Has the Czech Science Academy succumbed to the government's pressure?

24. 2. 2010 / Štěpán Kotrba

The Governing Body of the Czech Academy of Sciences decided to NOT allow Norman Finkelstein and other lectors to lead the Seminar "Current Situation and Possibilities for Solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Goldstone's UN Report about Gaza", which was supposed to have happened at the building of that institution on Narodni street, n. 3, in Prague this February 23rd (2010) from 10am, organized by the Center for Global Studies, a cooperative work of the Czech Philosophy Institute and the Prague's Charles University. The news of the cancelation reached the Seminar's guests during the previous day's afternoon. Organizers are still "trying to find out about the not yet confirmed information, why the seminar would have been cancelled".

A Czech version of this article is in CLICK on Britske listy  HERE

According to insider's information from a source from Britske Listy the step was taken by the Academy of Sciences management, which by their own words "guides the concepts for scientific policies and research", put into effect after a direct telephone call from the Prime Minister Fischer's office. In other, much more direct, words: the Governing Body of the Academy of Sciences got sort of scared. Recoiled.

On their site at the same time is, highlighted by a red warning icon "Dear colleagues, fellow citizens, who believe that science is an important part of society, culture and civilization, the Academy of Sciences is currently being threatened by an attempt to push accross a drastic limitation of finances for the institution in the following year and apparently or covertly even for the years that follow. The existence of the Academy of Sciences itself is in danger."

The administration of this scientific institution should realize that, if it will expect to get support from the public, it has to know how to give society something back. Instead, the presidency of the Academy of Sciences made public in a statement their reasons why the event could not happen.

  • Mgr. Michal Broža: (head of United Nations Information Department - United Nations Embassy in Prague): Goldstone's report and his current destiny in the UN
  • Dr. Norman Finkelstein: Content of Goldstone's report and possibilities of solutions for the conflict in the Middle East
  • Dr. Jan Kavan (former Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, Former Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Fifty-seventh Session of the United Nations General Assembly): Current state of diplomatic negotiations in the Middle East

Statement from the Czech Academy of Sciences:

In relation to the seminar "Current Situation and Possible Solutions for the Israel-Palestinian Conflict: Goldstone's UN Report about Gaza" organized by the Center for Global Studies, together with the Czech Philosophy Institute and Prague's Charles University.

The Academy of Social Sciences of Czech Republic is conscious of the importance of the discussion about possible solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, which is a part (as in other cases) of the essential intercultural dialogue. The search for an appropriate way to solve that conflict and the problems connected with it can be supported even by the exchange of opinions and points-of-view which happen in various levels and offers even diverse perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The seminar organized by the Center for Global Studies presents only one from the the existing perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That type of seminar, aimed mainly at the specialized public, is though also an opportunity and groundwork for a critical discussion coming from different positions, than are those, which the organizers decided to present.

The Czech Academy of Sciences comes from the reality that in the interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is necessary to give the opportunity for the exposure of all sides, which in this case has not happened. The Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic as a programatic apolitical institution does not identify with the one-sidedeness of this seminar and did not participate in its preparation, nor in the choice of the referred participants. Because of the above-mentioned reasons the Czech Academy of Sciences decided to not allow the seminar to happen in the building of the Academy in its address Narodni street, 3 in Prague 1.

Prague, 22.2.2010

Presidency of the Czech Academy of Sciences

I hope, that in a Geneticists' lecture they will also invite (for the sake of fairness and balance) the opponents of genetic manipulation from Greenpeace, for example, as a colleague from the Philosophical Faculty cynically asserted on Facebook... It would certainly not be that difficult for the Academy of Sciences to find and offer some expert - even better if from among themselves - to counterbalance out this feared "biased" Jewish Finkelstein, who doesn't agree with the Israeli massacre of Gaza citizens and calls genocide a genocide. I would very gladly listen to such "balanced" discussion. Because the discussion I saw Norman Finkelstin width former advisor to Aiel Sharon Raanan Gissin on Russia Today TV station's program CrossTalk seemed to me sufficiently fair and balanced.

The Academy of Sciences certainly knew or could have found out who Norman Finkelstein is and what is his knowledge and opinions... Quotes from the UN resolution, International Justice Court and reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch anyone can read. Instead of censorship the experts from the Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic could have given rise to high level professional debate. Until the Academy of Sciences will look for votes for keeping its needed budget, I hope that it finds it at the Stakova Academy. Or Prague's Jewish community.

Yes, the existence of an independent, proud scientific institution, the Czech Academy of Sciences, is currently threatened. Because from it allowed itself to become a servant to the powerful.

The author lectures Media Communication at the Faculty for International and Public Relations and would have welcome the presence of Professor Finkelstein to his lecture.

translated by FG


Obsah vydání | Pátek 26.2. 2010