ZOA Condemns Spain For Expelling Israeli Architects & Solar Experts From Solar Power Competition
September 30, 2009

ZOA: If no rescission – stop visiting Spain




The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned the decision of the government of Spain to expel Israeli architects and solar experts from competing in the finals of the international competition between university architecture departments to design and build a self-sufficient house using solar power. Spain’s Housing Ministry disqualified Ariel University Center of Samaria in Ariel, a Jewish city of over 20,000 people, from competing in the finals. In the words of Sergio Vega, project manager of the competition, Solar Decathlon, “The decision was made by the Spanish government based on the fact that the university is located in occupied territory in the West Bank.” But in fact, there is no EU policy that supports such a practice.


These Jewish architects and solar experts were expelled from the competition after Ariel University Center reached the finals, together with 20 other universities from around the world after two years of collaboration with the competition’s management and the Spanish government. In this framework, the college was even awarded a 100,000 Euro grant by the competition’s organizers to build a model house for the final competition slated to be held in Madrid in June 2010.


The cancellation of the Israeli team’s participation in the competition was urged by an initiative put out by the group so-called Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine as a continuation of the racist academic boycott against Israel being led for quite some time by the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC).


Ariel University responded saying that it “rejects with disgust the one-sided announcement.” It claimed the decision “contravenes international law and international charters on academic freedom” and harms 10,000 students at the university, including 500 Arabs” (Giles Tremlett, ‘Spain expels Israeli scientists from solar energy competition,’ The Guardian [London], September 4, 2009).


Ariel University received support from Professor Pascal Rollet of France’s Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Architecture de Grenoble, who wrote in solidarity to the University that “I do not agree with the Spanish decision because the Ariel University’s activities are directed towards academic excellence for peace. Kindly receive my utmost support in this difficult situation” (Yaheli Moran Zelikovich, Spain boycotts Ariel college for being on ‘occupied territory,’ September 24, 2009).



Spain is arguably the most hostile country to Israel in Europe


In 2007, the Madrid municipality of Ciempozuelos cancelled its observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, preferring to highlight what it termed the “genocide of the Palestinian people” by the Jews. In February 2009, El Mundo, a leading Spanish newspaper, published an openly anti-Semitic column by columnist Antonio Gala which identified “Jewish greed” as the cause of the persecution of Jews throughout history. This month, the same newspaper decided to publish an interview with the discredited British Holocaust denier David Irving, found by a British court to be “anti-Semitic and racist,” as part of its coverage of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. The Israeli ambassador, Raphael Schutz, who protested the Irving interview, has himself been subjected to anti-Semitic abuse in Madrid, where three men shouted “dirty Jew,” “Jew bastard” and “Jewish dog” at him. According to the 2008 Pew Global Attitudes Project, Spain has the highest level of anti-Semitism in Europe, with more Spanish respondents holding negative than positive views about Jews.  


Ignacio Russell Cano, a Spanish journalist, wrote in 2007 that, “In a country whose citizenship leaped into the streets to protest the Lebanon war, carrying swastikas to denounce Israel’s existence as part of the [only] western government congratulated by [Hizballah chief Hassan] Nasrallah himself in one of his fatwa-speeches… no one in Spain – Osama, Chávez, Castro, Putin, and Ahmadinejad – is so heavily attacked by [the government] as Israel.”


ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We condemn this racist, bigoted and anti-Semitic decision of the government of Spain to expel Israeli academics from a solar energy competition, but we cannot claim to be surprised. Spain has the shameful distinction of the highest levels of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment in Europe, which is saying something when one considers how awash Europe in general is with such poisonous passions.


“One would think that Spain, would be especially sensitive to targeting Jews, given Spain’s horrific history of the Inquisition, the expulsion of Jews in 1492 and the murder or forced conversion of Jews who remained.


“The effort to boycott the Jewish state of Israel, Israeli institutions and individuals, whatever spurious rationale is offered – no one boycotts Chinese academics because of that country’s genuine and frightening record of repression at home and brutal occupation of Tibet – is nothing other than part of a campaign to demonize Jews and the Jewish state of Israel, period. There are no extenuating circumstances for the Spanish government, especially given its recent record of hostility to Israel.


“This Spanish decision falls within a larger context of subjecting Israel to vicious boycotts – but never any other country on the face of the earth, no matter how genuinely abusive of human rights – and other discriminatory and anti-Semitic activity that has been shown to be rife in the country.


“We call upon the Spanish government to reverse this shameful decision. If they do not, we call upon the U.S. Department of Energy, which is a sponsor of the competition, to terminate its sponsorship forthwith. If this Spanish decision is not rescinded, we urge all people of goodwill to no longer to travel to Spain for either business or pleasure.”


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