Rallies against Israeli scientists fall flat

By Marcus Dysch, March 12, 2009
The Science Museum in London

The Science Museum in London

Anti-Israel protestors have failed to disrupt a series of lectures by academics and scientists promoting the country’s achievements to British students.

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) had called for Thursday’s event, at the Science Museum, in west London, to be cancelled.

But its members were joined outside the museum by less than 50 demonstrators from other groups, including Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG) and students from the adjacent Imperial College.

The event was organised by the Zionist Federation, which brought scientists and academics from seven Israeli universities. They also spoke at Manchester’s Museum of Science on Tuesday, where less than 15 protestors appeared.

No-one made an appearance to demonstrate outside the final event, a panel evening on Thursday night at Hampstead Town Hall, featuring several of the scientists from the two days of talks.

BRICUP’s Jonathan Rosenhead said more than 2,000 leaflets had been distributed before the demonstration broke up at around 11am, one hour after it began.

“We were astounded that the museum accepted the booking. Israeli science is not just about clever things with computers, it’s about improving the IDF’s ability to target and kill innocent civilians when it wants to,” he said.

“It’s disgraceful the museum has allowed itself to be used for this propaganda.

“We’re always being told Israeli academics are the most progressive and critical, but when it comes down to it they keep their mouths closed. We have nothing against them as individuals — our boycott is of the seven universities that are being showcased.”

But Israeli Embassy spokesman Lior Ben Dor said: “Science transcends borders and continents, and therefore one does not need to be a great scientist to understand that the Israel-bashers have crossed the border towards insanity. They even demonstrate their insanity by boycotting a museum which, every year, exposes hundreds of thousands of students to scientific discoveries and innovations.

“I trust that if the Israel-haters suffer from acute stomach pain, their ideology will lead them to undergo an invasive abdominal procedure rather than taking a capsule which happens to have been invented by an Israeli scientist.”

There was a visible but small police presence at the museum and students used an entrance at the back of the building to avoid protestors.

Dr David Passig, a futurist specialising in social, technological and educational futures at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, said he was “shocked by the reaction. How come people do not know what we are doing and what is being accomplished? They only know the negative things. But these events do have a positive effect.

“We were expecting tons of protestors, but there were very few. They make a noise, but nothing else.”

Alan Aziz, the ZF director, said: “It was sad for us to see such a strong call for a boycott of a peaceful initiative.

“We are delighted that it failed miserably to disrupt the events, and hope that in the future people will think twice about such ill-conceived protests.”

Last updated: 11:17am, March 17 2009