On boycotts and reality: Opposing the British boycott from Austria to India

July 02, 2007

* While academics from Britain, Norway and elsewhere campaign for boycotts
* Israel incorporates Darfur refugees, provides eye treatment for Sudanese
* Arab students graduate from Israeli universities



1. Another Jordanian graduate in Israel
2. Nobel laureates opposing an academic boycott of Israel
3. International aid: Some of this week’s examples
4. Israel sends aid to Cyprus to put out fires
5. Iraqi woman receives catherization in Israeli hospital
6. Israel to provide eye treatment for Sudanese refugees in Kenya
7. “Jordanian student receives Israeli MA” (Yediot Ahronot, June 21, 2007)
8. “From Darfur to Eilat: Refugees’ new life” (Yediot Ahronot, June 17, 2007)

[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch is a follow up to Chai Shalom, 13, suffered from cerebral palsy... (& Israel rescues Gazan baby).


While European and some American journalists continue to malign Israel, and many British academics are being urged to take part in a blanket boycott, Arab students from neighboring countries such as Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority continue to quietly study at Israeli universities.

For example, Dana Rassas, a young Jordanian woman, graduated last week with a Masters degree from Ben Gurion University in southern Israel.

Rassas, a Jordanian-Palestinian, was trained by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in the Negev, and then went on to study the Israeli water desalination program at the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies at BGU. She will now become active in trying to solve Jordan’s water problems.

If the boycotters had their way, her studies might not have been possible. For more, see the first full article below.


Meanwhile, an increasing number of senior university figures are joining the 24 Nobel Prize winners (from Elfriede Jelinek, the Austrian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, to Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov, the eminent winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics) who have harshly criticized the proposed British boycott.

Among recent anti-boycott statements:

* Statement by Concordia University President, Claude Lajeunesse, “concerning the proposed boycott of Israeli universities by the United Kingdom’s University and College Union (UCU)”.

* Statement by Tom Traves, President and Vice-Chancellor, Dalhousie University: “An open exchange of ideas.”

* Statement by UC President Robert C. Dynes “in response to British faculty union’s proposed action against Israeli universities”.

* UNESCO’s Japanese director-general Koïchiro Matsuura expresses concern over British boycott of Israeli academics.

* Thousands of academics join Nobel Prize winners and 15 university presidents (including Rajendra Prasad, Rector of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) in criticizing the British boycott.


Every week, as unreported in western media, Israel continues with a program of international aid unequalled by any other country Israel’s size in the world.

Here are four examples (among many) from the last week: aiding Iraqis, operating on Sudanese refugees, sending relief planes to Cyprus and providing employment to refugees from Darfur. (With thanks to Shachar Zahavi and Michael Horesh for some of this information.)


At the request of the government of Cyprus, Israel sent two fire-extinguishing airplanes and 33 tons of fire extinguishing materials on Thursday morning (June 28, 2007) to assist in extinguishing fires that broke out in the Troodos Mountains last week.

The relief team, which included seven personnel, among them fire fighters and physicians, have been working alongside local officials to contain the fire during the weekend.

The forest fire that broke out in the Troodos Mountains threatened villages, homes, churches and summer camps. The villages of Pelendri, Saitas, Trimiklini, Kato Amiantos and Dimes have been evacuated.

According to the Forest Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, the fire was caused by high-tension cables of the Cyprus Electricity Authority.


The online news media Walla reports that a 30-year-old Iraqi woman last week arrived at Rambam hospital in Haifa for catheterization.

The woman’s identity cannot be revealed due to security concerns for her family in Iraq. She lives in an insurgent stronghold there.

The Iraqi woman was able to reach Israel with the help of “Shevet Achim,” a Christian organization that assists citizens from Arab countries to be treated in Israeli hospitals. This program is meant to improve Israeli-Arab relations.

During the catheterization, which was preformed by Dr. Avraham Lurber, a hole in her heart was repaired and next week the woman will be able to return to her family in Iraq.


The Israel Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV) has sent experts to Nairobi where they are assisting Sudanese refugees residing in Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya.

The Kakuma camp, near the town of Kakuma, is located in Kenya on the road to Sudan, west of Lake Turkana and about 50 kilometers from the Sudanese border. The camp, which has been in existence for 15 years, holds about 75,000 people, mostly South Sudanese refugees.

Dr. Yosef Baratz, MASHAV’s project coordinator in Africa, has set up a temporary eye clinic in the camp with equipment supplied by Israel. The clinic will enable Israeli eye doctors (who are due to arrive there today, July 2) to operate on dozens of patients there. The physicians will also provide consultation to local doctors.

The second and final article below reports how refugees from Darfur who crossed into Israel from Egypt (which rejected them) are being incorporated into Israeli society, albeit by the private sector.

-- Tom Gross



Jordanian student receives Israeli MA
Dana Rassas becomes the first student from Jordan to complete degree at Ben Gurion University
By Yaakov Lappin
Yediot Ahronot
June 21, 2007


A Jordanian student has made history by completing her Master’s degree at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev this week.

Dana Rassas studied in the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and examined the effect of Israel’s new desalination program, the university said in a press statement.

“She examined a range of environmental challenges associated with desalination and made concrete suggestions as to what must be done if desalination is to be sustainable,” the university added.

Speaking to Ynetnews, Rassas said her Palestinian origins actually made studying in Israel easier.

“At the beginning it was a little bit hard because I was the only Jordanian one there,” she said. “It was a little bit easier later on because others came too,” she added.

“It’s also easier for me because I’m a Jordanian-Palestinian so in my family it’s not as a big a taboo to come to Israel,” Rassas said.

She added that her friends and family in Jordan had “no problem” with the fact that she was studying in Israel. When it came to looking for work in Jordan, however, Rassas said she would have to be “selective of where I’d work” due to her Israeli degree.

“I didn’t tell everyone... But in general, in my close circle, it wasn’t an issue. It’s a well acclaimed program and it gives me a chance for the future,” Rassas said.

Asked whether she thought Israeli students could comfortably study in Jordanian universities, Rassas replies: “Sure, why not? There are great programs in both countries. The best thing is to benefit from them both.”

Professor Alon Tal, one of Rassas’ thesis advisors, described her as a “uniquely talented woman that showed significant personal courage in coming to Israel as a graduate student in order to acquire the knowledge and skill sets that she will need for her professional future.”

“Dana’s work is among the very first efforts to understand the implications of this new era into which we have entered – where Israel and its neighbors can now utilize the sea for providing domestic water needs.

“There is no doubt that desalination is going to be an important part of our region’s water infrastructure, and it is particularly valuable to have research conducted by a Jordanian about Israel’s experience in this area,” he added.



From Darfur to Eilat: Refugees’ new life
About 400 Sudanese refugees who crossed border into Israel from Egypt are working in Dead Sea and Eilat hotels, while 170 of them, including 40 toddlers, live in southern Kibbutz Eilot. Due to lack of official policy on refugee problem, hotels and kibbutzim turn into improvised absorption agencies
By Tamar Dressler
Yediot Ahronot
June 17, 2007


Six months ago, Dafna Bar had no idea where Darfur was. Yet today, Bar, a member of Kibbutz Eilot, is quite familiar with it. Bar, who is in charge of the kibbutz’s program for absorption of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is now in charge of the wellbeing of the 17 Sudanese refugees residing and working in Eilot.

“I knew nothing about Sudan, maybe just that it was in Africa, but when they arrived I immediately decided to volunteer and help with their absorption,” Bar says.

The group of 17 refugees Bar works with has recently grown to 170 people. Most came to Eilot days after infiltrating into Israel from Egypt. They were sent to the kibbutz by the IDF or the border guards after they were caught crossing the border.

At the kibbutz, they met with representatives of the UN who awarded them with the official refugee status that allows them to work.

For some of the refugees, the kibbutz provided a relief after they spent extended periods of time – at times, over a year – in Israeli prisons.

Improvised absorption agency

Lately Bar works around the clock. This week she organized a bus to take all of the refugees’ children to a doctor in Eilat. The Health Ministry, she says, helped as well by opening the doctors’ offices especially for them. She also sent the pregnant women to have an ultrasound in the town’s hospital.

“Everybody calls me ‘the one with the Sudanese,’” she smiles.

About 40 children of all ages and several pregnant women are among the dozens of refugees that reside in Eilot. Due to the lack of an official policy, the kibbutz has turned into an improvised absorption agency.

The Fattal hotel chain helps as well, contributing supplies. Three times a day, the chain’s vehicle delivers trays of hot meals, dairy products and diapers to the kibbutz.

“We at the kibbutz plan to host another 40 refugees. The help and good will of the kibbutz members on one hand and the unusual residents’ adjustment, give great satisfaction,” Bar added. “Seeing the Sudanese children happily playing is not a trivial thing. You must remember these kids came here with severe wounds and injuries after the arduous journey through the desert.”

Meanwhile in Eilat

Over 300 African and Sudanese refugees are working in hotels in Eilat. They have become a part of the town’s environment. Their absorption is the responsibility of the Hotline for Migrant Workers and the UN Refugee Agency in Israel. Together they worked to have the refugees released from prison and to find housing and employment for them.

“We feel that helping, especially in areas that the authorities neglect, is of the utmost importance,” says Shimon Levi, VP of Human Resources at the Fattal hotel chain. “We hire the refugees to work in our hotels at the Dead Sea and provide them with housing.”

Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi announced recently that “we will not allow any unsupervised absorption of refugees.”

In a letter to several ministers he wrote, “Sadly, due to demographic and other circumstances, the city of Eilat will not be able to absorb this population without proper mechanisms of supervision and control. The city deals with many issues and can not provide for its poor. Certainly it can not take upon itself the responsibility for hundreds of refugees.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.