referendum open to the entire academic community. In this regard, the Student Council hopes that immediate action will be taken to regulate what the Council notes to be an important instrument of direct democracy and participation in the life and choices at the University of Turin.