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Response of NY Academy of Sciences

NY Academy of Sciences Committee on Human Rights Opposes Proposed 'Moratorium' on Research Grants to Israel

3rd May 2002
Source: NY Academy of Sciences press release

May 3, 2002 -- The Committee on Human Rights of Scientists of the New York Academy of Sciences has issued a statement opposing a proposal circulating in Europe calling for a moratorium on grants and contracts with research institutions in Israel.

The statement, co-sponsored by the Committee on Concerned Scientists, Inc., states that the "proposed moratorium/boycott on funding violates the basic principles of scientific freedom and scholarship" and that science "will be undermined for the sake of some political goals."

The European petition, already signed by more than 125 prominent academics and scientists, recommends that all future cultural and research links with Israel be suspended "unless and until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians."

"We are concerned that the European proposal promotes discrimination in the support and practice of science," said Joseph L. Birman, chair of the Academy committee and distinguished professor of Physics at the City College of New York and City University of New York. "We also believe that instituting a non-merit nationalistic criterion for making grants will create an unwise precedent."

Peace and Irony

The Academy statement highlights the irony of attempting to impede scientific cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Arab scholars through a moratorium, when peace is being promoted through several dozen joint projects still operating despite the current crisis.

"We believe in such scientist-to-scientist collaboration across borders," said Torsten Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate who is chairman of the Academy's Board of Governors. "A boycott will harm our colleagues in science, not the policymakers."

The Academy's Committee on Human Rights of Scientists has played a significant role in supporting scientists, physicians, mathematicians, engineers and educators around the world since it was formed in 1978. Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov credited the Academy with coordinating the international pressure that led to his release in the late 1980s, as did Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi in 1991. The Committee is currently working on behalf of scientists in countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Founded in 1817, the New York Academy of Sciences is a nonprofit organization of 23,000 members worldwide committed to serving science, technology and society.

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