For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Spain’s Boycott of Ariel University Center in the 2010 Solar Decathlon
The Solar Decathlon was founded in 2002 by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The biannual competition selects 20 teams from universities around the world who design and build the most attractive, energy-efficient home powered solely by the sun. Universities from several countries, including Spain, entered the competitions held in Washington DC in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009.1
On Sept. 18, 2007, Spain also got the right to hold a Solar Decathlon. The U.S. Department of Energy [DoE] signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with Spain’s Undersecretary of Housing Fernando Magro Fernández, for Spain to host a European Decathlon with the assistance of the DoE in years alternating with the U.S. Solar Decathlon.2
Spain will hold its first Solar Decathlon, co-sponsored by the U.S. DoE, in Madrid in June 2010. The first stage of the Decathlon ended on October 30, 2008, when 20 University teams from around the world were chosen as finalists in the stiff competition. Each team was awarded 100,000 Euros from the Spanish government to begin building the model house.
Israel’s Ariel University Center (AUC), located in the West Bank and known for its leadership in the field, was one of the 20 finalists. There was no indication that political animosity would taint the event or pose problems for AUC, which was the only team chosen from the Middle East. The team began building the solar house, met the design deadlines, and met with Spanish event officials in May, 2009, including Beatriz Corredo, Spanish Minister of Housing; Esperanza Aguirre, Madrid Regional President; Sergio Vega Sánchez, Head Project Manager of the European Solar Decathlon; and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Mayor of Madrid.
Suddenly, on 9/11/09, Spain informed the AUC team that it had been expelled from the competition. AUC was not expelled for technical or scientific reasons, but solely out of political animosity. The letter from Spanish Minister of Housing, Javier Ramos Guallart, informed AUC that because it is located in the “occupied territories,” its inclusion violated EU positions. 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."3
But Ariel’s location in the West Bank does not violate any EU policy on cooperative projects. Israel has extensive economic, cultural and scientific programs with the EU. Between 2007 and 2009, there were 428 joint scientific projects, some of which were located over the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice lines.4 Furthermore, under a recent agreement, the EU and Israel "committed themselves to establishing a partnership which provides for close political and mutually beneficial trade and investment relations together with economic, social, financial, civil scientific, technological and cultural cooperation.”5 There was no stipulation about geographic boundaries in this agreement.
Spain clearly knew where AUC was located when it chose AUC as a finalist, and when it cooperated with AUC over the following year, and never mentioned a problem about EU policies precisely because such policies do not exist.
Spain’s sudden decision was caused by the Palestinian academic boycott campaign against Israel. Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine lobbied for AUC’s exclusion as a part of the larger academic boycott against Israel that the BNC—the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign National Committee—has tried to impose for several years.6 BNC’s extremist demands are that boycotts must be imposed until Israel “ends the occupation,” and permits millions of Palestinians refugees the “right of return to their original homes.” 7 The right of return is code for destroying Israel demographically by flooding it with the 4.6 million Palestinians currently on UNRWA’s rolls.8
No other teams were excluded from the Decathlon on any political grounds, including Tianjin University, located in China, perhaps one of the world's foremost human rights violators, was not disqualified from the Decathlon.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"