NTNU's Deep Disgrace: A Staggering Betrayal in Partnering with Kongsberg

Academic freedom is a responsibility, not just a right. NTNU's collaboration with Kongsberg Gruppen, whose technology contributes to the killing of Palestinians, needs to stop.

NTNU Students for Palestine and Academic Network for Palestine demand that NTNU leaders freeze the partnership with Kongsberg until the company ceases arms sales to Israel.

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In a world increasingly dominated by giant armies driven by imperialist agendas to overtake others’ land and resources, discriminating against and oppressing those who have nothing to defend themselves with, the only remaining bulwark against the destruction of our world has become a slim margin of free speech and real democracy. It is a mistake to believe that this giant, interconnected network of mutual interests among dominating regimes only affects far-off lands; it threatens the integrity of all human society, including those societies that have made relatively great efforts to maintain ethical and humanitarian standards–Norway and its institutions included. Therefore, the fundamental question is laid bare: what are NTNU’s actual values? 

In answering the above question, it's crucial to reveal the blatant hypocrisy and double standards in how Palestinian suffering is handled compared to the Ukrainian war. For example, the claim that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is "too complex" to address is a sham, designed to silence dissent and perpetuate oppression, and actually showing an implicit form of racism towards Arabs and Muslims. Therefore, opposing this ethical violation necessitates a firm stance from NTNU, beyond mere symbolic support, especially considering NTNU's research collaboration with Kongsberg Gruppen. This company supplies the Israeli army, which has been responsible for the deaths of innocent children in Palestine.

When institutions stumble over themselves to assist one group of people facing extreme violence, as they have for Ukrainians, but fail to produce the same empathy for others being burned alive in tents, as they have done with Palestinians, it becomes obvious that the underlying values have never been about fairness or rationality. Therefore, it is us, as academics, wielding the weapon of academic independence, who have become the last bastion of fairness and rationality values. This academic independence demands a staunch defense of the voiceless, and it demands this first and foremost by insisting on and championing the humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people and their cause, doing away with the hypocrisy we have borne witness to. The NTNU Board believes that it can put NTNU at the forefront of global science by cutting ethical corners; but they do not seem to realize that the fruits of these labors are worth less than nothing if they forfeit their academic honor.

Uncovering NTNU's Hypocrisy in Justifying Collaboration with Kongsberg

We see how intentionally or unintentionally there is a manipulative language to misrepresent what NTNU Students for Palestine and Academic Network for Palestine seek. For example, the academic freedom that justifies NTNU collaboration with Kongsberg Gruppen, is undermined by Israeli occupation and its Western influence at Norway institutions. This occurs not only through the justification of the deadly attacks on Gaza using Kongsberg powered F-35 jets but also within academic life itself in the occupied lands of Palestine. Hence, it is our responsibility to shield against state complicity with weapons manufacturers like Kongsberg Gruppen – not to act as facilitators or profiteers. Therefore, the deaths of Palestinian children caused by Kongsberg technology cannot be dismissed as irrelevant.

Our message to the NTNU board and the academic community at NTNU, and all who champion academic freedom in the same hypocritical sense: if you claim that academics must be free and independent to decide their actions, what about those in Palestine who are denied this right? What about Kongsberg's role in this by strengthening the occupation and its military oppression?

We always witness a pattern of media manipulation like the justifications for the U.S. invasion of Iraq — a venture that left the Iraqi people devastated while enriching American corporations that fed upon the invasion and the big lie of rebuilding Iraq. That historical context of media deceit must guide our understanding of current events, and NTNU’s leadership must recognize Kongsberg's role in the Iraq invasion.

Moreover, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, academic freedom faces severe challenges imposed by the Israeli occupation, powered by Kongsberg military technology. NTNU is apparently fine with this, according to the recently released NTNU board meeting minutes and their refusal to the core demand by NTNU Students for Palestine and Academic Network for Palestine: “to freeze collaboration with Kongsberg Gruppen until the latter stops selling weapons to Israeleither directly or indirectly through the U.S.”. Yet, to justify the continuation of the NTNU and Kongsberg Partnership, they are educating us about how academic freedom should not be compromised. Hence, it appears to be hypocritical and selfish how the NTNU board is since Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement tend to hinder Palestinian students and academics.

Furthermore, NTNU students who were conducting fieldwork in the occupied Palestinian territories were detained, interrogated, and deported without sufficient explanation. These incidents highlight a significant issue regarding NTNU's partnership with Kongsberg Gruppen. In all brevity, our demand for NTNU to take a radical stance against Kongsberg Gruppen is neither a privilege nor irrelevant, but an urgent necessity. This demand transcends politics, becoming a profound ethical imperative that can indeed save lives and uphold justice and academic freedom worldwide – not in a greedy or selfish sense.

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