CLEVELAND and VIENNA, February 15, 2010 /PRNewswire/ --

- By - Peter J. Haas, Case Western Reserve University; President, SPME ( - Ruth Contreras, Ph.D., U. of Vienna Natural History Museum (

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) has issued a statement ( signed by 9 Nobel Laureates and 3,100 faculty members from 33 countries condemning the expulsion of Ariel University Center from the 2010 Solar Decathlon in Spain and requesting reinstatement.

Many of the academics who signed this statement, including scholars from universities that have participated, or are now participating, in Solar Decathlon competitions, have expressed concern that the expulsion, as an exclusively political decision, could damage the reputation of the Solar Decathlon and its organizers. Others pointed out, as Ariel's president did, that the decision affects not only Jewish but also Arab students. Our principle, as one signer put it, is that academic freedom and human rights must be protected and extended, universally, across the world.

In September 2009, the Spanish Ministry of Housing expelled the Ariel University Center from participation in the Solar Decathlon 2010 competition. Ariel had been chosen, in October 2008, as one of 20 finalists in that competition, the first of its kind to be held in Europe. The reasons for Ariel's expulsion were not academic or technical but strictly political, as the Spanish government itself declared. According to a press release ( issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs justified the expulsion by invoking the position of the international community on Israeli settlements and the fact that the European Union has repeatedly declared that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.

Further documentation is provided by the statement of one of the organizations pushing for the expulsion, PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) (, a letter ( of July 2009 from the International Union of Architects (UIA) to the Spanish Ministry of Housing, and requests ( from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign to the Spanish Ministry of Housing and the Rector of the Universidad politecnica de Madrid.

According to Ariel's president, Professor Dan Meyerstein, who was contacted by SPME, this decision affects not only Jewish students but also the 500 Arab students at the Ariel University Center.

Letters of concern asking for reinstatement of Ariel have been sent to the Spanish government and other officials. To date these letters remain unacknowledged and unanswered.

SPME has sent its statement to EU President Jose Luis Zapatero, to the incoming EU president Herman van Rompuy, and to Professor Steven Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy; the Department of Energy is the main sponsor of the Solar Decathlon competitions.

SOURCE: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

CONTACT: Peter Haas, SPME President,, or RuthContreras, SPME Board of Directors Secretary,;