Defying BDS calls for a boycott of Israel, Italy has committed itself to bring the largest ever delegation of Italian academics to Israel.
A series of conferences and events will take place across the country for four days this week. Italian and Israeli researchers will be invited to participate in an exchange of information and ideas in their various fields of interest, from electronic innovations to revolutions in medical technology.
Renewed efforts to counteract BDS activity spurn earlier attempts to cut links with Israeli institutions. Earlier this year, 300 Italian professors and researchers signed a petition to halt academic cooperation with Israel. According to Al Jazeera, 50 Italian universities committed themselves to the boycott, citing a refusal to be complicit in Israel’s “intolerable human rights violations” against the Palestinians as their reason for ceasing academic relations.
The Italian ambassador to Israel told Haaretz that this cooperation is a fitting response to previous attempts to halt academic exchange. According to Italian ambassador Francesco Talo, universities should maintain dialogue and allow for the free exchange of information and ideas.
In contrast to other European countries, Italy has been more resistant to attempts to stifle academic relations. Last year, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke out in the Knesset against “stupid” boycotts, reaffirming Italy’s commitment to Israel in combating terror.
The delegation due to arrive in Israel will be of historic proportions, marking the largest number of researchers sent to date. Conferences will focus on various fields of interest, including technological advancements, medical research and discussions on economic issues. The majority of the conferences are due to be held in Tel Aviv, and are also open to the public free of charge.