APS News

Demand for Boycott of Israeli Science Stirs Controversy

The political turmoil in the Middle East has begun to spill over into the scientific community. Petitions have been circulating, mostly in Europe, calling for scientists to boycott Israeli scientific institutions. One such petition (see http://www.pjpo.org) is headlined: "University Professors call for European boycott of research and cultural links with Israel." Counter-petitions opposing the boycott have also been circulating. For a rundown of activity on both sides, see http://euroisrael.huji.ac.il/news.html.

In its June 7 issue, Science published an editorial condemning a European biologist who refused to share experimental material with an Israeli colleague on political grounds. This followed an editorial in Nature on May 2 with the headline "Don't Boycott Israel's Scientists."

At press time, APS News knows of no evidence of Israeli physicists suffering directly from a boycott, although many of them have expressed deep apprehension. While not addressing this issue specifically, APS has taken positions at various times in the past on similar issues regarding the international nature of science. For example, in 1989 the APS Council passed a statement on "the International Nature of Physics and International Cooperation", the preamble of which reads:

"In consideration of the international dimensions of science and the need of scientists of all nations to maintain professional contact with colleagues at home and abroad, the American Physical Society has adopted the following statement on The International Nature of Physics and International Physics Cooperation:

Science belongs to all humanity and transcends national boundaries. As in the past, science can serve as a bridge for mutual understanding across political and ideological divisions and as a vehicle for the enhancement of peace. In particular, APS believes that it is important at this time to strive for more open dialogue among scientists to enhance international cooperation."

Full text of this and other APS statements

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette