Harald Reuter, Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies – I can make this brief because I believe most of you, if not all of you, are aware that an organization, IPSO, the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization, does now exist. The main players and the originators of IPSO are all here.
The first idea of IPSO, as far as I’m aware, actually came up at a UNESCO meeting in Paris in the fall of 2002, in which Menahem Yaari, Sari Nusseibeh, Torsten Wiesel, and, of course, Carol Corillon, came together and discussed the possibility of setting up a science organization between Israelis and Palestinians.
The next step was in the last meeting of our Network in Ascona, Switzerland. Menahem and Sari were invited to present the idea of this organization, and they did it very forcefully. There were, of course, discussions. There was even skepticism with respect to the question of political impact. I think they handled the situation very well. The outcome was that the Network, our Network here, supported the idea of IPSO unanimously. From then on, they went ahead. When I say “they,” I mean Menahem and Sari and two other people who were instrumental, Dan Bitan and Hasan Dweik. Dan Bitan is one of the directors of IPSO on the Israeli side, and Hasan Dweik is the director on the Palestinian side.
Right from the beginning, the idea of IPSO was that the business was handled equally on both sides. Of course, there needs to be very close cooperation. The cooperation started between Menahem and Sari, on the basis of friendship. This apparently carried over to Dan and Hasan, because the way they are now directing IPSO as an organization is really quite admirable.
After the meeting in Ascona, there were approximately 25 or 26 academies in our Network who endorsed IPSO strongly.
Endorsement is a very questionable thing, because it is very easy to write down a name and say yes, morally we support this wholeheartedly, but we don’t know what to do further on. The main impact of the ideas of IPSO needs more than moral endorsements.
What is the idea? I will read it as it was actually worded in the initial statement:
The Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization will rekindle, foster and fund scientific cooperation and scholarly endeavors between Israelis and Palestinians. This bi-national, non-profit and non- political organization, to be located in the city of Jerusalem, will support cooperation in high quality research, in science and learning between Israeli and Palestinian scientists and scholars, working together typically in institutions of higher learning.