Danish universities work with illegal settlements

11. Nov 2012

The Technical University of Denmark and Roskilde University participates in scientific collaborations involving Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. DTU now drop their project with a settlement. The Danish Foreign Minister welcomes the decision.

It is not just Danish companies, but also Danish universities that have connections to illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is working together with Ariel University, located in the settlement by the same name. According to DTU the collaboration dates back to the 1990s.

After DanWatch presented the information to the leadership of DTU, president of DTU Anders Bjarklev chose to stop the collaboration immediatley:
“We have ended the cooperation immediately after we were made aware of it,” he says: The money that was devoted to analyses in the laboratories of Ariel University has been suspended and will be paid back to the fund that supplied the finances.”

Acoording to DTU’s president, it is problematic for DTU to be associated with illegal settlements:

“If you fund analyses in laboratories at Ariel university, it can be seen as supporting a settlement, something we will not,” says Anders Bjarklev.

Tecnical University of Denmark and Ariel University

The Technical University of Denmark and Ariel University is working on a research project on cancer treatment. The project is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and Frænkel Foundation.

What is the connection to the settlements? 
Ariel University is located in the settlement of the same name. Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank with 17,688 Israeli settlers.

Minister for Foreign Affairs happy with DTU’s decision

That decision is Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal satisfied with: “We do not want to Danish scientific institutions participating in activities that may help to maintain the illegal settlements. If there has been any doubt about our position on this matter, the case of DTU is a good opportunity to reiterate. And I am satisfied with DTU’s decision, “said Søvndal.

Roskilde University: EU has endorsed cooperation with settlement

Roskilde University is part of a research project where Dead Sea Laboratories, which is behind the Ahava cosmetics products, participate. Dead Sea Laboratories is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem and use natural resources from Palestinian territory according to the Israeli army.

According to Roskilde University president, Ib Poulsen, one does not need assess the ethics, if the research project is approved by the EU:”According to regulation of EU research projects by EU, including the EU’s approval of the projects, it is sufficient guarantee of the project’s legality for Danish participation, and thus a sufficiently non-controversial basis for a Danish university or another Danish public institution involved,” he says.

Nanoretox: Roskilde University

NanoReTox is a research project of 11 international research institutes from Denmark (Roskilde Univesitet), USA, Israel, England, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium. The research project runs from December 2008 to November 2012, and is granted 3.2 million euros by the EU.

What is the connection to settlements? Ahava, also known as the Dead Sea Laboratories is one of the participants in the research project NanoReTox. Ahava is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank. Ahava has permission to excavate mud from the occupied West Bank since 2004 according to the Israeli army’s Civil Administration. This is according to research organization Who Profits a violation of international law.

Universities’ social responsibility

According to Mads Øvlisen, chairman of the new Dansih Mediation and Complaint Institution for Responsible Business Conduct, universities do have social responsibilities like companies:”I strongly believe that universities have a duty to look at who their partners are, and have certain demands for partners,” he says, but points out that it can be difficult to make an ethical checklist that can cover everything: “It is a difficult balancing act, as it must be allowed, in scientific situations, to explore taboo or controversial areas.”

Ethical guidelines for universities on the way?

At DTU ethical guidelines for research are in the making, giving the university better possibilities to avoid working with problematic partners in the future: “You can not make a definitive ethical checklist for research collaborations, but you can at least create an awareness list so when the different departments begin collaborations, they know that you need to have special attention to certain conditions that a scientific researcher might not immediately see,” says president at DTU, Anders Bjerklev. At Roskilde University, the development of ethical guidelines have been launched, but guidelines for research partners and cooperates was recently abandoned by the scientific panel. “As far as guidelines for whom the university will and can work with, this is so much of a grey area, it is FOU’s (the Scientific Panel) opinon that you will never be able to maintain principles that can accommodate all political, moral and ethical considerations in relation to regimes or commercial enterprises behavior, ” the panel recently wrote to Roskilde University’s Academic Council. But this is not the last word on the matter, Mihail Larsen, member of the Academic Council, promises:”It is unambitious to give up that way. It is possible to make principles of what a researcher should not do, and in this case you should not work with an occupying power, “he says and continues: “At the Academic Council’s meeting, it was agreed that the scientific panel’s conclusion was not satisfactory and that guidelines need to be made.”

InvestigationForretning på forbudt land

Dansk erhvervslivs forbindelser til den israelske besættelse af Palæstina.

ThemeBusiness on Forbidden Land

Danish investments in illegal settlements.