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Letter to Johannesburg University about the boycott of Ben-Gurion University

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  • AMI
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    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 4, 2010
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      Prof. Arie S. Issar is Professor Emeritus at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, and at the Department of Geology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He founded, and was the head of the Water Resources Center in the BIDR from 1975 until his retirement in 1998. It was partly his inspiration that saw the founding of the Institute for Water Sciences and Technologies (now the ZIWR).

      Wednesday, September 29, 2010

      To: the members of the senate of the University of Johannesburg

      From:  Professor Emeritus Arie S. Issar, Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

      Subject:  Do not disgrace RSA university’s scientific status

      Dear Senate member

      In the home-page of my university, its president Professor Rivka Carmi denounces the attempt of political groups to put pressure on your university to terminate the academic relationship between our universities. From the media I have learned that you debated the demand to sever scientific ties with my university. I have also read ‘The South African Academics Call for UJ to Terminate Relationship with Israeli Institution’.

      Today I learn from the media that The University of Johannesburg (UJ) senate voted yesterday to set an ultimatum to my university saying that it will not continue the link between the two universities unless it will include also Palestinian universities. Additionally, UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications.

      I will not go into more details included in this ultimatum, the demands of which have to be met within six months, because  I see this ultimatum, ab initio as an anti-academic and an anti-scientific action and thus a disgrace to those who wrote it, to those who supported it and, to those who set this ultimatum and, hopefully not, to those who will take action accordingly.

      As a scientist (hydro-geologist) I try to avoid being involved in political matters, yet I would like to refer to the above mentioned ‘Call’ and ‘Ultimatum’ from a scientist’s point of view. In the past I gained some experience in convincing South-African scientists to review their conceptual models as you can learn from the attached excerpt from the letter by the Director of Geohydrology of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. (The letter is attached herewith).

      I hope that also this time my effort will not be in vain and you as a scientist will be convinced.

      My principle argument is that the basis on which science stands is the objective approach of the scientist. Fortunately we are beyond the times during which the theories and status of academicians were decided according to their beliefs or disbeliefs. From this point of view the above mentioned “Call” and “Ultimatum” are the opposite to an objective judgment of the facts and thus one-sided and totally prejudiced.

      In the first place, did the people who signed the “Call” and ”Ultimatum” ask themselves who is to blame for the poor state in which the Palestinian population is engrossed? Is it the leaders of Israel who accepted all international plans for the division of the country or perhaps it is the fault of the Palestinians’ leaders who rejected all plans of co-existence, and time after time, with the help of the neighboring Arab states, tried to throw the Israelis into the sea.

      In the second place, speaking about ‘apartheid,’ did any of the respectable and honorable host of ‘signers’ have any idea how many Arab students study in my university and in the other Israeli universities and how many Israeli students study in the Palestinian, or other Arab universities.

      Being a hydro-geologist I am a down-to-earth person and thus I am suspicious that my letter may not cause members of the senate of JU to cancel the ultimatum. Thus if the threat of boycotting my university materializes, I would expect the honorable members of the senate of UJ to be strict with their decision and call upon the people of RSA to refrain from using any scientific and technological innovations the RSA has acquired from Israeli scientists.

      Speaking only about the field of ground-water, I  expect RSA water authorities to shut down the wells which were drilled according to my investigations, which, as already mentioned, were “completely unacceptable in the South African ground-water establishment”.

      Furthermore, speaking of efficient water use, I suggest your municipalities close all sewage treatment facilities that are based on Israeli know-how. Moreover I would expect RSA’s farmers to stop using computerized ‘fertigation’ (irrigation+fertilization) systems, all of which are based on Israeli innovations.

      Needless to say, I hope that all these types of boycotts will be unnecessary once logical thinking, which is vital for the existence of scientific thought, will replace agitators’ propaganda. When this will happen, scientific cooperation between South-African and Israeli scientists will resume, especially for helping to solve the crucial predicaments which your country is facing.

      Sincerely Yours,

      Arie S. Issar


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