The Spanish Government Boycotts the Environment

Boycotting and destabilizing a country's business heart for political reasons is fine in my books. But boycotting art, schools, or the environment?

Spain, with which Israel has a number of high profile collaborative clean tech projects in solar energy and in water, have decided to boycott a solar science project from an Israeli academic team because their college is in the West Bank region of Judea and Samaria.

The Israeli team was to have participated in the Madrid-hosted Solar Decathlon to take place next year. A similar event is happening the second week in October and running for 3 weeks in the US. Ed Begley Jr. is one of the big names associated with the event.

The Solar Decathlon in Madrid is supported by the US Department of Energy, Philips, Mitsubishi Electric, solar energy companies, Chrysler, DuPont, Velcro and many other large corporations.

According to Spanish News, "On Wednesday Spain disqualified academics from Israeli [sic] from competing in a solar power design event, due to the fact that their university falls into the West Bank region. This is part of a new set of sanctions against Israel relating to its current settlement policy."

The boycott was proposed by the Spanish Housing Ministry, and the competition takes place next year in Madrid. The move disqualifies the students from the architecture department of Ariel University Center of Samaria from attending the meeting, for which they received $100,000 Euros to build their project.

It should also be noted that a very large percentage of the Arab students at the school are learning in this department, although I've read no media reports stating whether or not there were Arab students involved in this particular project. Should it matter?

From Ariel University, the Israeli student team had developed a project for the Solar Decathlon, an international competition between 20 universities intended to create the best design for solar powered homes. They called their project "Stretch."

The National Union of Israeli Students on Thursday sent a letter to both the Spanish and European student unions protesting the move, reports the Jerusalem Post:

"It's unfortunate that irrelevant, faulty political motives have led to the decision to remove the application," the letter stated. "We condemn the blatant harm that this has caused to academic freedom and ask you to help us act against this troublesome phenomenon."

More from the Jerusalem Post: Ariel University has also fired back, and in a response given earlier this week, the university called the decision "anti-academic," and one that "harms some 10,000 students who study at the University, including the 500 Arab students who study here, and particularly the Jewish and Arab students of the School of Architecture."

According to the Spanish news source, the "action comes as a result of current EU policy that opposes Israel occupying land that it deems belongs to Palestine, which Spain is supporting."

Ynet writes: Sergio Vega, project manager of the Solar Decathlon, wrote in a communiqué to the college, "The decision was made by the Spanish government based on the fact that the university is located in occupied territory in the West Bank. The Spanish government is committed to uphold the international agreement under the framework of the European Union and the United Nations regarding this geographical area."

The boycott was urged by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine led by BNC - The Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign National Committee. And if you smell any trace of Naomi Klein in an Israel boycott, you'll probably find her. Loathed by most Israelis, she's a Canadian Jew, and pretty much behind any of the recent proposed boycotts of Israel from boycotting the Dead Sea scrolls in Toronto, to films about Tel Aviv in the Toronto International Film Festival.

She comes from a family of left-wing agitators, and has gained notoriety for her book No Logo, which we've reviewed on Green Prophet (frustrated with her screed). The Economist magazine has written a number of arguments against her flawed brand of anti-brandism. And later, the "Naomi Klein smackdown roundup."

The boycott is truly good news for the Islamic Awakening forum, in their jihad news group where members support Bin Laden: "Nice news! It seems the rising against IsraHell has awaken in the whole world! Tough times ahead for the little Genocidal Zionist Country!"

The Palestine Telegraph posts a fairly interesting to the side of the story (from the Guardian newspaper), reporting on rising anti-semitism in Spain, and Madrid in particular. Jews, there, reports the Jewish World News, are openly being targeted with racial slurs. So is the boycott about Israel or being Jewish?

What did they boycott?

Inspired by the "Tent of Abraham", the Stretch House is modular, versatile and welcoming.

It is adaptable according to its owner's wishes and is able to expand and create hospitable spaces.

In its closed state when additional space is not required, it uses only half the energy necessary to operate a regular house, and when needed, it opens up - much like a modern tent - and welcomes you in.

Interesting to note how the Spaniards would accept submissions from the school if it were not located in the West Bank, considering that the Israeli Government supports Ariel as it does other institutions of higher learning in Israel.

My view is if you are going to boycott a country, you should do it in whole and on sanctions regarding imports and products - and you should do it across the board with all your government ministries. To boycott Ariel College and no other Israeli universities is just ridiculous. Boycott them all I say, or none at all.

One in 20 students at Ariel University is from the Arab population, so who are they hurting?

I think it will be very interesting to see how diplomats from Spain (and the US via the Department of Energy) will be scrambling to fix this one. I've been to many a number of clean technology conferences in Israel, heavily attended by Spanish government officials, mayors and business people. I am quite sure not everyone will be happy with this boycott, which seems small, but which says a lot.

Or maybe the boycott is just a big ruse so the Spanish team can knock out the competition to win? That's probably the true motive. Email the Spain's team leader and ask him: Josep M. Adell, Professor ETS Architecture / Project Manager and Technical Team: josep.adell@upm.es

Karin Kloosterman is a Canadian-Israeli journalist based in Jaffa, Israel. She has founded and edits Green Prophet, an environment blog covering Israel and the Middle East.