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Let's Speak Up Against Complicity

KTH for Palestine - Authorosqledaren@ths.kth.se

Five months into the plausible genocide and ongoing displacement of Palestinians and the bombing of schools and hospitals in the Palestinian territory, a petition to KTH to cut ties with Israeli institutions that facilitate these atrocities is often met with silence, a change of topic or controversy. Has advocating for human rights and equality become taboo in institutions meant to uphold these democratic values?

Throughout our education at KTH, sustainability and ethics have been central. Yet, when confronted with the unfolding genocide in Palestine, our university hesitates to question its role in these horrific crimes against humanity. But with 1.4 million forcibly displaced Palestinians facing daily bombardments in Rafah, the one place they had been told was safe by Israel, we don't have the privilege to look the other way any longer.

KTH is, through its agreements with complicit Israeli Universities, legitimising these institutions and their well-documented role in Israeli violations of international law and human rights.

This is why KTH for Palestine, in a petition supported by hundreds of KTH employees and students, calls on KTH to end this complicity by severing all ties with Israeli universities and companies connected to the Israeli violation of international law. We urge KTH to condemn the violence against Palestinians publicly and to advocate for a ceasefire, the provision of humanitarian aid and the protection of Palestinians.

KTH collaborates with at least two universities that directly contribute to the colonisation, settler programmes and illegal military occupations in Palestine, the apartheid regime, and the genocide against Palestinians.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

One such institution is the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ), with which we've signed an active Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). HUJ‘s campus is a critical component of Israel's illegal settlement efforts in East Jerusalem. In 1967, after Israel occupied the West Bank, the Israeli Government seized land around the university, expanding beyond the agreed demilitarised zone and incorporating private Palestinian land. Today, significant parts of HUJ are situated in occupied Palestinian territory and function as settlements, and books plundered from Palestinian homes form a core part of the university’s collection.

In 1963, the occupation of the West Bank was planned at HUJ’s Givat Ram campus – one of the university’s many contributions to the apartheid frameworks that underpin the oppression of Palestinians. HUJ is also home to the Talpiot programme, providing Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) with specialised technological expertise and the elite intelligence programme “Havatzalot”, which ends with an admission to a six-year stint in military intelligence units. Moreover, it lends its rooftops for police surveillance of Palestinians in the adjoining East Jerusalem suburb of Issawiya. HUJ also openly supports Operation Iron Sword, the current genocide in Gaza, by “providing military units with logistics equipment.”

Technion University

Technion University is another such institution. Although our MoU has expired,

KTH continues collaborating with Technion through various projects. Our latest collaboration started in 2023 and is scheduled to continue until 2026. Technion University trains IOF soldiers and researches and develops military and surveillance technology that Israel relies on to sustain its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The Technion Autonomous Systems Program (TASP) focuses on researching and developing unmanned vehicle technology like drones and bulldozers, e.g. the unmanned D-9 bulldozer used during Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which resulted in 1,400 Palestinian deaths. Today, unmanned bulldozers are routinely employed to demolish Palestinian homes, factories, agricultural land and civilian infrastructure, including water pipes. The Alonim Excellence Program offers a track as part of the IOF’s Academic Reserve, which includes academic and military training and is overseen by the IOF Intelligence Corps. The programme also offers graduates placement in core research, development and leadership positions in elite IOF units.

KTH’s legal obligations

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in South Africa v Israel that there’s a plausible case of genocide by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza, mandating a series of provisional measures that Israel must implement.

The ruling emphasises the obligation of state parties, including Sweden, to prevent genocide as per the Genocide Convention and a previous ICJ case law in 2007. Furthermore, the European Commission acknowledges ICJ orders as binding, expecting full, immediate, and effective implementation. Therefore, as a third-state institution that upholds the principles of international law, KTH must prevent complicity, which naturally entails suspending collaborations while examining our and our collaborators’ involvement in human rights violations.

In his blog, KTH President Anders Söderholm writes, “The increasing polarisation and the high tone of voice where the world is increasingly dressed in only black or white reinforces [the] demands [placed on KTH to take a position for or against particular conflict or geopolitical event].”

But what Söderberg fails to acknowledge is that by refusing to reevaluate the current agreements with Israeli institutions implicated in what the ICJ deems a plausible genocide, KTH is communicating its stance.

It should not be controversial to “take a position against” the Israeli government's crimes against humanity. Instead, it would show that KTH is committed to its core values and international law.

KTH’s ethical obligations

In his blog, Anders also refers to KTH’s ethical policy, which provides a framework for addressing ethical issues and promoting continuous discussions within KTH and external partnerships. In its policy, KTH emphasises that education and research are vital for advancing societal progress across ecological, economic, and social dimensions. It recognises its obligation to generate and disseminate knowledge that promotes sustainable development.

Israel has systematically destroyed every university in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army has killed dozens of university professors, hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. Israeli institutions have been consistently reported to engage in discriminatory practices against Palestinian Arab children, thereby violating their right to education. If KTH recognises the importance of education in societal progress, why do we continue collaborating with those who deprive others of it?

Institutional autonomy

Anders also writes that “[KTH] follow[s] the government’s line in terms of foreign policy positions,” suggesting a deficiency in institutional autonomy despite the Bill of Increased Freedom for Universities and Colleges, through which the Swedish Government introduced an autonomy reform to provide state universities and colleges with increased freedom and self-determination. As history has shown us repeatedly, an academic institution is better positioned to determine its foreign policy compared to politicians driven by their ideological agendas.

Safety and security

Anders also highlights KTH’s responsibility to ensure that “our students and staff feel safe and secure on our campuses regardless of where they come from and what their opinions are,” and we agree. That’s why the academic boycott is directed at institutions and individuals representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution, not based on identity.

We welcome collaborations with Israeli institutions, organisations and individuals that reject the illegal occupation of Palestine and advocate for a just peace – similar to the measures KTH rightfully took concerning Ukraine during Sigbritt Karlsson’s last year as President of KTH.

The time for inaction has long passed. Now it is time for KTH to demonstrate its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, international law, and the ethical principles it claims to uphold by ceasing collaborations with institutions that are implicated in the current Israeli genocide of Palestinians, advocating for a ceasefire and publicly expressing clear solidarity to the Palestinian people.

As of this writing, our petition has nearly 500 signatures, and we will continue to hand them to Anders Söderholm. We also have walkouts every Tuesday at 11:45 and gather outside KTH Entré. Let’s not be complicit through silence and passivity – as Anders wrote in his blog, “A culture of silence would be devastating for a university.” So, don't hesitate to sign the petition, join us for the walkouts, and get involved with KTH for Palestine by writing to our email or Instagram.

"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The 'tide in the affairs of men' does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too late." – Martin Luther King

Publicerad: 2024-03-22

Ansvarig utgivare: Raquel Frescia
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