University, Italian Jews’ outrage over boycott of Israel

“I am against the academic boycott of Israel. Collaborations between universities, between communities of scientists, between students are important. They are an opportunity for meeting and dialogue to understand different approaches. If you want to build a more peaceful future, a boycott is not the way.” Speaking with Pagine Ebraiche, Susanna Terracini, head of the “Giuseppe Peano” Department of Mathematics at the University of Turin, reiterated what she had already told her colleagues in the Academic Senate: it wrong to approve a motion targeting scientific collaboration with Israel. The motion passed, and Terracini was the only one to vote against it. “The text approved is meant to be a compromise between the unacceptable demands of a group of students for a total boycott and a form of closeness to Gaza. I was against it and in any case the result is ambiguous,” Terracini stressed.
The Academic Senate voted on a motion deeming it “inappropriate ” to participate in a Foreign Ministry call for collaborative projects between Italy and Israel. “But what does inappropriate mean?” asks Terracini. “Is it a ban? If so, This is an attack on the academic freedom of individual researchers, since they are the ones participating in the ban, not the university per se.” The university would have to approve the use of space and facilities to allow these collaborations. “The effect of this is unclear,” Terracini reiterates, and bitterness remains over a motion condemned by many.
In a message sent to University and Research Minister Anna Maria Bernini and Giovanna Iannantuoni, president of the Conference of Italian University Rectors, the president of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities, Noemi Di Segni, expressed deep concern about what happened in Turin and other Italian universities. The request, Di Segni stressed, is to say “no to boycott, no to demonization, no to violence and prevarication in Italian universities in the name of constitutional rights and academic motions that become” an “abuse instead of an exercise of knowledge and respectful confrontation.”
The president of the Jewish Community of Turin Dario Disegni sent a message to the Rector of the city’s university Stefano Geuna. “We have learned with grave upset and indignation the news of the decision taken by the Academic Senate, following the incredible intimidation by groups of troublemakers, not to take part in calls for proposals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Disegni remarked.
“Such a decision mortifies the principles of freedom and collaboration that are the foundations governing the life and activity of academic institutions and is unprecedented in relations with any other state, including those ruled by dictatorial regimes.” The Rector was asked for a clarifying meeting.
The president of the Jewish Community of Rome Victor Fadlun wrote in a note, “We remember very well that the racial laws of 1938 were preceded and followed by anti-Semitic propaganda that passed through universities and academic circles.”
Also condemning the Turin motion are the Setteottobre Association and an open letter from some faculty and former faculty at the University of Turin. “We do not accept that our alma mater be besmirched because of the blackmail situation in which the majority of the Academic Senate has found itself in the face of methods of a squadristic nature used by a minority of troublemakers,” the open letter reads. The academics point out that the group of pro-Palestinian students who intervened spoke of a “Zionist entity” instead of Israel. “A definition dear to neo-Nazis and Islamic fundamentalists.”