KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

BMJ Poll: Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions?

As someone who recently boycotted a large group of medical journals, I was interested to read the following e-mail, forwarded to me by a medical copyeditor colleague and friend who lives in Israel. I have edited it for clarity and for U.S. English:
Promoting Academic Integrity and Honest Debate

Dear ... colleague, especially physicians ...

We have just received word that the British Medical Journal is conducting a poll on boycotting Israel. There is room [in the poll] for comments. While [the poll is] published by physicians and [the poll's creators are] certainly interested in physicians' views, there are sections for [nonphysician professionals] and members of the public. It is extremely important that all of you let [everyone] know [about the poll]. The poll can be found [here]. Please circulate it quickly and widely, as it is unknown how long it will remain open.
Why is the BMJ considering a boycott? According to Tom Hickey, chair of the University and College Union,
... we could not ignore what is being done in the Occupied Territories, or the systematic denial of educational opportunities and academic freedom to Palestinian students and scholars. Some ... have also expressed concern about the complicity of the Israeli Medical Association in the occupation. ...

The territories, occupied since 1967, have been colonised by Israeli settlements built on illegally confiscated land. The area has been disaggregated and rendered ungovernable by road networks for Israeli use only. Houses are demolished as collective punishments, and there is regular shooting and shelling. Farmers are separated from their land, and the supply of water sharply discriminates between the needs of Palestinians and those of Israeli settlers.

In these circumstances, there can be no normal educational provision. ...

In all of this, there is strong evidence of the complicity of Israeli academic institutions. No Israeli college or university has publicly condemned what is being done in the Occupied Territories in the name of every Israeli citizen. ...
Why should the BMJ not conduct a boycott? Michael Baum, professor emeritus of surgery at University College London, dismisses
... the big lie that Israel is an apartheid state. Israel is a multicultural mosaic with Jews, Muslims, Christians, and other faiths. Druze, Bahá'í, and Armenian Christians chose to live there after persecution in Muslim countries. Only malign commentators can be blind to the Arabs who form 20% of Israeli citizens. ...

Israel provides more academic freedom for Arab scholars than anywhere else in the Middle East. There are numerous examples of Palestinian and Israeli collaborations. ...

As Malcolm Grant, provost of University College London, put it: the boycott "betrays a misunderstanding of the academic mission, which is founded squarely on academic freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech." Lord Adonis went further in the House of Lords:
Not only would a boycott be inconsistent with the spirit of openness and tolerance that should inform public life. It would also be counterproductive. Education plays a vital role in developing and aiding understanding between different people. It is therefore all the more important to keep open channels of communication with academic and educational institutions in the Middle East during these difficult times.
Whether you're a medical professional, a medical copyeditor, a general copyeditor, or a member of another profession, participating in this poll may be your chance to help shape the future.

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