Israel blocks top scientist's committee appointment due to 'anti-occupation stance'

Israel blocks top scientist's committee appointment due to 'anti-occupation stance'
Israel's Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis blocked the appointment of leading Israeli scientist Yael Amitai for her stance against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
2 min read
09 July, 2018
Yael Amitai is known for her anti-occupation stance [Ben-Gurion University of the Negev]

A leading Israeli brain scientist has been blocked from being appointed on a committee by the science and technology minister for signing a petition in support of Israeli youth who had refused to serve their military service in the occupied West Bank.

Professor Yael Amitai was supposed to be appointed to a German-Israeli scientific committee, but Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis blocked her appointment due to her stance against the illegal occupation of the West Bank, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Ohad Yehezkeli, the minister's media adviser, said Akunis had "decided not to sign the recommendation to appoint Ms. Amitai as a representative to the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research, not because of her opinions but because in the past she had signed a petition encouraging draft refusal to the Israel Defense Forces".

"The science minister believes it is improper that someone who encourages refusal should represent Israel in international forums," he added.

Israeli regulations dictate that when citizens reach 18 years of age, men must serve two years and eight months in the army, and women two years.

The issue of conscription has been an ongoing point of contention in Israel. In September, the exemption of the ultra-orthodox from the draft was ruled "discriminatory and unconstitutional" by the Israeli Supreme Court. 

Israel's ultra-orthodox community have been exempt from compulsory military service since 1949, in a bid by founding father David Ben Gurion to restore the practice of Yeshiva study.

Exemption was made official by the Tal Law which stipulates that citizens may postpone their military service if they are studying the Torah full-time. 

However, the current government continue to practise the Tal Law, as Netanyahu relies on ultra-orthodox support to sustain his premiership.

Conscientious objectors, however, who refuse to serve on political or ideological grounds, are met with much more resistance from the Israeli authorities.