Chomsky and other scientists condemn Boston museum’s Israeli celebration

by Philip Weiss on May 4, 2010

What follows is an open letter to the Boston Museum of Science by leading scholars objecting to the museum’s sponsorship of an Israeli propaganda effort:

We, the undersigned group of scientists concerned with human dignity and equality, condemn the Museum of Science’s decision to co-sponsor and host “Israeli Innovation Weekend” (IIW) on May 2.

IIW is far from an innocent educational endeavor. It is part of a propaganda campaign by the State of Israel to present itself as a beacon of progress in a desert of backwardness and deflect attention from its atrocious human rights record and fundamentally discriminatory policies.

According to its website, IIW is co-sponsored by the Consulate-General of the State of Israel to New England, which is also one of its top donors; nearly half of IIW’s steering committee are consulate staff.

Propaganda efforts such as IIW are key to sustaining the virtually unconditional U.S. support for Israel that only exacerbates the conflict. The U.S. singles out Israel for special treatment, lavishing billions of dollars of aid upon it every year and protecting it from any concerted action in the UN Security Council. This assistance supports a state that systematically privileges Jews from anywhere in the world over the country’s non-Jewish inhabitants and which continues to perpetrate war crimes and other human rights abuses to uphold this fundamental inequality.

Moreover, IIW’s own program demonstrates how impossible it is to present scientific innovation in Israel in isolation from a context of inequality and oppression. One of the featured speakers is president of the Technion, an institution with a long track record of developing technologies of death used by Israel’s military. These include remote-controlled bulldozers for demolishing Palestinian homes and drones for picking off Palestinians from the air.

IIW also attempts to “greenwash” Israel’s image with promises of eco-friendly technology, but it has chosen dubious partners to do so. Its program includes Dan Senor, who was the public face of the American occupying authorities in Iraq. It showcases “Better Place,” an electric car manufacturer that hired Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, who oversaw the indiscriminate flooding of southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in 2006, as CEO of its Israel branch.

Science and technology should be used to benefit humanity, not to destroy it. IIW represents a betrayal of this principle. As concerned scientists, we condemn this misuse of science and technology to serve the public relations machine of the State of Israel.

Sincerely,

Dr. Koby Snitz, Weizmann Institute of Science

Prof. Nancy Kanwisher, professor, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT

Prof. Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University

Franz-Josef Ulm, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT

Dr. Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Noam Chomsky, MIT

Robert Trivers, Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University

Sylvain Bromberger, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT

Prof. Steven Rose, Emeritus Prof. of Biology and Neurobiology, the Open University and the University of London

Mary Potter, Professor of Psychology, MIT

Dennis Y. Loh, Former Professor of Medicine, Genetics, and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis

Jonathan Rosenhead, Emeritus Professor of Operational Research, London School of Economics

Naila Jirmanus, PhD, Physics

Saul Slapikoff

Hubert Murray, FAIA, RIBA

D. Alwan, MIT Architecture

Aida Khan, PhD

David E. Pegg, MD, FRCPath, Professor, Department of Biology, University of York (UK)

Sayres Rudy, Visiting Professor, Hampshire College

Kamal Ahmed, Software Architect, Arlington, MA, MIT alum

Marshall Shuler, PhD

Maggie Zhou, PhD, Genetics/Molecular biology

[affiliations provided for identification purposes only]

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