APS News

Palestinian Visits: Irresponsible or Just Ill-Timed?

On the front page of the October issue of APS News, we ran a story implying that it might be beneficial for members traveling in the Middle East to schedule visits to Palestinian universities on the West Bank, and we suggested our Director of International Affairs, Irving Lerch, as a useful point of contact for anyone interested in doing so.

The appearance of this article coincided with the recent renewed outbreak of hostilities between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have had some private correspondence claiming that we acted irresponsibly in enticing our members into a dangerous situation. To clarify our position, APS News has interviewed Lerch, and we present some of his comments, based on his long experience in international scientific affairs.

AN: What was your intention in promoting these visits?

IL: The APS Executive Board and Council have among their constitutional responsibilities the dissemination of physics information for the health of the international physics enterprise. Insofar as this can be accomplished by promoting exchanges, we do.

AN: Wasn't it risky to advocate visits to the West Bank?

IL: We do not send colleagues into harms way. When a State Department advisory is issued we abide by it-as in the case of a canceled meeting in Colombia 2 years ago. I can assure you that no one will be encouraged to go to Ramallah in the near future nor will we ask APS members to risk their safety by traveling to Yemen or to any other part of the world where bullets and bombs have replaced civil discourse.

AN: Can APS members be confident that your advice in these matters will not get them into any dangerous situations?

IL: In this our record is pretty good. In my term as director of international programs, we have conducted more than 40 international meetings/workshops all over the world without the loss or injury of a single APS participant.

AN: How do you feel about the recent violence in the Middle East?

IL: On a personal note, the tragic events in and around Israel and the gulf are cause for reflection and mourning-not for the attempt to make debating points.

AN: Thank you, Dr. Lerch.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette