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Cornell physicist speaks out against campus “attempt to make Israel illegitimate”

Cornell physicist speaks out against campus “attempt to make Israel illegitimate”

This is a GUEST POST by Professor Yuval Grossman, an Israeli physicist and Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, where his research involves theoretical high energy physics.

But first a short background.  Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology recently won a joint bid to to build a high tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

As Kathleen posted in early February, anti-Israel groups on campus have launched a campaign against the project.  Anti-Israel websites like Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss have taken up the cause.

Most recently, a campus panel discussion was organized by “Students for Justice in Palestine.”  As reported by the student-run Cornell Sun, the panel was uniformly hostile to Israel resulting in this exchange:

At a panel discussion Thursday, several professors questioned Cornell’s partnership with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, sparking heated debate and causing one Cornell professor who formerly taught at the Technion to walk out.

“I used to be a professor at Technion, and I’m very proud of it,” said Prof. Yuval Grossman, physics. “Just to let you know, my political views are very, very different. I think you are my enemy.”

This is not the first time Dr. Grossman has spoken out about anti-Israel agitation on campus.

Now you know the background, so below is Dr. Grossman’s post.


Thanks for asking me to write for your blog. I am currently a professor of physics at Cornell, but up until 2007 I was a professor at the Technion. I still keep very close professional connections with the Technion and I share a research grant with several researchers there.

Last week I attended an open panel discussion about the Cornell-Technion collaboration for the new tech campus in NYC. It was organized by a pro-Palestinian student group, and the general atmosphere in the event was very negative towards Israel.

The basic idea that was discussed was that the Palestinians have called for academic boycott of Israel, and only Israel, presumably because they think Israel’s actions or policies are the greatest evil of our time. (One panelist – and this upset me the most – described Israel as a “death machine”.) Based on such logic, the speakers argue, one needs to support the boycott and thus fight to stop the Cornell-Technion collaboration.

I was the first one at this open discussion to speak against the boycott. While there are many things that have to be said about the Israel-Arab conflict, my main problem at this forum was the fact that the boycott was described as “institutional and not personal”.

I do not see how one can boycott an institution without boycotting its people. One may say that the goal of boycotting Israel is so important that it justifies the effect on the people, but one cannot simply say that it is not against the people. In particular, I was thinking about myself. How can one call for a boycott of the Technion, and at the same time declare that they are not trying to boycott me?

I think that this issue is a legitimate part of this debate, and it is probably easier to discuss compared to other aspects.

Unfortunately, the forum would not discuss it. One person answered me at length but did not touch the issue. Another person dismissed me, by saying that he does not see what the issue is. I did not get another chance to press the issue, so I left without an answer.

To close, I would like to share my view on the issue.

I feel that the boycott is an attempt to make Israel illegitimate. It is not a peaceful move, but a move that is aimed at destroying Israel’s academic institutions. If people are trying to work for peace, they should not boycott the Israeli academia.

Rather, I think that everyone should appreciate that the situation is very complicated and there is no simple solution. I wish I knew what the solution is, but I do not. All I know is that both sides need to work for peace, there is no one-sided solution, and boycott is not the answer.


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Slightly off-topic, but…

I caught some of Bibi’s speech yesterday. How good it was to hear someone who loves his country, and will defend it.

I really miss that in America.

    Say_What in reply to Ragspierre. | March 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Bibi was excellent. He understands the situation better than anyone and will know how to best deal with it. I admire him greatly.

I find it interesting that instead of looking to Israel as a model (45% of the population has a post secondary education level, the second highest in the world), but, instead, prefer to boycott Israel academically. Ignorance and hatred go hand-in-hand.

“I do not see how one can boycott an institution without boycotting its people.”

Well stated. Boycotts only end up hurting the innocent. The same can be said not just for institutions, but for boycotting businesses as well.

    Ragspierre in reply to Say_What. | March 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Gotta gently disagree on the business boycott, Say. When you exercise your “dollar vote”, you are always “hurting” the vendor you select NOT to purchase from. But that sends important information through the market that is ultimately good.

      Say_What in reply to Ragspierre. | March 6, 2012 at 10:39 am

      I was addressing organized group boycotts and it’s not the people at the top with golden parachutes and other goodies that are ultimately hurt by these group boycotts. It is the guy just trying to make a living with no say in his company’s policies who loses his job because a group of people decide they don’t like that policy. It reminds me of the stupid teacher who punishes the whole class because one kid threw spitballs in class.

From the Daily Sun article:

…In response to Prof. Beth Harris, politics, Ithaca College, who called the partnership Cornell’s contribution to the “death machine,” Grossman raised his voice. …

Who is this Beth Harris?

Midwest Rhino | March 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

I can’t figure how seemingly smart people swallow absurd “anti-Zionist” arguments. A Berkley grad might claim there were no planes on 9/11 … especially at the Pentagon .. it was a missile. I ask “so where did the plane go?” and they just move on to some other claim.

These same people tell me Israel is the aggressor, even as the “Palestinians” refuse any deal that agrees to allow Israel the right to exist. Suicide bombers are apparently justified because a bulldozer hit Rachel years ago.

There IS some anti-Christian bigotry in Israel apparently, to be expected on the extremist fringes in a religious state under attack, I suppose. That serves as propaganda for the left.

But I sense that most of what we see in American universities is subterfuge for great criminality at the roots of our own government, along with the “Marxists” that want to subversively “fundamentally transform America”.

Israel certainly seems the most free, advanced and democratic country in the region. Yet the far left seems willing to ally with even the Muslim Brotherhood to thwart the traditional Western alliances. Do we really need to fear Israel? Or are the Chicago Machine, the union thugs, and the radical left’s seizure of academia a bigger concern?

Or did Goldman Sachs and the shadow bankers already win, and we just don’t fully realize it yet? Any prosecution of Corzine yet, for taking a billion from clients for his gambling habit? One thing for sure, the world with a nuclear Iran will be a scarier place.

Pluralism ceased to exist within the higher institutions of learning when Proggs instituted their restrictive free-speech zones on the American campus.

Perhaps when the academic bubble bursts (and it will burst) then colleges will be free to return to the practice of free exchange of ideas.

That, and ending tenure; all that the tenure system produces is inbred-inellectualism and civilization cannot exist within regulated thought.

Islamic schools in the US are financed primarily by middle-East oil money. The mosque expansion in the US is financed primarily by middle-East oil money. Anti-Israel action groups are primarily financed by middle-East oil money. A number of crooked politicians are getting some of that Islamic oil money…there’s lots more of it than there is of Obama money.

The money does not come directly, but is filtered through a number of organizations. It comes from Islamic oil bastions – primarily the Saudis.

It follows the universal law of the influence of criminal organization money on politicians. When we are able to block foreign money interference in our policy making, it will be easier to see more clearly.

    DINORightMarie in reply to BillyTex. | March 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    It is my understanding that there is also a lot of Middle Eastern oil money in higher education. Columbia, Harvard, and Yale have been mentioned in various blog posts and books on the subject.

    Dangerous. Corrupting. Money. Laughing all the time they rake in that big oil money…..

    And the left claims to “hate” the “rich” and “big oil” – ha!

BTW, Since most of the Nobel Chemistry and Physics Prize winners are Jewish, it is easier to count those that are not Jewish.

But, you know, this is about a school that has its basic research done in Physics and Chemistry. It’s probably not important.

[…] commenting? » Cornell phys… on Black flags bring dark memorie…Dani on Technion’s Ties to Arms Innova…Bloomberg […]

LukeHandCool | March 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Dr. Grossman,

I think you’ll find the panelists at Legal Insurrection might describe Israel as a “life machine.”

I hope these people and their politics don’t interfere with your work.

DINORightMarie | March 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm

So many of the innovative technical designs and ideas are coming out of Israel right now!! To stifle that is the goal of these “anti-Zionist” groups, IMHO – not “peace.”

I feel for these youth; they are so brainwashed, believing that to be “intellectual” is to buy into this bigoted anti-Israel propaganda wrapped up in “peace” and “compassion” for the “suffering” (not!) Palestine.

There IS no Palestine!! The two-state solution that was proposed back at the formation of Israel was REJECTED by the Arabs; the surrounding countries would not accept the proposed two-state solution and went to WAR…..and lost!

There will be NO peace in the Middle East until the “Palestinians” and the surrounding Islamic nations accept Israel – and come to the table with NO pre-conditions on Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist, including the current borders!

Yeah, I’d be right there with you, Professor, arguing, asserting, then eventually walking out when all the closed-minded yooots start their ad hominem attacks.

Shalom. 🙂

Dr. Grossman, sometimes Israel comes off as a stupid ovebearing bully rather than a country that genuinely wants to solve this problem. Why, for instance, did Israel block sweets, coffee, canned fruits, wheelchairs, paper and crayons from going into Gaza? That seems to me a pretty clear attempt to make conditions miserable for the people there; those items would seem to be unable to be used in missles or weapons against Israel, so I doubt it was that concern that led them to be banned.

Are those policies of Israel the greatest evil of our time? Of course not. But do Israel and its supporters often play the “poor innocent Holocaust victim” card while at the same time using smash mouth politics (particularly howls of “anti-Semitism”) against anyone who might say something negative about Israel? Definitely.

If the Palestinians had any cultural or educational institutions at all, their urge to commit national suicide would have been moderated long ago, perhaps even before they lost their short-lived state in 1948. Today, their American (nihilist) supporters clearly state that they want to destroy all of Israel, and they focus most particularly upon cultural, educational and business institutions. They want to do to Isrrael in a short time what they are trying to do to America over the long haul, and bring everyone back to the dark ages. They are scum.

TeaPartyPatriot4ever | March 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm

These hate groups are no different than the Nazi’s in the 1920’s and 30’s..

Where would America and the world be without Albert Einstein if he hadn’t escaped the anti-semitism of hatred and intolerance back in the 1930’s. Just like today, the hatred ad intolerance of these people and groups are the very same that fueled the Holocaust to happen.

But do they see it.. No.. because they, like the Nazi’s, have replaced their humanitarian heart, soul, and conscience with indoctrinated political ideology of hate.

As quoted from Mr. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a former Soviet prisoner of conscience, author of Gulag Archipelago, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, a titan of moral clarity warned us about the coming failure of our society back in 1978 in a speech given at Harvard University.
Equivalence is the essence of Moral Relativism- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines moral relativism as something that one accuses another of, rather than something to which one proudly admits.
“The rise of Moral Relativism, whereby equivalence and mediocrity (or outright evil) trumps value and quality continues to be the grim reaper of our national life.”