Israeli scientists must be ambassadors for peace in the Middle EastChaim Weizmann believed deeply in the ability of science to unify mankind, and to make progress, and real progress, achievable for all. I know that the Chaim Weizmann Institute strives every day to further his legacy, and I salute the American Committee for supporting this mission.
From genetic research to irrigation, the Institute is expanding our most basic notion of what is achievable in pursuit of health, development, and peace. And it is doing so in a spirit of cooperation across borders and between peoples.
The State of Israel made a wise decision early in its history – at a time when it was a poor developing country – to build a strong basic science community and to do it by linking closely with the international scientific community. The fruits of this early decision have been plain to see in the Weizmann Institute and the well-being of the country. By the same token, Israeli scientists have worked closely with their counterparts in other countries of the region on problems of health, agriculture and water. Such international scientific cooperation across adversarial boundaries offers hope for a future peace.
A central condition for development and cooperation is peace. For all the bridges science can build across the gaps between rich and poor, developed and developing, none is strong enough to withstand the force of war and violence. If science is to reach its full potential – drawing on the cooperation and collaboration of great minds from every country – we must do more to end conflicts, and address the inequalities that divide us.
While peacemaking and peacebuilding are often considered to be the preserve of political leaders and diplomats, I have long believed that lasting peace must come from the effects of individual men and women of conscience, who reject hatred and hostility in favour of all the opportunities that cooperation provides. Scientists have long played leading roles in promoting understanding and dialogue, and pushing leaders to resolve differences peacefully.
I am thinking here of the ways scientists can engage each other and build bridges of understanding, in circumstances where States cannot do so directly. Over the years, scientists from the Weizmann Institute have participated in these efforts.
While some may imagine that scientific cooperation is limited to areas of common research, in fact it has often been conducive to wider cooperation through ‘spill-over’ processes of various kinds. When, for example, technicians cooperate to solve a technical problem, their very success encourages others to widen the sphere of cooperation to other issues.
I urge you to renew your commitment to peace in the Middle East, especially between Israelis and Palestinians. The Weizmann Institute has already done much to spread the benefits of its research to Israel’s neighbors – through educational activities, exchanges of scientists and students, and the promotion of dialogue and understanding through scientific education. I applaud the Institute for this work, and appeal to you to expand and deepen it further.
Albert Einstein, speaking in 1931 to an audience at CalTech, said that “concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest for all technical endeavours in order that the creations of our minds shall be a blessing and not a curse for mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.”
The Weizmann Institute has never forgotten that essential duty of science. Let me, in closing, urge you to spread the blessings of science even further, even deeper, in the years to come, and make them a lasting force for peace.
Based on a speech given on December 8 at a gala dinner in New York