Courtesy of Cornell University

Cornell Tech's Roosevelt Island campus, as depicted in this rendering, has a partnership with Technion Israeli Institute of Technology, which a student-led pro-Palestinian group is protesting.

October 19, 2017

Pro-Palestinian Student Group Protests Cornell Tech Partnership With Israeli Institute

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Students for Justice in Palestine, a pro-Palestinian student organization at Cornell, announced Wednesday at an event that it would continue boycotting the Cornell Tech’s partnership with the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

At a discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led by members of the anti-Zionist group, students also said they would renew its boycotting efforts against other companies present on campus which students said contributed to the illegal occupation of West Bank and Gaza by Israel — including Sabra Hummus and Caterpillar Construction Vehicles.

Those companies are “complicit in human rights violations in the Israeli apartheid,” said Hadiyah Chowdhury ’18, a member of the student group. “These companies have a tangible connection to Cornell and are involved in and profit from the occupation.”

The student group has multiple chapters at other American universities, where efforts to boycott Sabra Hummus were made since 2010. At Cornell, a Student Assembly resolution urging Cornell to divest from companies that “profit from the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories” failed to pass in 2014.

When Cornell announced that the Tech campus would collaborate with the Technion in October 2012, members of the faculty raised concerns that the collaboration constitutes an endorsement of Technion’s involvement in the Israeli military-industrial complex and some major defense corporations, The Sun previously reported.

“Cornell should break that contract with Technion,” Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government, said at the time.

In response, then-Provost Kent Fuchs had said that the partnership between Cornell and Technion is intended not as a political statement, but rather as an opportunity for the University to foster global academic cooperation.

After attempts to divest were shut down, members of Students for Justice in Palestine said they would continue to protest the established relationships between those companies and Cornell Tech.

The Cornell chapter protested the partnership in 2015 and during the official dedication several weeks ago members wrote a letter to the President Martha Pollack detailing why SJP “continues to oppose this partnership.” They received an “unsatisfying” reply, Chowdhury said.

Piragash Swargaloganathan ’19, member of SJP, said that the Technion in Israel has “developed most of the technology that helps to continue the occupation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.”

“This partnership is basically validating the research and the motive of that research that is conducted that is coming out of Technion Institute of Israel,” he said.

When asked their stance on a solution for the conflict, Swargaloganathan said, “We don’t support a particular solution because we are not Palestinian. What we support is what the Palestinians call for, which right now is for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.”

The event facilitated a dialogue that allowed attendees to create a “framework to think about this conflict,” he said.

“Many times when you think about the conflict between Israel-Palestine right now or other conflicts such as that is going against in other parts of the world, some of the rhetoric you will hear is that ‘there’s killings on both sides,’” Swargaloganathan said. “Settler colonialism is the framework to approach this conflict.”