A ‘historic partnership’ with the devil


The announcement came from the mayor’s office of New York City (NYC) on Dec. 19, 2011 in the form of an 11-page declaration.

It begins: “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cornell University President David J. Skorton and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology President Peretz Lavie today announced an historic partnership to build a two-million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City.” This is the result of an Applied Sciences Competition that drew at least seven competitors from around the world.

Good news? Well, NYC officials certainly think so: “Thanks to this outstanding partnership … New York City’s goal of becoming a global leader in technological innovation is now within sight.” And all it will cost the city is some public land on Roosevelt Island and “$100 million in city capital to assist with site infrastructure.” Oh yes, and written in invisible ink, “the forfeiture of one municipal soul.” That is the catch. What we have here is a three-way pact with the Devil. There is New York City and Cornell University and the Israel Institute of Technology – the Technion.

Cornell University is a 147-year-old elite institution located in Ithaca New York. According to the announcement cited above, it is “a global leader in the fields of applied science, engineering technology and research, as well as commercialization and entrepreneurship.” Just what NYC was looking for.

Cornell is led by David J. Skorton, a former professor of medicine and a proven college administrator. He has been the university’s president since 2006. Among other things, Skorton presents himself as an ethical leader. Back in 2009 he tried to demonstrate this status when, in response to Israel’s attack on Gaza, he called attention to the fact that he had led the fight to have Cornell divest – from where? From Sudan because of the Darfur crisis.

If you think that logic and consistency should have led Skorton to call for similar action to divest from Israel due to the war crimes committed in Gaza you would be disappointed. He claimed such action would be inappropriate because the case of Darfur “has been one of unilateral violence, whereas, sadly, the situation in and near Israel has been characterized (by) … violent acts by both sides.”

Just as sadly, Skorton’s comparison was inaccurate. The Darfur tragedy is the product of an ongoing separatist revolt against the central government in Khartoum. Sudan’s central government has reacted to this with excessive force that has led to the destruction of much of the life and culture of the Darfur region. The Gaza tragedy, and indeed the entire Palestinian-Israeli conflict, began with Palestinian resistance to Zionist colonization and subsequent oppressive Israeli policies. The Israelis have reacted to ongoing resistance with the excessive use of force that has destroyed much of the life and culture in the Palestinian occupied territories. They are not as different as Skorton made them out to be.

Perhaps Skorton was unaware of these comparative facts when he took his public stand. However, even if he were aware of them his behavior would likely have been the same. For Skorton is certainly pro-Israel. Only such a position could have allowed him to lead his university, which he has called “a national leader in research ethics” into an “historic partnership” with the devil.


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