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Health officials say the number of pregnant women with the Zika virus has doubled in a week. The virus has been linked to babies being born with smaller than normal brains and is spreading through the Americas.
Almost 170 academics from more than 50 Italian universities and research institutes have signed a petition committing to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It was launched in solidarity with the BDS Campaign.
The Italian call, which was published Wednesday, January 27, is signed by 168 Italian academics from more than 50 institutes, including the universities of Rome, Turin and Florence, as well as the European University Institute.
It focuses on the Technion Institute of Haifa due to its role in supporting and maintaining Israel’s policies of dispossession and military violence against the Palestinian population.
The petition urges Italian institutions and their colleagues to suspend all forms of institutional collaboration with the Technion once that a great number of Italian universities such as the Polytechnic Universities of Milano and Turin and the universities of Cagliari, Florence, Perugia, Rome and Turinhave have cooperation agreements with it.
Below, the entire letter:
We, the undersigned scholars and researchers at Italian universities are deeply troubled by the collaboration between the Israel Institute of Technology “Technion” and Italian universities, including the Polytechnic of Milan, Polytechnic of Turin, the University of Cagliari (medicine) , Florence University (medicine), the University of Perugia, the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and “Roma 3”, the University of Turin.
Israeli universities collaborate on military research and development of weapons used by the Israeli army against the Palestinian population, providing undeniable support to the military occupation and colonization of Palestine.  Technion is involved more than any other university in the Israeli military-industrial complex.  The Institute carries out research in a wide range of technologies and weapons used to oppress and attack Palestinians. For example, one of its best known projects led to the development of remote control functions on the Caterpillar “D9” bulldozer used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian homes and the implementation of a method for detecting underground tunnels, developed specifically to maintain Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip. 
Technion develops joint research programs and collaborates with the Israeli army and the main weapons manufacturing companies in Israel, including Elbit Systems. Among the largest private weapons producers, Elbit Systems manufactures the drones used by the Israeli army to fire on civilians in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008-2009  and in 2014 and provides surveillance equipment for Israel’s Apartheid Wall.  In addition, Technion trains its engineering students to work for companies directly involved in the development of complex weapons systems. For example, Elbit Systems has funded approximately half a million dollars in scholarships as a reward for Technion students who carry out such research. 
Technion also has close relations with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a major government-sponsored weapons manufacturer, which developed an advanced system of protection for Israeli Merkava tanks. The institute has also promoted a master’s degree in business management adapted specifically for Rafael managers, further strengthening the relationship between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex.  Just as other Israeli universities, Technion rewards its students completing their compulsory military service. For example, military reservists who participated in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-2009 were granted additional academic benefits beyond those normally provided for reservists. 
The operation of the vast Israeli military-industrial complex largely depends on the willingness of governments, companies and research centers around the world to collaborate with universities and research centers in Israel. The longstanding and active ties Technion maintains with the Israeli military and weapons industry makes it directly complicit in their violations of international law. Accordingly, cooperation with Technion means becoming an active participant in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid and, as such, in the system of oppression that denies Palestinians their most basic human rights.
We therefore call on fellow scholars and researchers to end all forms of complicity with the Israel military-industrial complex and urge the suspension of all forms of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Technion.
In addition, in response to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel  until it ends the systematic violations against the Palestinian people, we declare that we will not accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions; we will not act as referees in any of their processes; we will not participate in conferences funded, organized or sponsored by them, or otherwise cooperate with them. However, in compliance with the guidelines of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) , we will continue to work and cooperate with our Israeli colleagues individually.
Given that critical intellectuals, free spirits and men and women of conscience have historically taken the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa;
considered that a growing number of universities , associations or individual academics  and student groups  around the world have organized against the collaboration with Israelis universities and research centers complicit in violations of international law and human rights, and fully consistent with the international campaigns for the revocation of the agreements with Technion ;
We invite all those in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle to join the BDS campaign until Israel recognizes the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and complies with international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The BDS movement rejects all forms of racial, political, religious and gender discrimination, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all ideologies based on alleged ethnic or racial supremacy.
We further appeal to student associations, solidarity movements and all those who believe in justice to continue their mobilizations to pressure the relevant parties to suspend the agreements between Technion and Italian universities and research centers as well as to organize protests, debates and actions aimed at raising awareness among academic communities on the implications of collaboration with Technion and in general with Israeli universities and research centers.
Italian Campaign for the Revocation of Agreements with Technion
The Israeli committee of university heads responded to the Italian call saying that:
“Israeli universities are under attack from the BDS movement as well as other parties, who are distributing deceitful and inciting material against Israel and its higher academic institutions. The committee of university heads is acting with everything it has against this ugly phenomenon. But it’s not quite enough. We request the involvement of the state to act via all possible means to stop this dangerous process.”
The Italian call is just the latest in the BDS academic campaign. In recent months, over 500 academics in the United Kingdom, 450 in Belgium, 200 in South Africa and 120 in Ireland have signed similar pledges.
The number of academic associations supporting the Palestinian call for boycotts continues to grow and includes the American Anthropological Association, National Women’s Studies Association, American Studies Association, African Literature Association, Association for Asian American Studies, Association for Humanist Sociology, Critical Ethnic Studies Association, National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the Peace and Justice Studies Association.
More information on the Italian campaign can be found here: http://bitly.com/1SR64YI
The U.S., on Thursday January 28, reissued guidelines on the labeling requirements for products manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank.
It reminded that, under the U.S. law, in a guideline made in 1995, any product imported from the occupied West Bank or from the Gaza Strip cannot be labeled as “made in Israel”, “Israel”, “occupied territories-Israel”, or “any variation thereof”.
The move came a few days after U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, criticized Israel’s conduct in the West Bank settlement policy alleging that Israel has two standards of law in that territory — one for Israelis; and another for Palestinians.
He said that the US administration was “concerned and perplex” by Israel’s settlement policy.
However, despite great attention from the media regarding the guidelines reissue, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner insisted on Thursday that the guidelines reissuing was only designed to clarify U.S. policy on the matter following reports and complaints of mislabeling, stating that some West Bank products had been mislabeled prior to US import.
He also insisted that its labeling regulations do not discriminate between Israeli and Palestinian producers.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection reissued guidance on their marking requirements,” Toner told reporters. “It in no way supersedes prior rulings or regulations and nor does it impose additional requirements with respect to merchandise imported from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Israel.”
In fact, even though Obama Administration supports the European Union (EU) decision of labeling Israeli settlements products, it did not take steps toward similarly far-reaching measures: the US labeling rules do not differentiate between products made in illegal Israeli settlements and those produced elsewhere in the occupied West Bank.
Following the release, according to the Israeli media, the Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Uri Ariel on Friday said that while Washington’s decision to issue a reminder that products imported from the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip should not be labeled “Made in Israel” may not necessarily imply a shift in policy, the decision itself –of reissue it – and its timing were nevertheless “unreasonable, unfair and inappropriate.”
On September last year, the European Commission has announced that all member states of the EU must label goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
At that time, the decision sparked fury in Israel, with Netanyahu saying that Israel is “not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism.”
Furthermore, the Israeli government has accused the EU of discrimination and anti-Semitism following the decision, as is ”singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world”, as Netanyahu adds.
Israeli Major General and coordinator of Israeli government activities in the Occupied Palestinian territories, Yoav Mordechai, admitted that the government prevents cancer patients in Gaza from receiving treatment.
Earlier this week, Israel imposed a travel ban for patients through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the north of the Strip. Israel has given no reason for the ban on the patients who were previously allowed to enter Israel on medical grounds.
Mordechai said in an interview with the Palestinian daily news paper Al-Quds that his government has its excuses to prevent the Gaza cancer patients from treatment. Reportedly, he claimed that the cancer patients from Gaza are commissioned by Hamas to “sabotage” the Israeli economy.
Soha Hussein, a wife of 53-year old cancer patient from Gaza, emphasizes in an interview with days of Palestine: “My husband is too sick to be able to serve himself. How can you imagine he would be able to leave the hospital and collect intelligence information?”
But Yoav Mordechai is of different opinion. “Hamas cynical exploitation of Israeli entry permits is forcing Israel to think twice before it issues permits to Gazans,” he said, warning that the Israeli authorities to “close the Strip and completely prevent travel of Gazans from the Strip.”
It seems that he ignored the fact that his apartheid state has been placing a strict siege on the Gaza Strip since 2006.
According to teleSUR, Palestinian female cancer patients participated in a sit-in in Gaza this week in order to protest Israel’s refusal to allow female cancer patients from Gaza to cross into Israel to seek medical help, which they have been receiving for years.
The sit-in was organized by the Aid and Hope Program in front of the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Gaza. The group provides aid and support for cancer patients in the Palestinian enclave.
“Our message is to demand a clear explanation over the travel ban imposed on women cancer patients in the Gaza Strip,” said Eman Shanan, the general director of the AHP program in Gaza, according to teleSUR.
“These women have been receiving treatment for years. Our second message is directed to the Ministry of Health that they must insure the required treatment for them in case this travel ban continues,” Shanan added.
As a cancer survivor herself, Eman Shanan added that the United Nations’ World Health Organization should take the necessary measures to save the lives of these women:
“This is clearly a premeditated death sentence by Israel,” she warned.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, there are more than 14,600 cancer patients in Gaza. The AHP also says that 30 percent of them have been able to receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.
Many of the hospitals in Gaza simply cannot provide the optimized treatment for cancer, as a result of Israeli attacks on the hospitals and that access to medical supplies is hardly available. At the same time, according to an interview with Dr. Hamdan in Al-Akhbar, “patients in Gaza have no access to the medication they desperately need for their treatment. Even under normal circumstances, there are 45 kinds of cancer treatments that are not available in Gaza. Not to mention that from time to time, the Ministry of Health in Gaza declares acute shortages of medecine.” And on top of that there are only four doctors available for the almost 15.000 cancer patients.
Israel has in the past used cancer-inducting bombs such as Dense Inter metal Explosive, known as DIME and Depleted uranium. According to nuclear news, people living in the dispersal zone will acquire cancers, birth defects , still births, and other known, unknown or untraceable and undiagnosable diseases.