Open Sesame

SESAME main bldg. - Allan, Al-Balq'a, Jordan (credit SESAME.org.jo)

Unlike Ali Baba's tale, SESAME will not open a cave full of priceless treasures. In fact, SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) is a “third-generation” synchrotron light source under construction in Allan (Jordan). It will be the Middle East's first major international research centre.

It is a cooperative venture by scientists and governments of the region set up on the model of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). It is being developed under the auspices of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) following the formal approval given for this by the Organization's Executive Board (164th session, May 2002).

The project is backed by several Arab nations, together with Turkey, Pakistan, Cyprus, Iran and - astonishingly - Israel as well. It is set to start operating in 2015.

Animated model of a synchrotron (credit Aseem Sharma)

A synchrotron is a special type of particle accelerator, accelerating a beam of electrons into a booster ring to pick up a speed of 99.99986% the speed of light and an energy of 1.5 to 2.9 GeV. The beam is guided into a storage ring where it's maintained and guided by computer-controlled magnets. Light is produced when bending magnets deflect the beam, and is focused into the experimental chambers. (For a comprehensive explanation of the operation of a synchrotron, please check this diagram).

The synchrotron radiation is used in around 70 facilities worldwide for a variety of applications (source Wikipedia):
  • Life sciences: protein and large molecule crystallography
  • LIGA based microfabrication
  • Drug discovery and research
  • "Burning" computer chip designs into metal wafers
  • Analysing chemicals to determine their composition
  • Observing the reaction of living cells to drugs
  • Inorganic material crystallography and microanalysis
  • Fluorescence studies
  • Semiconductor material analysis and structural studies
  • Geological material analysis
  • Medical imaging
  • Proton therapy to treat some forms of cancer

Researchers involved hope Sesame could be a beacon for peace in the region (credit BBC NEWS)

Beyond science and the valuable addition to the research field in the Middle East region, SESAME is seen by its launchers, and by all the participant researchers, as a first step into breaking the political tension in the region among countries who don't recognize each others (Turkey/Cyprus and Pakistan,Iran/Israel) and potential war zones. The following is a testimonials video from the participant researchers, interviewed by BBC News' David Shukman.

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The comments of the various researchers vary from establishing a line of communication (if not bring peace), that the project will lead into other achievements of political nature, that a single country cannot afford having a synchrotron, to scientists belonging to humanity or have a common ground that is scientific research regardless of politics or race or religion.
But in my opinion, the comment of Israeli professor Eliezer Rabinovici reveals a lot about the nature of this project. Rabinovici says:
"It has always been my dream, to show that Arabs and Israelis can work together for the benefit of humanity and the benefits of their people."
When the goals of such a project are way beyond its scientific value, it is impossible not to take political conflicts into consideration. My view may be radical, but I think this project mainly targets to impose the presence of Israel, and subsequently the 2-state solution and many other political compromises, via the backdoor of science this time. I don't want to fall into conspiracy theories, but connecting the dots cannot but lead into such conclusions.

A similar issue can be raised about the "Israeli civilian" targeting during conflicts. All in the name of humanity, which the state of Israel violates on a daily basis. The responsibility of these civilians in that case, and researchers in SESAME's case is that they approve of the actions of their terrorist state either by willingly or by simply being silent against the flagrant criminality of their apartheid state.

Hence the radical attitude of refusing any kind of cooperation with the Zionist entity of Israel, on any grounds, whether scientific or artistic or any other field, as being a way of recognition of Israel and a step of normalization with it. (At this front the BDS movement is doing a brilliant job, please check their website).

As for the cost sharing argument, well the BBC News reports that the cost will amount to around $40m (...construction is being funded with $5m each from Israel, Iran, Jordan and Turkey plus another $5m from the EU for Cern to provide the magnet system. Pakistan has agreed to provide $5m in kind. That still leaves a $10m shortfall in funding to improve the "beamlines"). That is merely negligible in front of the massive spending of $70bn for the World Cup organization in 2022, or the $1.5bn spending on mile-high buildings.

In conclusion, the scientific value of the SESAME project is undeniable, but we shouldn't let ourselves be deluded behind false that ideals, that could waste years of efforts and resistance, especially that the countries of the Middle East can easily achieve this project without any dependency to an Israeli effort, unless it's a condition for the survival of the project, which would undoubtedly confirm the high suspicions of the motives behind the project.


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