UTS does not see Israel’s human rights violations as an issue

UTS does not see Israel’s human rights violations as an issue

May 26, 2021

BDS Australia wrote to the UTS Vice Chancellor,Professor Attila Brungs and the Vice President (Advancement), Celia Hurley about the UTS series of webinars hosted by the Israeli Technion university and other partnerships UTS has with this institution – see details here. We received a response which indicates that UTS does not take these issues seriously and does not intend to address them.

This is the response from Celia Hurley to our letter which was shared as an online petition to her and the Vice Chancellor as well.

“Thank you for your email regarding the upcoming webinar event with the Technion Institute of Technology (Australia) and your request that UTS cancel all ties with Technion.
UTS has a commitment to academic freedom and international knowledge exchange, and as a public university we base our partnerships on advice from the Australian Commonwealth Government.
We acknowledge the enormous human impact the recent conflict is having and as a university committed to social justice our sympathies are very much with all of those affected.
The UN Security Council has not, to date, made any sanctions against Israel regarding the conflict and we are not aware of any international law violations. At this point in time UTS is not aware of any new information that leads us to conclude that Technion is not an appropriate partner and that the event should be cancelled.
With kind regards,
Celia Hurley”

BDS Australia does not accept this response from the University of Technology Sydney – this is our reply:

We note your response to our call that UTS cancels its involvement in the forthcoming Technion sponsored webinar and to cease all partnerships with any institutions that contribute to the oppression of Palestinians and violations of international law.

We do not accept the arguments you have provided for not withdrawing from your association with the Israeli Technion University.  You note that UTS is committed to social justice however your actions in partnering with this university raise serious concerns about whether UTS can legitimately make this claim.

It is extraordinary that you refer to the UN Security Council and the lack of sanctions against Israel regarding this conflict especially given that every academic employed by UTS with the vaguest understanding of this issue, would be able to refer you to the ongoing veto that the United States has used and again most recently in relation to Israel’s ongoing grave violations of international law. The United States this month repeatedly blocked the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to the current hostilities despite the fact that all other 14 members of the Security Council were in favour of issuing this statement. In addition, since 1947, Israel has been the subject of almost 300 UN General Assembly resolutions – the most censured state in the history of the UN.

Regarding violations of international law, we draw your attention to this recent submission by the Australian Centre for International Justice and the Palestine Human Rights Organisations Council, which details Israel’s breaches of international law and also to the Human Rights Watch report on the Israeli crimes of apartheid and persecution. Israel’s violations of international law are well documented and have been on the public record for many years.  Again, any academic at UTS with basic knowledge could provide them for you and any other decision maker who is ignorant of these facts.

You state that you base your partnerships on advice from the Commonwealth Government which we presume means that unless a country is sanctioned by Australia, UTS will not consider ongoing violations of international law,  human rights and UN Resolutions alone, as a reason to cease partnerships. We would like to point out that as a high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, Australia has accepted the full scope of obligations under these Conventions which oblige it to respect and apply them in ‘good faith’.

The fact that the Australian Commonwealth Government is in breach of its duty under these Conventions, does not relieve UTS of the responsibility to thoroughly investigate its partnerships with institutions and bodies implicated in grave breaches of international law through their support for states like Israel.

The Israeli government’s actions to deny and hinder the right of Palestinians to an education are well documented. This Norwegian Refugee Council report shows that there were an average of 10 attacks per month on West Bank kindergarten and school students, staff and facilities between 2018-2020. Unicef documented that in 2016 alone, 256 education-related violations were documented in the West Bank, affecting nearly 30,000 students. This World Council of Churches / Unicef report offers detailed analysis and documentation of the way the Israeli Occupation and illegal settlement enterprise has impacted many thousands of Palestinian children’s education.

The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Save the Children reported on May 19th that 50 schools in Gaza were damaged by Israeli airstrikes over the past week, impacting some 41,897 children. Three schools were reportedly damaged in Israel by rockets from Gaza.

Technion’s collaboration with the Israeli government and with Israeli weapons manufacturers
is well documented. Elbit Systems have partnered with Technion in numerous ways including a joint vision systems research agreement, through which Elbit offered grants to selected Technion undergraduate and graduate students and researchers in the electrical engineering department. Elbit uses vision systems in its helmet-mounted displays for pilots in combat aircraft. Many employees of Elbit Systems are Technion graduates, including the current CEO.

The euphemisms used in your response, such as “the enormous human impact” and “sympathies are very much with all of those affected” are familiar tropes used by the corporate media and other unofficial spokespeople for the Israeli state. They imply that this is an equal ‘conflict’, which is grotesque when one considers the asymmetry, the enormity of Palestinian suffering and the fact that Israel is an occupying power with the fourth largest army in the world.

We look forward to UTS actions which demonstrate that this institution takes its commitment to social justice and human rights seriously.

We will continue to advocate for UTS to cease all partnerships and affiliations with Technion and any other company or institution which supports Israel’s violations of the human rights of Palestinians and their right to justice under international law.

Sign the petition to UTS Vice Chancellor, Professor Attila Sprungs and Vice President (Engagement) Celia Hurley HERE.

UTS must end partnerships with Technion University

UTS must end partnerships with Technion University

Professor Atilla Brungs
Vice Chancellor
University of Technology Sydney

Celia Hurely
Vice President (Advancement)
University of Technology Sydney                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                          25 May 2021

RE:  UTS partnership with Technion University

We write to express our concern at the University of Technology’s partnership with the Israeli Technion University. We are appalled at your decision to yet again,[1] partner with Technion Institute of Technology, to host the webinar “Exploring the Dark Web – Cybercrime and Cyber Security in the Digital Age” on the 27 May. Technion directly contributes to what has been described as Israel’s military-security-surveillance complex, which includes systematic digital and cyber oppression.[2]

It is May 2021 and yet again Palestinians in Gaza have faced the full onslaught of Israeli military and chemical devastation. Across the rest of historic Palestine, protestors face live & rubber tipped bullets, tear gas, stun grenades, skunk water spray tanks, home raids, arrests, beatings, fortified checkpoints, extreme systems of surveillance, religious based extremist militias and neighbourhood gangs.

Technion has played an active developmental role in Israel’s military-security-surveillance complex. An example is the remote-controlled Caterpillar DR: a gigantic, armoured bulldozer used to demolish Palestinian homes.[3] Technion also operates in a symbiotic relation with Israeli weapons manufacturers, such as Elbit and Rafael, accepting their grants, while dedicating research & education to developing tools of colonial warfare, such as drone systems used for surveillance, intimidation, and murder of Palestinians (and Lebanese). These technologies are sold to many governments who also use them in the oppression of their people. See below for more information about Technion’s involvement in the violation of Palestinian rights.

All around the world, including here, boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns have successfully exposed the collaboration and crimes of Elbit and Rafael, and Technion has also been the subject of similar protest campaigns[4].

After completing webinar registration for this forthcoming event, participants receive an email containing statements from the heads of Technion and Technion Australia, claiming a commitment to diversity while “Israel is under attack.” Palestinians are never named but referred to as “those nearby” or “Arabs:” divided into categories of religion, consistent with the sectarian and apartheid policies of the state. In practice, Technion provides special educational benefits for students who serve in the Israeli army, which overwhelmingly privileges Jewish students.

These types of partnerships, even if they build careers, budgets, and scientific discoveries, are in fact a danger to the very heart of what education should be and violate UTS’s professed commitment to social justice. They transform the university into an ally of power and hegemony,[5] where the colonised and poor serve as “laboratory” for immoral profit making.

Along with the various other links that UTS maintains with Technion, these partnerships implicate UTS in violations of international law, including the apartheid practices of military occupation, annexation of land and resources, and theft of homes across Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

We stand with Palestinians in their historic and dignified uprising. As they forge histories, educators must cease to make alliances with those who oppress them.

We demand, unequivocally, that UTS cancel its involvement in the webinar and cease to partner, promote, or contribute to any institution or event involved in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, and crimes against the Palestinian people.

BDS Australia

Further Information about Technion

Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine. (September 2014). Petition to oppose the agreement between the École Polytechnique and the Technion. Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

…For a number of years, the Technion has practiced discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel while, at the same time, supporting the Israeli Army (1); it has enrolled its know-how in the service of the Israeli military-industrial complex (2). In doing so, it has become an important part of the Israeli system of occupation of the Palestinian territories and of its long train of illegal acts there (disproportionate use of force, colonization, expropriations, destruction of houses, expulsions, arbitrary arrests, assassinations, etc.)

1. The Technion, like a number of Israeli universities, maintains a discriminatory policy with respect to Palestinian students citizens of Israel. These constitute nearly 20% of the student-age population in Israel but only 5% of those pursuing a Masters and 3% of those studying for a Ph.D. At the same time, the Technion is the Israeli university which has the highest proportion of students and professors coming from the military, former military and reservists. Those students who are serving in the military or in the reserves benefit from advantages aimed at facilitating their academic career; the Technion even proposes special training in mechanics for officers in the Israeli army.

The freedom of expression and to demonstrate of Palestinian students citizens of Israel is limited: those who demonstrate peacefully their disapproval of Israeli policies on campus are sometimes arrested. They are not authorized to form student associations or to organize events on campus which criticize Israeli policy towards Palestinians. On the other hand, associations favourable to Zionism and demonstrations in favour of the Israeli army are authorized on campus.

2. The Technion maintains solid research relations with companies in the Israeli military-industrial sector. For decades it has contributed towards the development of technologies used in the armament and systems of armament used against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. In recent years, the Technion’s students and researchers have participated in work on the creation of an armoured, remote-controlled bulldozer (IDF Caterpillar D9) which has been used to destroy the homes of the Palestinian civil population (25,000 houses destroyed since 1967). They have also participated in the development of drones, conceived, and used for military purposes in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

Technion has close links with the computer science and telecommunications corporations: Verint, NICE Systems, Amdocs, Check Point and Comverse, which furnish the Israeli army with surveillance and monitoring programs aimed at the Palestinian population; but also programs used to assist airplanes and drones in the course of military operations.

Finally, Technion works in close collaboration with two of the largest Israeli arms manufacturers, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems.

In 2001 the Technion announced the creation of an MBA program, conceived specifically for managers of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, further reinforcing the already-existing links between the university and the arms company. Starting in 2006, joint research has been carried out in developing missiles. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems thus benefits from the research carried out by students and scientists at the Technion. The company makes not only missiles but also the electronics for Israeli armored units. The armament and systems of armament produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are employed in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Similarly, in 2008, Elbit Systems created within the Technion a joint research center for electron optics. Elbit Systems recruits an important part of its managers and engineers from the Technion. Its CEO has even declared that the relationship that exists between his company and the Technion played an essential role in guaranteeing the success of Elbit Systems in the competitive and globalized world of armament manufacturers.

Elbit Systems produces not only drones but also a whole series of arms and munitions (for artillery, armored units and aircraft) used by the Israeli army in its military operations in Gaza and the West bank, during which numerous unpunished war crimes have been committed. Moreover, Elbit Systems provides and maintains surveillance and spying material for the Israeli army along the Wall of Separation and around a number of Israeli colonies in the West bank and East Jerusalem. In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared the Wall, like the colonies, contrary to international law; as in apartheid, they give rise to discriminatory measures against Palestinians. A certain number of European pension funds and banks have withdrawn their participation in Elbit Systems because of its implication in violations of international law.

3. Through its close and long-standing links to the Israeli military-industrial complex, the Technion has contributed to the elaboration and implementation of armament and systems of armament. Now all this has been and is still being used by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, subject to a blockade that is illegal under international law and to intense bombings and incursions of the Israeli army, such as:

  • Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 and January 2009) which provoked the death of 1,350 Palestinians of which nearly two-thirds were civilians—men, women and children;
  • Operation Pillar of Defense (November 2012) which provoked the death of 160 Palestinians of which at least 70 were civilians—men, women and children;
  • Operation Protective Edge (July–August 2014) which provoked the death of 2,150 Palestinians of which nearly two-thirds were civilians—men, women and children.

These armaments and armament systems have been and still are being implemented by the Israeli army in the West Bank—subject to an active policy of colonization, illegal under international law, just as are the numerous repressive measures taken against the Palestinian population—not to mention their use during the murderous 2006 war in South Lebanon of unhappy memory with its bombings of the village of Cana which caused the death of 28 civilians, including women and children.

Now international law considers that the supplying of arms and material to the perpetrator of a war crime amounts to aiding and abetting the criminal act and thus incurring criminal responsibility of the supplier as an accomplice (Art. 25, §3 and §30 of the Statutes of the International Criminal Court: Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone, Judgements of 16 March 2006, §40, and of 26 April 2012, §149).

It follows that a strong presumption of complicity in war crimes falls on Israeli arms corporations but equally on Israeli universities and laboratories such as the Technion. This presumption may indeed concern French professors, researchers and students having participated in scientific programs which facilitate the development or the use of armaments and armament systems used by the Israeli army and, of course, those who have supervised or financed their research. Such a presumption would be liable to give rise to criminal complaints in France and to the opening of a preliminary inquiry or a judicial investigation. The presence of students of École Polytechnique or of French researchers at the Technion poses a criminal risk for them.

Further Reading about Technion

IDF surveillance project

Cyber Security Research Center – “in collaboration with the national cyber bureau in the prime-minister’s office. ” (pg34)

Joint IDF program in mechanical engineering

Aerospace engineering, joint program and training with IAF and arms producers

Industrial engineering, joint IDF program

Course on how to market Israeli arms producers

Materials science, joint IDF program

Partnerships with IAI, Rafael, Elbit

Elbit scholarships (pg45)

[1]  https://austechnion.com/event/covid-19-impact-on-business-how-do-we-reinvent-ourselves/ and https://www.tau.ac.il/news/webinarAI


[2] Dawes, S. (2015). The digital occupation of Gaza: An interview with Helga Tawil-Souri. Networking Knowledge 8(2). http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar_url?url=https://ojs.meccsa.org.uk/index.php/netknow/article/download/374/204&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uCuqYODSC9iR6rQPnuCzWA&scisig=AAGBfm2ZYauKwjG5TAWRh8yK1KyQE7l7lQ&nossl=1&oi=scholarr

[3] White, B (13 September 2012 ).Why a boycott of Israeli academics is fully justified. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/sep/12/boycott-israeli-academics-justified

[4] https://stoptechnionitalia.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/170-academics-at-italian-universities-call-for-boycott-of-israeli-institutions/

[5] Vlazna, V (2 May 2012). Israeli Hawkademia in Australian universities. Palestine Chronicle. https://www.palestinechronicle.com/israeli-hawkademia-in-australian-universities/