The following letter was sent to the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing of the University of Melbourne over its collaboration with Ariel University, which is located in an illegal Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land.

Professor Priyan Mendis and Professor Tuan Ngo
Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing
Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne

Sydney, April 13, 2019

Dear Professors Mendis and Ngo,

We are writing to ask you to withdraw your participation from the Global Hemp Summit in July, which you are organising.

We acknowledge the importance of the conference to your research and your discipline. However, the choice of the venue, Ariel University in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, means that participating in the conference reinforces and legitimates the illegal annexation of Palestinian land by Israel.

Ariel settlement, in which Ariel University is located, is illegally built on Palestinian territory in the West Bank, twenty kilometres beyond Israel’s internationally-recognized borders. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was occupied by Israel in 1967. Along with the Gaza Strip, it is internationally considered as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory by the UN and referred to as such by the International Court of Justice. [1]

In transferring parts of its own population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory and creating permanent infrastructure such as universities and colleges there, Israel is in breach of article 49 of the Geneva convention, which states that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.” [2] In 2016, United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 reconfirmed that Israel’s settlement activity, including in Ariel, “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” [3]

These details are not abstract points of jurisprudence: they have immediate and extremely serious ethical implications for anyone contemplating visiting Ariel University or collaborating with it.

By attending the conference at a settlement institution established in defiance of international law, participants will be ignoring, and so effectively validating, the existence of Israel’s ongoing military occupation. The illegal foundation of the Ariel settlement in 1978 dispossessed local Palestinians of farmland used for cultivation and grazing. [4] Today, Palestinians are kept out of the settlement, even to use the hospital. As a result, even though the university is on internationally recognized Palestinian land, no Palestinian can freely enter it. Israeli settlements are considered by The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a war crime. [5]

Given the social function and importance of the academic profession, researchers have a particular obligation to act responsibly and in ways that promote peace and justice in the world. Unfortunately, the conference you are organising works directly against that goal. The very existence of the Ariel settlement has, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “long been a key obstacle to any future peace accord” between Israelis and Palestinians. [6] Treating Ariel University as though it was a conference venue like any other normalizes Israel’s ongoing dispossession of Palestine and allows Israel to claim that the international community endorses its takeover of Palestinian land.

For that reason, authoritative Palestinian academic and human rights bodies, including the Palestinian Ministry of Education, the Council of Palestinian Universities’ Presidents, the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), have called on states, academic institutions, multilateral research bodies and international academics like you not to recognize Ariel University and to refrain from any institutional relations with it. [7] Similarly, the Council of Presidents of Israeli Universities and over one thousand Israeli academics opposed the granting of university status to Ariel on the grounds that “involving Israeli academia in the ideology of conquest … threatens the ability of the Israeli academia to function.” [8] In addition, the Israeli Anthropological Association has refused to cooperate with Ariel and the other higher education institutions illegally located in Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. [9]

With regard to your conference, we are therefore relaying our Palestinian colleagues’ call both to suspend your collaboration with Ariel University as an institution, and to refrain from participating in activities at Ariel University itself. We are not asking you to suspend collaboration
with individual academics who are affiliated to Ariel, as long as their institution is accurately described in publications and other public contexts as being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in violation of international law.

We acknowledge the significant inconvenience and disruption that your withdrawal from the conference will entail. However, Ariel should never have been chosen as the venue in the first place. Holding conferences at Ariel makes participants complicit with grave violations of international law. We wouldn’t accept stolen money to fund a conference and we wouldn’t allow a known receiver of stolen goods to supply conference infrastructure, so we also shouldn’t accept a conference venue on stolen land. Doing so isn’t simply highly unethical – worse, it contributes to the ongoing legitimation of the original theft, and normalizes one of the most egregious human-rights violations in today’s world, Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory.

We respectfully ask you, therefore, to withdraw your and your organisation’s collaboration from the conference. Doing so would constitute a substantive contribution to the progress of human rights in Israel-Palestine, and would earn you the thanks and respect of supporters of justice everywhere.

We enclose a list of frequently asked questions, and will be only too happy to discuss this issue with you further. We would also be delighted to meet you in person, or to attend any meetings you might wish to call in order to discuss this question with your colleagues.

With our thanks in advance for treating this appeal with the seriousness it deserves,


Dr Nick Riemer, University of Sydney
Majdi Alsalah, Chairman, General Union of Palestinian Engineers, Ramallah, Palestine
Australian Jewish Democratic Society, Melbourne
Dr David Brophy, University of Sydney
Hilmi Dabbagh, Australian Palestinian Professionals’ Association
Professor Bassam Dally, University of Adelaide
Professor Ghassan Hage, Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne
Amin Hanoun, General Union of Palestinian Engineers, Australia
Associate Professor Alana Lentin, Western Sydney University
Associate Professor Jake Lynch, University of Sydney
Majed Odeh, General Union of Palestinian Engineers, Australia
Dr Saad Odeh, Western Sydney University
Vivienne Porzsolt, Jews Against the Occupation
Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees AM, University of Sydney, Sydney Peace Foundation
Associate Professor Peter Slezak, University of New South Wales
Dr Lucia Sorbera, University of Sydney

[1] See for instance Legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, 9 July 2004




[5] See also



[8]; Journal of International Education Research 10.3 (2014) p.214.