Stop Censorship of BDS on Italian Campuses – A letter of solidarity from AFP

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As members of Academics for Palestine in Ireland, we are writing to express our concerns about recent events on Italian university campuses regarding the BDS and PACBI campaigns. We have learnt that after the launch of the “Stop Technion” campaign, which demands revoking research collaborations between Italian universities and the Israeli research centre Technion on the basis of the latter’s complicity with the Israeli war industry,[1] attempts to debate the campaign on university campuses have been censored by university Deans. We understand that current discussions of the Academic Boycott of Israeli Universities have been highly securitised, with university authorities preventing debates taking place.

Regrettably, this is not new. Italian university Deans have been acting as censors on several occasions. Last year in Rome a conference hosting the Israeli historian Prof Ilan Pappe was cancelled after political pressure on the Dean of the “Roma Tre” university, as widely reported,[2] leading to the Dean’s decision not to allow the conference organisers to use university premises. This adds to a broader hostile environment, which goes well beyond university campuses. Recently, in Trieste, the city council withdrew the sponsorship of a conference on Palestine after the Israeli Ambassador Naor Gilon put pressure on the Mayor, as reported in the national press.[3]

Similar events have taken place since the beginning of 2016. As part of the international “Israeli Apartheid Week” campaign that draws attention to the occupation through seminars, talks, and film screenings, an event at the University of Cagliari was cancelled in late February,[4] and a debate on the “Stop Technion” campaign was cancelled at the University of Turin.[5] In both cases, the Deans decided to deny permission to the organisers to use university facilities, thus preventing the two debates from taking place. At the university of Rome “La Sapienza” IAW-related initiatives were targeted by the Israeli Embassy. According to media reports,[6] the Israeli Ambassador was in consultation with the Dean’s closest collaborators and the Dean, Prof Eugenio Gaudio, stated that the signatories of the ‘Stop Technion’ campaign should be punished.[7] At the University of Catania, where the annual congress of the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies is due to take place in mid-March 2016, a panel on the implications of academic and cultural boycott campaigns against Israel, meant to take place during the conference,[8] seems in danger, as there is no sign of it in the official conference programme.[9]

Academics for Palestine Ireland is deeply concerned by the actions taken by Italian universities and expresses solidarity with the signatories of the “Stop Technion” appeal and the censored conference organisers. As signatories of the PACBI campaign, we are fully aware of the controversial nature of the issue and we urge the Italian university authorities to:

  • Reverse the cancellations
  • Allow the debates and conferences to take place on university campuses
  • Stop political interference and allow the universities to remain spaces of free academic debate.

[1] https://stoptechnionitalia.wordpress.com/the-call/

[2] http://linkcoordinamentouniversitario.it/annullato-a-roma-tre-l-evento-con-ilan-pappe-pretendiamo-spiegazioni/, http://www.bocchescucite.org/ilan-pappe-a-roma-incontro-in-altra-sede-dopo-il-no-delluniversita/, http://newsgo.it/2015/02/roma-tre-revocato-il-convegno-con-ilan-pappe-su-europa-e-medio-oriente/, http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2015/02/14/storico-pro-palestina-invitato-al-convegno-roma-tre-annulla-levento-e-polemicaRoma13.html

[3] http://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2015/12/29/trieste-ambasciatore-israele-scrive-a-sindaco-via-patrocinio-dal-convegno-su-palestina-e-il-comune-lo-toglie/2338753/. Also reported here: http://bdsitalia.org/index.php/la-campagna-bds/ultime-notizie-bds/1926-trieste-lettera-ambasciatore

[4] http://www.sardegnaoggi.it/Cronaca/2016-02-24/31661/A_Cagliari_lIsraeli_Apartheid_Week_ma_lUniversita_nega_i_locali.html

[5] http://www.lastampa.it/2016/03/01/cronaca/caso-technion-niente-assemblea-luniversit-nega-laula-3jxtKebyfmdGJwrd0c29qJ/pagina.html

[6] http://moked.it/blog/2016/03/02/odio-anti-israeliano-in-aula-lultima-parola-al-rettore/

[7] http://www.osservatorioantisemitismo.it/articoli/il-rettore-delluniversita-la-sapienza-a-favore-del-boicottaggio-del-bds/

[8] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/italian-scholars-boycott-israeli-academic-institutions-160129100916262.html

[9] http://www.sesamoitalia.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Panels-timetable-aggiornata.pdf

 

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