A European Union tax-payer funded research project has redacted or removed from its website a number of incriminating documents demonstrating involvement of illegal Israeli settlement-based Ariel University in the project, in violation of EU policy.
Archived copies reveal that the Horizon 2020 funded BOUNCE project removed evidence of Ariel University hosting a project dissemination event and as a “Stakeholder in Israel” in project deliverables. Additional documents listing an Ariel University professor as a project co-researcher, a “member of the Israel BOUNCE TEAM”, and as one of the “Researchers Involved in Data Collection” were also removed.
Documents remaining on the BOUNCE website have been redacted, with no indication of the revisions. An Ariel University professor’s name was removed from the list of authors of a February 2020 article, while the names of all authors, including the professor from Ariel University, were replaced with “[Hebrew University] Dissemination Team” on another article.
In all cases Ariel University was falsely indicated as located in Israel.
The BOUNCE website was scrubbed following inquiries from Finnish academics, including signatories of an open letter, signed by more than 500 academics, calling on the EU to stop allowing its research programmes to be used to “legitimize or otherwise sustain” Israeli academic institutions in illegal settlements.
EU guidelines and its own position and obligations under international law require that it not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).
BOUNCE project coordinator Paula Poikonen-Saksela of Helsinki University Hospital claimed that references to Ariel University in numerous documents over several years were a “mistake” and that “mention of Ariel University was not intended as a statement on its behalf”. Poikonen-Saksela has called on BOUNCE participant Hebrew University to “carefully avoid” citing Ariel University in the BOUNCE project.
In response to the open letter signed by more than 500 academics, the European External Action Service stated, on behalf of High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Innovation and Research Mariya Gabriel, that concerns “will be transmitted to the competent services and, if an infringement of the rules is identified, corrective measures will be taken”.
In addition, European Parliament members have asked, in a written question, how the EU Commission plans to “prevent repeated transgressions” of the EU’s obligations and position on the illegality of Israel’s settlement enterprise in EU funded research projects.
Syksy Räsänen, a physicist at the University of Helsinki and signatory of the open letter, said,
The EU must ensure compliance with its own funding guidelines, political positions and obligations under international law by monitoring research programs for involvement of Israeli settlement institutions. There must be accountability for those who violate the rules, in particular official Israeli project participants that involve settlement institutions like Ariel University in an EU-funded project. Simply scrubbing project websites or instructing participants to “carefully avoid” mentioning Ariel University allows a serious ongoing problem to continue.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a groundbreaking report finding that Israel is committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against the Palestinian population. HRW calls on the EU to “end the activities and funding found to directly contribute to facilitating these serious crimes” and impose “targeted sanctions against individuals and entities found to be responsible for the continued commission of grave international crimes, including apartheid and persecution.”
Ariel University was established by the Israeli military to further the occupation and annexation of Palestinian land. It is supported by the Israeli courts, the Council for Higher Education, and Israeli universities, further implicating them in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
In early April, Israeli mathematician Oded Goldreich was blocked by Israel’s Education Minister, supported by Israel’s High Court, from receiving the Israel Prize over his signature on the open letter to the EU.
While the Israeli Association of University Heads denounced the education minister’s interference in the Israel Prize committee’s decision, the association announced on April 10 it would admit Ariel University as a member. The announcement caused some controversy, though Israeli universities regularly cooperate with Ariel University. The Association of University Heads represents Israeli universities before the government and Israel’s Council for Higher Education.
Opposition to establishing ties with Ariel University due to its direct involvement in Israel’s violations of international law is growing. Three preeminent European academic institutions, the University of Valencia, IRT Saint-Exupéry and the University of Florence, recently ended agreements with Ariel University.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently published a paper calling on the Biden administration to restore 1970s era restrictions, removed by Trump, on US scientific funding to settlement institutions such as Ariel University.