Spain excludes settlement university from academic competition
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Spain excludes settlement university from academic competition

The “University Center of Ariel in Samaria” (AUCS) has been excluded from a prestigious university competition about sustainable architecture in Spain. With this move, Spain joins the growing number of European governments taking effective, even though preliminary, steps to uphold international law by boycotting or divesting from institutions and corporations involved in or profiting from Israel’s illegal Wall and colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

“Ariel University Centre of Samaria” was one out of 21 teams selected last April to compete for the Solar Decathlon-Madrid 2010, the most prestigious competition for sustainable architecture in the world, organized by the Spanish Ministry of Housing together with the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

Selected teams, formed by architects and engineering students are asked to design and build a real house entirely driven by solar energy. Every house should be built in one of the 20 sites in the “Solar Villa” planned in Madrid to host them. To facilitate participation of the various teams, the Spanish Ministry of Housing allocated a sum of 100,000 Euros to every project.

Last Wednesday, September 16th, Sergio Vega, General Director of Solar Decathlon Europe addressed all participant teams to inform them of the exclusion of AUCS: “The decision has been taken by the Government of Spain based upon the fact that the University is located in the [occupied] West Bank. The Government of Spain is obliged to respect the international agreements under the framework of the European Union and the United Nations regarding this geographical area.” It represents the first case of sanctions against an Israeli academic institution in Spain and one of the very first such actions in the West.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) in Palestine has taken up the campaign against official Spanish support of the illegal Israeli university in occupied Palestinian territory following an initiative of the UK based professional association, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP). The support of many individuals and organizations in Spain for the cancellation of AUCS’s participation in the Solar Decathlon had culminated in a parliamentary question in the Spanish Parliament and the eventual exclusion of the illegal settlement academic institution from the competition.

This move of the government of Spain follows the decision of the UK government not to rent offices from Israeli settlement builder Lev Leviev and the divestment of the Norwegian Pension Fund from Elbit Systems, an Israeli company providing surveillance equipment to the Wall.

The BNC congratulates the Spanish university teachers, parliamentarians and organizations for this principled stand with the Palestinian people and international law and calls for sustained support of the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and all its complicit institutions, including universities, until it fully complies with its obligations under international law and respects universal human rights, specifically by ending the occupation, facilitating the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin and ensuring equal rights for all Palestinian citizens of Israel.