Science in Palestine (Part 2): Scientists in Solidarity with Palestine
In part two of this series, we speak with two concerned scientists, Mario Martone and Marcelo Nomura, who were involved with organizing The Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine. They also introduce listeners to two of the organizations, Scientists for Palestine and Science for the People, that collaborated on this gathering which took place in November 2018 at Columbia University.
Short Court Style by Natalie Prass
A Dios Le Pido by Juanes
Transcript (Please Excuse Any Errors)
[Music Intro ♫]
LaToya Strong [LS]: Hey, listeners. Welcome to Abolition Science Radio. We're your hosts. I'm LaToya Strong ...
Atasi Das [AD]: And Atasi Das. We are here to talk all things science and math, and their relationship to...
AD: And so much more.
[ ♫ Music fade out.]
LS: Hey listeners, welcome to the next episode in our series on Science in Palestine.
LS: Yay! But, before we get into it, we’re gonna do our go-to.
LS: I’m gonna switch it up.
AD: Yeah! I have a category that I am curious about. Of, what is your go-to when you wanna like focus, be in the zone, to like think about something deeply? Cause we’re both-
AD: You know, we’re both doctoral students, like thinking deeply about math and science. You’re working with the babies. And so, yeah, how do you do that? What gets you?
LS: Oh, that’s a good one. I feel bamboozled. Ha ha ha ha!
AD: Bamboozled. Ha ha, welcome to my side.
LS: Kidding not kidding. Oh, ok. So if I need to think deeply, one it can’t be…hmm.. so there’s several…let’s see, how do I put this I words? You know there’s music that you put on and it just like, you like sing along to it, so there’s music that I put on that it’s just like, I just need to move my body. So, I’m either gonna just like dance and so I get to clear my head and once I, after I’m just like completely moving my body then it just clears up space, if that makes sense. [AD: That’s interesting.] Or, I have to put on music that. And it’s, I don’t know what determines these moods. Or there has to be music that don’t have like drums, or a beat that I can catch, but it’s still rhythmic. If that – [A: Yeah] makes sense. So maybe I’ll put on some jazz, music that’s like rhythmic but you can put on and it makes your brain do different things. I don’t know if that made sense.
AD: Yeah, no, that makes sense. But I didn’t think about that before. Like, before you sit down, just to kind of like, I need to get the energy kind of moving. That’s cool, yeah. Maybe I should try that.
LS: Everyone should try it. Just move your body!
LS: That was a good question. I’m gonna keep thinking about that and come back.
AD: Yeah. I’ve been thinking of how what I choose to do that same thing, to focus, and um, sometimes I let the algorithms of different music servers choose for me, like I’ll put like focus music and you know, like, what’s the group name? I think it’s like, Black Violin. You know like, sometimes I like classical, but then the sound of it, but the songs that they’re playing aren’t maybe poppy, so I don’t have the words or sometimes I like lo-fi beats kinda thing. But I think mostly it’s like, I don’t want the words to interrupt all the different words that are happening in my head that are all my voices in my mind. Yeah. But sometimes, I like the idea of doing something beforehand and then just kind of like, let your mind settle that way.
LS: Yeah, cause I don’t create music but I imagine it’s just a very creative process. It’s kind of like- like I love reading books, like someone else’s creativity gifted to you. There’s, like Kelsey Lu, who I think we talked about, for her music, is just – it’s like, her music, it just makes me think about how she even came up with the things that she does. So, I don’t know, I guess different, yeah-
AD: Awe, like awe-inspiring.
LS: Yeah. Ooh! Awe-inspiring, I don’t know if I’ve ever used that word. Awe-inspiring!
AD: Yeah. Huh, cool. Well, who are we having on this episode? What are we talking about?
LS: So we have two guests. So we have someone from Scientists for Palestine, um, Mario Martone, who is a post-doc at the University of Texas at Austin. And we also have Marcello Nomura, who is from Science for the People, and is a doctoral student in physics at CUNY Graduate Center. So, why do we have them on?
AD: Yeah, so we got a chance to chat with them last fall, but initially Mario had reached out – I think Mario reached out to us for Scientists for Palestine to ask us to come to this conference. The Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine. And, so we were excited, we were just like yeah, that’d be great. And then we had both Mario and Marcello on to just ask them some questions about what this meeting was about, where did it come from, how did they get involved, and when we talked to them, which you’re about to hear that interview. The conference had not happened yet. So, it was gonna happen I think, the following month, so yeah. That’s our chat!
LS: Yeah, the conference was November 2018.
LS: I’m doing the thing that Atasi does not like. [Both laughing.]
AD: I’m like oh my god.
LS: To date us, it is – what is today?
AD: March 30th.
LS: March 30th.
AD: 2019. At least it’s within a year, so it’s good.
LS: Yeah, it is within a year. It is within an academic year.
AD: Great, so, let’s just get into it and we’ll find out more!
AD: So, thank you again for being on our show today. We like to ask all of our guests to introduce yourself and share where you’re calling from and if there’s a current song that you’re listening to.
Marcello (MN): My name is Marcello Nomura. I’m calling from Brooklyn, NY. And I think the last song that I listened to was Natalie Press’s, “Short Court Style”
AD: Oh, presses you said?
MN: Natalie Press.
AD: Oh, Press. Got it. Cool.
Mario (MM): Good morning everybody and my name is Mario Martone and I’m calling from Austin, TX. It’s very sunny and warm, finally here. The last song that I was listening to is Juanes, “A Dios Le Pido.” It’s the last song that my favorite radio station, Latino radio station was playing.
AD: Awesome, I love Juanes, [Ha ha] they’re a great artist.
AD: Great, so once again thank you so much for being on and for sharing that. And I know we have another guest who will be joining us, in another segment of this same show. But, if you could just kind of tell us, what is your connection or background to science in general, and then we can talk a little bit about Science in Palestine. So.
LS: So Mario, why don’t we start with you and then Marcello, if you could?
MM: Right. So I am a postdoctoral researcher in theoretical particle physics and mathematical physics at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve been in science for a long time. I have two PhDs and physics has been my main – physics and mathematics have been my main focus.
I don’t know the extent to which listeners wanna know what I do. But I’m basically focused on the – understanding the mathematical structures of the fundamental laws of the universe. In particular, there is this idea that is called super symmetry, which is um, a, at the moment, just a conjectural theory that hopefully might be able to be confirmed by experiments. (AD: Ah, I see) That would require that there exists a ton more particles and so, I’m concentrated on understanding this idea of super symmetry and has a lot of the math to even understand - the theory’s very complicated, so I work on that. Most and foremost. I also work on dark matter and something more connected to the universe, but my main focus is mathematical structure of super symmetric theories.
AD: Great, thank you for sharing. Marcello, do you wanna talk a little bit about your background?
MN: Sure. I’m a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in the Physics Department. My research field is on experimental high energy physics. So, it’s sort of the, working in conjunction with Mario’s proposed theories of super symmetry, my research actually looks for these proposed particles and I work on an experiment that collides particles at high energies to be able to probe experimentally, whether or not these theoretical particles exist or not.
AD: Your work is looking at it’s-?
MM: Marcello, could you tell me the name of the experiment?
MN: Right, so I work on the Atlas Experiment at the LHC. Which is the Large Hadron Collider, at the CERN Laboratories in Geneva, Switzerland.
MM: I don’t know if listeners would be, but I am very familiar with the Atlas experiment and the LHC is the largest experiment ever built by human beings. It’s kind of an amazing machine. Our focus is Palestine, otherwise we could have a whole podcast on the - particles, you know what I mean.
AD: I know I was like, so many questions! I have a follow up question, so as you’re both talking about your work within the sciences, and particularly physics and math, how do you see it – this episode is really looking at science in Palestine. So, could you maybe talk about, what is your connection to making connections between science in Palestine itself and some of the activities maybe you’ve been involved with concerning those connections. So, why Science in Palestine?
MM: Well, I can start, I actually have quite a bit to say about this. Well, I mean, I’ve been involved in p- I’ve been kind of a concerned scientist, more like a scientist that does revolutionary politics for my whole life and I think I kind of like, saw myself first as a revolutionary and/or Leftist, and after as a scientist. So, these two identities for me, coexist and are impossible to separate. But in particular I think, one of the things that really got me to seriously start working – before I was only doing kind of like, I kept those two worlds separate. I was doing science and I was doing political activism on the side. And I’m still doing both, but then the experience that got me to like, really try to make them coexist was uh, kind of a bad experience that I had at Cornell University when I was doing my PhD.
And I got to learn with kind of hard experiences, how insensitive scientists are to those questions. And in particular, my initial advisor at Cornell is an Israeli Zionist and basically, because of my activism on the side for Palestine - I was involved in a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at Cornell, basically dropped me as a student. It has been kind of a long process that last for over a year, which, saying they dropped me as a student is a dramatic understatement of what actually happened.
But seeing basically the fact that he could do that and uh, all the colleagues and professors and the department basically being very cowardly in how you know, trying to protect my political rights, my free speech, however you want to call it. Since then, I see, I mean, I’ve met, I’ve been in science for a long time, and I see that there’s a dramatic need for scientists to be much more involved and much more engaged in the questions, like justice and equality.
And so, in particular Palestine has been a very natural set up given my dramatic experience. So, since then I’ve been involved with some other friends and colleagues to start organizing schools in Palestine. That’s where it all started, so we organized two physics school. In Palestine, one in Summer 2017, and one in Summer 2016, and then from there, we kind of like, started this organization called Scientists for Palestine. And we have been growing steadily. And we think it’s a great venue for scientists to come together and really discuss questions that are not usually addressed, in our day to day life.
AD: Great, thank you for sharing that. Can I just clarify, did you say that when you were in, organizing schools in Palestine – that you were organizing schools around physics? Is that what I heard?
MM: Yes, the focus of the first school was mostly on high energy physics and the second school was on the cosmology. Talking about the universe and then something called condensive matter which is basically understanding materials, basically, what some people would call material science. So those are the two things that we organized and we were able to bring very prominent scientists, from among the most prominent scientists in those fields and we had a you know, very beautiful experience in which we, you know the first school I think we had 40 Palestinians advanced undergrad and masters students. And the second school, we got up to 60, coming from all over the West Bank. It was a very beautiful experience, very very complex, organizing schools in Palestine, not an easy job, but it’s been very… [inaudible].
LS: Great, and then Marcello, could you respond to the same question?
MN: Sure. Like Mario, I’ve been involved in sciences my entire life. But I guess unlike Mario, I’ve only recently radicalized within the last few years. Prior to that, I sort of just was in the world of science and not really engaged with the political aspects of it. But after sort of joining the New York City chapter of the DSA, and the NYC chapter of Science for the People, um, I began to um, one, to understand how science fits in all these sort of radical politics.
And, I think it’s important to understand what that is. Both how it can be liberated from profit motives and military imperialism and then, conversely, what the role of science in that liberation of such oppressions. Um, and through Science for the People, they have been helping to organize this event with Scientists for Palestine, so I think it’s important to begin to understand those questions from those who are most affected by such struggles and to have that guide our work to realize um, a reality that’s free from those oppressions and sort of understand where science fits in all of that.
LS: Great, and so you just mentioned this meeting that’s coming up, which is the Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine and so both of you are involved with different organizations. So, Mario, you mentioned Scientists for Palestine, so could you talk about that organization, who you are and what you do?
MM: Yes, so as I said, Scientists for Palestine was born, well I didn’t say that, but it was born about two years ago, two and a half probably. And it was basically in relation to our attempt, by myself and other colleagues to organize a physics school in Palestine. Um, even though our first focus was just organizing a physics school, we thought, we had in mind from the get go, that we wanted to do something bigger than that. Not just a single school, but wanted that school to be a piece of a bigger puzzle, that was the task of actually doing something more broadly for Palestine.
So, since then we have grown quite a bit. We have done multiple set of things, among which, um, two schools in Palestine as I’ve mentioned, um, this is going to be the Second International Meeting. Earlier this year in January we had our First International Meeting at the University of Cambridge, and we’ve been involved with facilitating various things. With uh, you know, having recently about a month and a half ago, we were basically the main driving force to have 15, among the most famous physicists in the world including a Nobel Prize winner and a Field’s Medalist – which is basically the Nobel Prize for mathematics, to sign a letter condemning the organizing of a conference on a University in Israel that was built on a settlement. So it was illegal by all means. So we’ve been, we’ve been a driving force to bring the oppression of Palestine into mainstream sciences.
Scientists for Palestine, right now, is organized - has three main focuses. One is still organizing schools in Palestine. We are working for a school in astronomy and astrophysics for 2019 in the West Bank. We’ve been trying to organize schools in Gaza but getting per- Gaza is almost impossible to access at the moment, so we will keep trying, but at the moment we haven’t been successful.
Then we are organizing a mentorship program. That means we are trying to get more international scientists involved to be able to connect with Palestinian students and guide then and mentoring them. We think that creating the pre-conditions for Palestinians to get out of Palestine and have international experiences is essential for giving the possibility to them to become actual scientists. So, this is something that facilitates that.
And we’re also have another branch of Scientists for Palestine called Outreach and Education in which we’re trying to, not only kind of work in conjunction with Palestinian academics and scientists to actually build scientific program on the ground, but we also think it’s important to discuss more broadly what are the issues that Palestine faces? And in particular, the question of Occupation, which for any Palestinian doing nearly any activity in the West Bank, they will tell you that the main challenge they face is the fact that they are under military occupation and they have been for 50 years.
So, we think that even though our main purpose is to discuss science, we cannot really be of help for Palestinians if we’re not discussing the main problem, which is the military occupation as we all know. Unfortunately, here in the US we have the you know, an investment in that because the US is one of- the main international force supporting Israel in the, and giving them. the possibility to perpetuate this illegal occupation for 50 years.
So, we are operating on different scales and the Second International Meeting is exactly uh, it’s thought to be a meeting where people can come together and uh, work on all these levels at the same time, so. There will be a session discussing education, a session discussing uh, actual ways for people to get involved, either in mentorship or mentoring Palestinian students organizing schools, and session for actually starting to develop international collaborations and having Palestinians chiming in and discussing their science.
AD: Great, thank you. I kind of have some questions about the schools themselves and maybe you can help me understand. When you’re talking about that you are helping to organize physics schools and astronomy schools, can you tell me more about like, who would be a students? What would be something that would be taught? Are we talking about university students? Elementary? Yeah, help me understand a little bit more about what you mean by schools.
MM: Great, yeah. Thanks for this question. The schools have been called the Advanced Palestinian Physics Schools. So, they are aimed at advanced undergrad and masters students. We see that Palestine has- very good at programs for education basically for up to, undergrad. And then, and then there’s very few opportunities for scientists to actually get the next step and become internationally recognized academics.
And so, that part, we think that this is something that we can be most helpful with. Um, so, the way in which we organize those schools. So, basically we have contacts in any of the four major universities in the West Bank. They are called Birzeit University, An-Najah University, Arab-American University, and Al-Quds University. Those are the main four universities in the West Bank. We have contacts in mostly physics and math departments in all four. So we discussed with them, what are the topics that would be of interest for the students. We kind of make a decision on what the topic should be and we facilitate because most of us in Scientists for Palestine have, are pretty established in our fields, so we have an easy way to reach out to prominent scientists, prominent personalities in those fields.
And then we’re kind of organizing, we’re also trying to apply for grants and have money because unfortunately, schools cost money and again, Palestine does not have a whole lot of money. So, we put, trying to put down the money, we’re trying to facilitate the connection with prominent scientists, and we also require that students apply to the school and being accepted to the school. So, we facilitate the whole organization, but it’s always in collaboration with academics on the ground.
AD: Ok, thank you for clarifying.
LS: I wanna take us back to the Second International Meeting for Science in Palestine. So Mario, can you just tell us like, what this meeting is? Like, I know you talked about some of the sessions and events that will be happening throughout, but like what is the meeting and what is the goal of the meeting?
MM: Great, thanks. So the goal of the meeting is again, really bringing together scientists and bridging the gap between Palestinian scientists and international scientists. The meeting is gonna be 3 days long. It’s gonna be starting on Friday evening and it’s going to be ending on Sunday afternoon, late afternoon. And it’s gonna be a very intense two and a half days gathering where the goal is to get together between 50 and a hundred people, we’ve had so far 80 applications and we expected to have at least up to a 100. And having them discussing basically, the question of international solidarity with Palestine.
As I mentioned, uh, we expect that the audience will be a mixture of Palestinian, Palestinian-American, Arabs in general and Muslims, and people that are in, you know, they are Middle Eastern or identify with that region, and also you know, international scientists that are just interested in and concerned about the question of Palestine. So, the audience will be mostly scientists and will be very diverse in their knowledge of the issue of Palestine, so there will be time spent to kind of understand and discuss with Palestinians that will be Skyping in from the West Bank- time spent to understand what the challenges are. Because we assume that many of the people that are in the audience are not super familiar with the question but then they will have time to also discuss what the science that is already happening in Palestine, how international can help and, and kind of trying to really establish a network and a real network between Palestinians and international.
There will be, you know, Professor Suleiman Baraka who’s from Gaza, and there’s gonna be other Palestinians that will be flying in from the West Bank and Gaza that also will be able to meet in person a lot of, and develop new connections. We think that those meetings are important because they are moments of growth of our group, in which people can really come together and discuss matters.
LS: Thank you for that. And so, this is the Second International Meeting, so there was one, a First International Meeting. So this one is taking place in New York. And so, can you tell us about the First International Meeting? Where did it take place? And then what were some of the successes and challenges that came out of that meeting that helped you all plan for the second meeting?
MM: So, the first meeting happened in, at University of Cambridge in the UK. Just to- I hadn’t mentioned but, one of the reasons why we had the second in the US is that most of the members of Scientists for Palestine are in Europe and in Palestine. I’m in fact, the only member that lives in the US, so we’re a mostly a European and Palestinian organization. And so, some of the things that came out of the first meeting was, really, a boost of interest in our activities.
We had many of the people who attended the meeting, they actually got involved and are now plugged in to the work. So many of them have joined our sub-committees and they are kind of- weekly put in work in organizing the programs that I’ve discussed before so the schools and the mentorship program. The reasons why we do this meetings is, we realized that in order to be effective, you just need disciplined people that have skills and that are willing to put their skills in the service of the movement. And so, we hope that, that can also happen after the Second International Meeting, we’ll hopefully have after that meeting many more members – scientist members that are Scientists for Palestine that are in the US. And so we hope that after the second meeting, we’re gonna have the same influx of of energy and people that really see the need of getting involved in our work and can join our ranks.
LS: A lot of different groups have come together. So you mentioned, Scientists for Palestine, which is the main organizer of the group, but there’s a lot of co-sponsors who are helping to put this together. And Marcello, you are part of Science for the People, and so could you tell us who Science for the People are and what role you all are playing in helping this meeting come to fruition?
MN: Sure. So, originally Science for the People was a group that originally started in 1969 that worked towards a radical analysis of science and sort of liberating science from the oppressions of the military and sort of profit interests. They worked on a breadth of issues including sort of, a large part of that was involved in scientific exchange internationally, including countries like Vietnam, China, Cuba, and Nicaragua, amongst others, in order to try to understand the potential of what sort of this radical vision of science could be.
Uh, and they published a magazine that lasted from the inception of 1969 until 1989, and in the past few years, there’s been a new generation of Leftists involved in, or sort of interested in science, that has been working with the original veteran members of the organization on I guess like, a rebirth of the organization to continue to work on this radical vision of science.
And so, Science for the People has been working with Scientists for Palestine, um, in this vision of collaborating internationally and understanding the struggles of science in international struggles. And, primarily, the NYC chapter has been working to help host this event, the international meeting, just by fundraising, by providing publicity to those in the scientific community, and support of the logistics for the event.
LS: So there’s often backlash, particularly here in the US, around issues of Palestine when folks come together in support of, or to advocate for, Palestine. So, what has been the reception of this meeting? Have you come up against any of this backlash or, has it generally been – I mean, no planning for any meeting is smooth sailing, but in terms of having to deal with that sort of energy? Have you experienced any of that?
MM: Can I? I can probably, just, I don’t know if the question was directed to me but I have something to say in this regard a little bit. Um, so, usually, Scientists for Palestine is not as, it doesn’t appear at least, as radical as other organizations and we kind of choose to have this, you know, superficial appearance of being apolitical – whatever that actually means – just because we know that scientists at the moment are very scared of politics. So we don’t wanna uh, scare people away.
And so usually, we don’t have that much, kind of, backlash or like, attacks against us, than other organizations that might organize around Palestine do. But I think it’s, it’s very telling, one of the examples that happened. So one of the sessions – to kind of answer your question and how kind of political the question of Palestine inherently is, no matter what you do. So one of the sessions that we were gonna have during the weekend is, it’s about the medical situation in Palestine, specifically in Gaza and discussing the medical crisis. And so we were having, we had connections and we had the Director of the WHO, the World Health Organization for Palestine, agreeing and giving a presentation. And the presentation that he would need to give was just a report to open up that session. And we asked him to just give a report, technical, scientific report on what the situation, the medical situation is in Gaza and in Palestine and the needs that they have so that people in the meeting, in the audience, so that they could be more aware of that.
Well, he agreed. Again he’s a Palestinian from Gaza, agreed at first, but then once he realized that one of the co-sponsors - well, there’s two Palestinian-led organizations in New York that also co-sponsor, along with Science for the People, and basically, immediately, any policy organization, any of them, who’s actually true to their cause would support BDS, which is this non-violent movement that is trying to resolve the question of the occupation by non-violent means and just boycotting and asking for a boycott of Israel until it complies with international law. Something that is very reasonable.
But, you know, again, Scientists for Palestine does not support BDS. Well, basically the Director of the WHO pulled out of the meeting and uh, just saying that his superior, his boss in the WHO, basically told him to, advised him not to participate to any meeting that is sponsored by any organization that supports BDS.
That compares with the fact that the WHO obviously is involved at a high level with the Israeli government, that doesn’t, you know, that violates international law. So you can see here that what is defined as political in one case, which means the support of non-violent movement that advocates for Israel to respect international law, it’s very different from – for instance, how that applies with the action of Israel, which is not only, to not respect international law, but to actually commit crimes and kill, you know, thousands of Palestinians.
So that’s one of the examples in which the question of Palestine and Israel, it’s unfortunately a very complicated one, so we unfortunately will not have the director of the WHO giving a report on the medical situation in Gaza. Even though we did not ask him to be political in any shape or form, he would just have to report, or giving a report.
AD: It’s a really interesting, and I feel like, like you said, a very telling, like way of seeing it, it’s like, the political understanding and like just all the different ways in which I feel like occupation is continued in so many forms. But could you tell us, I think you mentioned something about the BDS campaign. So the Boycott, Divestment – I forget what the S stands for in the BDS -[MM: Sanctions] Sanctions. Yeah. And I couldn’t quite understand if you were saying that Science for Palestine is co- or like, on board with BDS or it’s just, or, what the relationship to taking that stance is?
MM: That’s a great question, so I’ll try to answer very quickly. Which might require a podcast on it’s own. Well, so, in short, Scientists in Palestine does not have a position on BDS. Um, that’s very important for us. First of all, we don’t see it as our main focus at the moment. Our main focus is actually, helping, supporting in practice, uh, developing on Science in Palestine. Even just for that issue, you have to understand that you know, we are involved in activities in the West Bank. We would also in Gaza, but in Gaza, as I said, it’s impossible. And in order to get into the West Bank, you have to go through Israeli border. Israel controls all the borders of the West Bank, there’s no way, it doesn’t matter if you fly into Tel Aviv and then you try to go through Israel or you try to cross from Jordan, Israel controls all of the borders and by Israeli law, basically, is BDS, is – they’re trying to push it to criminalize anybody that supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement as much as possible. And it’s kind of like, almost tantamount to terrorism. The laws against BDS supporters change by the hours. But it’s becoming more and more common that people who support BDS and have officially supported BDS are not granted entry in Israel. And so for us, it’s very important that we, we will still be able to get into the West Bank, so it’s essential for us. We don’t see it as a priority to support BDS, and to get an explicit position on it.
But on the other side, by our experience, it’s more or less universal. There is- basically, it’s very hard, you have to look very hard to find a Palestinian from Palestine that does not support BDS. That’s really, you know, everybody supports it. There’s many people that, as we do, um, avoid to get a position, just because- to take an explicit position, just because they see that, the cons from standing up for BDS would be higher than the positive side of being a public supporter of it. But every single Palestinian that we have met in academia and outside of academia support BDS and so for us, it’s very important we don’t take a position, but on the other side, we don’t take part into the silencing of BDS which is commonly done even in the Left in the US.
So for us, of course we do work with many organizations that do support BDS and we don’t think that it’s a fair thing to do to Palestinians to not talk about BDS. We wanna talk about it. There will be a session in fact, in the international meeting which will discuss the question of BDS and even a specific question, which is even more pertinent for us, which is kind of this subsection of the bigger movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel which is called the Academic Boycott of Israel, meaning as a specific call to academics and scientists to not participate in conferences in - even though they just discuss science, you don’t want to participate in conferences in - and so, we will discuss even the question of academic boycott, because we think it’s important.
AD: Great, thank you for clarifying.
LS: Yeah, and so I have a question for both Mario and Marcello. You’re both physicists and given your political stance in general and then we can use Palestine as an example, what do you see as the role of physics and physicists in sort of, imagining or enacting a different version of what we see in terms of imperialism, or occupation, racism, et cetera?
MN: I guess you know, hopefully this meeting will sort of hash out those questions, and it’s an opportunity to…you know, not everyone within our field is the most sort of politically aware um, and so hopefully this meeting will build some awareness of the ways in which the society in which we live in is reflected in the ways that we do science, both in its practice and it’s results. And the society can sort of use the sciences and appropriate it in ways that are for sort of, military colonialism, and the goal is to right, to be able to liberate science from that appropriation. I think we need to listen to those who are sort of most affected by such struggles to be able to understand the answers to those questions – both how science can be seen in a liberated vision of science and how it plays a role in that liberation, and so my hope is to better understand that and to politically educate our field.
MM: Yeah, I completely agree with uh, what Marcello said. If I can add, I mean, having had quite a bit of experience now, I’ve been in the field for quite a bit, there’s this very interesting uh, kind of conundrum, right, in academia, mainly, and it’s particularly in physics. The overwhelming majority of physicists I would say, they’re definitely liberal. Depending on how you, whether or not, this is good or bad, but definitely they, they locate themselves in probably the far left on the political spectrum, right. Uh, but on the other side, physics, especially high energy physics, has tremendous amount of issues with racism, and sexism, even just in the US and also you know, science in general, acts as Marcello said, as a very strong colonial tool, right. And so, many of the physicists that I know, some people might feel strongly, some people a little less strong, about the fact that there is problems within our community. But at the same time, you know, academics, especially in America, are very comfortable, right. Academia in this country is kind of an ivory tower and you are somewhat detached from the rest of society.
And so long as like, your sentiment or your critiques of society are not strong enough that you feel more loyalty towards academia, than you feel towards justice and the fight for anti-racism and anti-sexism, then the system perpetuates. So that’s how the conundrum kind of like, is resolved. You see so many people there have progressive politics and have strong ideas, and yet, nearly nothing changes.
And the reason is because, ultimately, most of these people feel more loyalty to academia than they feel towards justice. And so, I think in some sense, Scientists for Palestine, even though our focus is for Palestine, is even broader in trying to bring together people that feel the urge. Hopefully younger, especially among younger scientists, you know, they have not gotten to the point in which they are so you know, integrated into the academic community that they no longer feel that strong push to fight for the better world. So we want to bring all these people together and we want to create that energy that is created when like-minded people, that have strong opinions about making the world better, feel when they come together – that energy to be there for providing a concrete way for all those people in academia that do not feel more loyalty against – you know, for academia than they do for justice. To come together and be able to really be, be organized and keep fighting for, for instead, having science to be a tool of change, of positive change, rather than oppression which has been basically, you know, for the last two or three decades.
Of course, I think you know, also Marcello mentioned, with the original Science for the People, that has not always been the case. I mean, there has been a tradition and Albert Einstein is one of the most beautiful example, of prominent scientists who put on the forefront their fight for peace. So, we want to bring back that sentiment.
AD: Thank you for, you know, really bringing up this conundrum. I think that there’s so much to talk about and I think uh, maybe we can like, just address one last thing to kind of wrap up, how we can continue thinking through that conundrum itself together and separately. So, the meeting is scheduled, I believe in November, right, so you can maybe tell us, if folks are able to you know, in the afterlife of the meeting itself, if people are able to come to the meeting- this episode most likely will be airing afterwards, uh, but how can folks continue to, you know, join in a conversation concerning this?
MM: Um, fortunately, we are here for the long term, um, but the struggle is long and there will be plenty of opportunities for people to get involved. Being at the meeting unfortunately is kind of a priceless thing, because as I said, when you, and other like-minded people, there’s an energy that, it’s unique. And it’s the energy of organizing and the energy of the movement and so unfortunately, this would be my main advice for people, just to try to come to the meeting. But other than that, there is a website, www.scientistsforpalestine.com , we are on Facebook and um, you can follow us and I’m sure you can follow Science for the People, I mean Marcello can give us information about that um, and we’ll have plenty of um, of other events.
You can also fill out, the ‘get involved’ form on our website if you wanna, you know, keep, be kept in the loop. And one of the things that we really hope that can come out of the meeting is uh, is creating another sub-committee along with the three that I already mentioned, which uh, is able to have a constant publication coming out of the Scientists for Palestine, a newsletter, and so once that is done, then you will receive maybe this monthly newsletter also if you fill out the “Get Involved” page.
In general, I mean, we’ll have, we’ll probably have another international meeting, the next international meeting that we’re organizing is probably going to be in late 2019, the date is not fixed yet and it might be in Jordan, uh, because that gives us the possibility to connect really with a lot of Palestinians and people in the region. But then we’ll also have more meetings in Europe and all around the US, so hopefully you can catch the next one.
AD: Great, thank you so much. Marcello, do you want talk about if folks wanna connect to Science for the People?
MN: Right, yes. So, Science for the People is a national organization with uh, at the moment, twelve chapters across the US. If you want to continue to build this Leftist movement amongst science, you can check out scienceforthepeople.org. There you can find a listing of local chapters and information and guidance if you want to start your own chapter, and I think it’s an important way of connecting the sort of Leftist movement within science with in the US and additionally build these connections with the international science community like Scientists for Palestine. So, you can check out our website and hopefully this meeting will hash out some better future plans to be able to build a stronger connection between the US Leftist scientist movement and the broader international community.
AD: Great, thank you so much! And thank you for being on.
[Music ♫ - Juanes, A Dios Le Pido]
LS: So, you just heard a clip from Juanes, the song is called “A Dios le Pido”. And Atasi, what did it make you think of?
AD: Well, the song, this artist and the song was released in 2002. And I think the first thing I thought of was like, ‘oh, I remember this song, I used to listen to Juanes’. You know like, oh, I remember this, it brought back some memories. And then we watched the video which brought up a different kind of memory but as I was reading the lyrics of the song itself, I didn’t realize how religious it was. I mean, they had a lot of talking about God and, like, family, and life. But I never really realized it cause Spanish is not my first language and I love listening to music in Spanish. Mostly cause I like taking in the sound of it, the feeling of it. And the feeling of the song was like, you know, like, upbeat and like really happy and festive in a way and I’m like oh, this is a great song and then I like, heard the lyrics and I was like oh, like, realized what the lyrics were saying and it was interesting cause I was like kinda confused. Like, oh man, it’s like really heavy at the same time as festive. So, yeah, I don’t know, that kind of came up for me. What about for you – when you?
LS: So I’d never heard of this song or artist until Mario mentioned it, but I- less about the song and more about the video. The video is such a time- like when I was looking at the video, I was like, oh, 2000s. This is definitely from early 2000s, like there’s no mistaking, it’s a timestamp. Yeah.
AD: What, like the clothing?
LS: The clothing, the colors, the – everything about it was so 2000s.
[Same time, AD: So 2000s]
AD; Alright, thinking about the 2000s and what was going on, and this group is from Colombia, the country. So part of it is what’s interesting about the song that I didn’t realize and put together or connect that they are kind of referring to like a period of great like, struggle in Colombia. I think there was like Plan Colombia, lots of different US intervention with um, concerning drugs, and you know, the US’s hand is everywhere. Ha ha. The song is kinda coming in that history um, in the 2000s and I definitely got that sense but I didn’t realize what that meant. Right, like, I just like see the pants, the shirts, and you just are like, ok this is from that time but what that meant was, there was like a lot of stuff going down and there was a lot of violence and people were losing their lives and so like, the song, it made sense that there was both kind of like, a very deep kind of religious tone to it while trying to be u-
AD: Uplifting. It’s like uh, the contradiction of this in that time and space so. Yeah, so I appreciate him bringing the song up again cause I hadn’t actually really thought about it. Like what this meant.
LS: Yay! Thank you music.
AD: Yeah, music, yeah. Music and history, so.
LS: Yeah! Alright, thank you for joining us.
AD: And we’ll be back with another episode.
LS: We will be.
[♫ Music fade out.]
AD: Check us out at Abolition Science [dot] org, where you can sign up for our newsletter.
LS: And follow us on Instagram @abolitionscience and also follow us on Twitter @abolition_sci .
AD: See you soon!