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Activists expose UK university’s links to Israel weapons manufacturer

MEMO | April 25, 2018

Relations between the University of Manchester (UoM) and Israeli arms manufacturers have been exposed in a new report by student activists. Members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement revealed the web of connections between the university’s commercial arm and several weapons companies including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) which produced drones that were used during the Gaza onslaught of 2014.

In the report “Entangled Graphene, Arms, Israel and The University of Manchester”, the activists document several cases of collaboration and commercial ventures between companies tied to UoM and Israel.

UoM is said to be a pioneer in the research and development of Nanene, which is a particular type of graphene, a material that is thought to be 200x stronger than steel making it the strongest material known. According to the report, in October 2017 a contract was signed between Versarien, which is a commercial partner of UoM and Israel Aerospace Industries, the state corporation that was deeply involved in the attacks on Gaza.

UoM is alleged to have jointly participated in EU funded projects with the main Israeli drone producers including IAI and taken part in ventures with Elbit and Rafael.

The discovery was made through a series of Freedom of Information requests by students who revealed that it had taken six months as well as intervention by the Information Commissioner before the university answered any questions related to their investigation.

UoM had come under fire for its controversial links with Israeli institutions last year when the university disciplined students for protesting against Israel.  The university claimed that the students were punished for “trespassing on a roof during Israeli Apartheid Week” but the students said their protest was meant to put pressure on UoM to “divest from firms that abet the apartheid regime of Israel”.

UoM BDS Campaign - Cartoon [Latuff]

UoM BDS Campaign – Cartoon [Latuff]

Trust between UoM and students broke down even further after the university refused to share details concerning its relation with Israeli institutions. The body regulating data protection in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), found the university to be in violation of the government act issued in 2000 by not disclosing information requested by a student activist over its controversial ties.

In the latest chapter of the feud between UoM and pro-Palestinian student activists, the university’s controversial ties are further exposed. The report mentions the CEO of Versarien, who is reported to have admitted to the connection between the commercial arm of the university and Israeli companies. “Dealing with any Israeli company is challenging,” confessed Neill Ricketts, “and this is a defence company so there’s a huge amount of confidentiality and even to get a quote is a real achievement. What we have here is the ability to be able to take our materials and work closely with the guys in not only in aircraft but in defence projects and space projects and so on.”

Ricketts, who praised UoM for its production of the various methods and techniques in the development of graphene exuded: “This is massive news for us as a company and for the industry in general. The Israeli Aerospace Industry do not put press releases out as a rule, and they’ve been very kind to us in allowing us to name them. They’re extremely enthusiastic to use these next generation materials in their products”.

In its statement to MEMO concerning details raised in the report UoM said: “The University of Manchester partners with many different academic and industrial organisations. We have a robust partnership process and all the University’s research is tested against our nationally recognised ethical criteria.”

READ ALSO:  Calls for UK to ensure arms supplies to Israel are used lawfully

Manchester University must reveal its relations with Israeli institutions

April 25, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli embassy accused of pressuring UK university to censor free speech

MEMO | September 29, 2017

A UK university has been accused by students of bowing to Israeli pressure and censoring free speech following revelations of a meeting between university officials and the Israeli ambassador days before an event during Israel Apartheid Week.

Email correspondence obtained through a freedom of information request, seen by MEMO, reveals details of a meeting between Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev and senior staff at the University of Manchester (UoM) prior to an event during Israel Apartheid Week last March.

The documents were obtained from UoM after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the body regulating data protection in the UK – found UoM to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by not disclosing information requested by a student activist over its relations with controversial Israeli institutions.

Manchester University student, Huda Ammori, lodged the complaint against UoM after an unsuccessful bid to obtain details about the nature of the university’s relations with Israeli organisations. In August, the ICO stepped in and instructed UoM to provide a response to the request within 35 days, in accordance with its obligations under the FOIA.

In one correspondence obtained by Ammori, the Israeli embassy thanked Dr Tim Westlake, director of student experience at UoM, for “hosting” the Israeli ambassador and “discussing openly some of the difficult issues that [we] face”. The embassy also discussed ways to “increase take up of the Erasmus Programme”, which is a European Union student exchange programme.

The email correspondence includes details of the meeting between UoM and the Israeli embassy, in particular, their concerns over two events organised by the university’s Action Palestine and BDS societies, during Israeli Apartheid Week. In its email the embassy said: “These are just two events of many that they are running in their so called and offensively titled ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’.”

Israeli embassy staff accused the speakers, including Holocaust survivor and historian Marika Sherwood, of anti-Semitism. They said that the speakers had “cross[ed] the line into hate speech” and that their talk was not “legitimate criticism” of Israel. The officials were especially keen to stress their disapproval of the talk by Sherwood, which was going to compare her experience as a child surviving Nazi brutality and the injustices committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians.

In her response to the accusations, Sherwood told MEMO:

I am not an anti-Semitic Jew! I am an anti-Israeli Jew! The two are not the same. And yes, to me the way Israelis behave towards the Palestinians, whose land/property they have claimed/confiscated/overtaken is as the Nazis behaved towards me and my fellow Jews in Hungary WWII.

“We cant all go back to where our ancestors lived thousands, even hundreds, of years ago,” Sherwood reasoned. “Can you imagine all the Brits who settled in the Americas, in Australia, NZ, South Africa, coming back to claim the UK?”

Organisers, unaware that senior UoM officials had met with the Israeli embassy days before the event, were pressured to meet a number of demands before the university granted permission to hold the event: Academics chosen to chair the meetings were replaced by university appointees, publicity was limited to students and staff, the organisers were told talks would be recorded and the title of Sherwood’s talk had to be changed because “of its unduly provocative nature”.

MEMO contacted UoM over the allegation that they censored free speech, their reasons for putting pressure on the students and if it was in the habit of senior staff to host foreign embassy delegations to discuss internal university matters.

In response, UoM spokesperson said: “Events held on campus are reviewed under the University’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech if they concern potentially controversial topics and whenever they involve external speakers. This includes events organised through and in the University of Manchester Students’ Union. In deciding whether or not an event should go ahead, the University pays due regard to all relevant legislation, including the Equality Act 2010.”

“However, such legislation does not act to prohibit completely the expression of controversial views. In this case the University allowed the events to proceed in line with the requirements of the Act and our commitment to principles of freedom of speech and expression.”

While the university refuses to admit any outside coercion, the Israeli embassy has previously been found to have exerted undue influence on British institutions. Earlier this year an Al Jazeera documentary made the sensational revelation concerning a senior Israeli diplomat, Shai Masot, who was captured on video conspiring to “take down” certain UK government ministers such as Sir Alan Duncan for speaking out against Israeli policy and sympathising with the plight of the Palestinians.

The scoop also revealed that the Israeli embassy was providing covert assistance to supposedly independent groups within the Labour party; jobs at the embassy were being offered to groom young Labour activists; and how concerned the embassy was with removing not just Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, but also Crispin Blunt MP, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (both of whom are Conservative MPs), as well as Jeremy Corbyn MP, the leader of the Labour party.

Read also: Manchester University must reveal its relations with Israeli institutions

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment