A Jerusalem Conference Conceived in New Jersey Connects Hebrew University and Al Quds Medical School




“Cautiously optimistic” is how I currently feel about the recent political news out of Israel. Hearing from my old friend and college classmate, Mark Gluck, fuels my optimism—Mark’s ongoing experience organizing a medical conference in Jerusalem for later this summer, described below, tells me that the spirit of reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews is spreading beyond the headlines that we see in the mass media.

Responding to my blog invitation, Mark contacted me to share recent developments in the tolerance project he has organized to combat the growing international boycott of Israeli scientists that has gained strength over the past several years. Mark is a Professor of Neuroscience at Rutgers University – Newark in New Jersey (see http://www.gluck.edu) and publisher of the free Memory Loss and the Brain newsletter for the general public. I’ve known Mark since 1977—when he isn’t working, he is dedicated to outdoor pursuits as a serious sea kayaker, skier, and mountaineer. He loves the Bay Area and knows more about the history of San Francisco than most natives—Mark went to Stanford to earn his PhD in cognitive psychology after Harvard.

He and several colleagues are working with Hebrew University to fight the boycott and support fellow scientists in Israel by organizing a high-profile international meeting on the brain regions damaged in Parkinson’s disease. This meeting will take place at Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, on June 26-28, 2005. They have secured commitments from many leading researchers and clinicians from North America, Europe, and Israel, along with financial support from the NIH (both NINDS and NIDA), Hebrew University, Teva Pharmaceuticals of Israel, and several private donors.

The original objectives of this meeting were to support Israeli scientists in the face of this growing international boycott and harassment and to further biomedical research on Parkinson’s disease and drug addiction. Today, Mark tells me that he is “just as excited by the idea of using this meeting to foster new Arab-Israel cooperation.” The exciting news is that they have just struck a tentative agreement with the Al Quds Medical School in the West Bank to help co-host one session and have one of their faculty attend to speak at the meeting on Parkinson’s Treatment in the Arab World.

In Mark’s words—“most people said we were naive to even pursue this crazy idea — but it appears that hope is in the air in the Middle East! We may even try to have one of our sessions in the West Bank at Al Quds…but logistics would be daunting.”

If you are interested in learning more about the conference or if you have an interest in attending or supporting it, please contact Mark directly at gluck@pavlov.rutgers.edu . The organizers still need to raise additional money for this conference to promote the event and to support inviting students, post-docs, and junior researchers from Europe and North America to attend. In particular, Mark is trying to raise some private money to offer travel fellowships to MD/Neurologists in Jordan, Egypt and other Arab or Muslim countries to attend.

Roots of the Boycott of Israeli Scientists

Over the last few years there has been a growing movement around the world to isolate and harass Israeli scientists by boycotting and isolating them from the rest of the scientific community. Although most of this has come primarily from England and France, it has now spread throughout Europe and to the United States.

Specific Tactics Used in the Boycott:

* Blocking Israeli scientists from obtaining international grants.

* Removing Israeli scientists from the editorial boards of international scientific journals unless they agree to publicly condemn Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

* Denying Israeli scientists access to otherwise public scientific resources, such as raw data and cell lines, that are otherwise provided to scientific colleagues worldwide.

* Refusing to accept students into PhD programs or research labs if they have previously served in the Israeli army.

* Refusals to provide peer-review of scientific papers submitted to journals by Israeli scientists.

* Lobbying universities to dump their stock in all Israeli companies.

These are just some of the more visible manifestations of the boycott. Other aspects include dwindling invitations to Israeli scientists to give lectures and participate in international conferences. The intifada, in and of itself, led to a tremendous drop off in the number of scientists and academics willing to travel to Israel for cooperative scientific meetings or collaborations (of course, some of the latter is due to people’s fears of the danger from terrorist attacks while there). This has hurt both Jews and Arabs.

A more complete description of the boycott and documentation of the specifics of its extent can be found online in an article by Manfred Gerstenfeld of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the World Jewish Congress entitled "The Academic Boycott Against Israel and How to Fight It", which appears at: http://www.jcpa.org/phas/phas-12.htm

Additional documentation on the anti-Israel boycott can be found on the web sites of Anti-Israel organizations promoting the boycott. These sites below document their so-called "successes" in harassing Israel and Israeli scientists:

http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-news.html#acaboy

http://student.cs.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/db.php?tid=96

There has, of course, been a counter-call against the boycott, and many scientists have raised their voices to argue against the boycott on many grounds. Some of these anti-boycott arguments and signatories can be found at http://euroisrael.huji.ac.il/

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