For decades, international academic partnerships have led to great advances in science and technology. The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, commonly known as CornellTech, and other academic exchanges and partnerships between American and Israeli institutions offer incredible opportunities to develop technologies and build bridges to create a dynamic new Middle East. But now, if a small but vocal group of hateful anti-Israel activists have their way, students and faculty at the University of Minnesota will not have the same opportunities. Once again, the BDS movement is standing in the way of progress.
The Golden Gophers are faced with a crucial choice: to build a world-class, paradigm-shifting academic research partnership, or to cower to the demands of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). When making its decision, the university should look east to New York City, where Cornell University’s partnership with the Technion, Israel’s premier research university, is quite literally changing the world.
CornellTech is backed by Google and a vast network of academic and industry partners. This partnership set up shop on New York’s Roosevelt Island and turned an empty hospital into a state-of-the-art polytechnic campus. CornellTech marries both institutions’ knack for bringing the brightest minds in science, technology, and business together. It brings the two of the world’s leaders in innovation together to incubate startups, new businesses which typically offer new technology products for a variety of applications. One such example is Nanit, which markets advanced baby monitors to track infant behavior based on camera footage. Another such example is InvictusBCI, an industry-leading manufacturer of affordable neuroprosthetics.
Before becoming the resounding success it is today, the Cornell-Technion partnership came under fire from SJP and other anti-Israel hate groups. They continue to target science and innovation by opposing academic collaboration between the U.S. and Israel. As the Technion and other Israeli institutions build on the success of this program by creating new international partnerships with more universities, SJP persists in its attacks. It is notable that they only target the democratic state of Israel – as opposed to China, Russia, or any country with a poor track record on human rights. Their criticism is rooted in bad faith and should be dismissed out of hand.
The University of Minnesota has enjoyed a strong collaborative relationship with multiple universities in Israel throughout the past few decades. Since 1980, more than 1,400 documents have been co-authored between the University of Minnesota and various Israeli universities, and the numbers tend to follow an increasing trend. 16 documents were written in collaboration with Tel-Aviv University in 2018, and now 29 have been written thus far in 2021. Between 2018-2019, 10 documents were published in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University, whereas 31 were published between 2020-2021. Ben-Gurion University also saw increasing numbers, and although the Weizmann Institute of Science did not, it still had 15 documents published in collaboration with the University of Minnesota in 2021. In total 103 documents were published in 2021 with this co-authorship compared to 79 in 2018.
Cornell and the Technion’s partnership marks one of the most ambitious – and successful – international academic efforts in contemporary history. Bridging oceans, continents, and cultures, this relationship enables the best and brightest minds in both New York and Haifa to create a brighter future for the Middle East and the entire world. The Twin Cities, hopefully, will become the next great center of American-Israeli cooperation.