Scientific Journals should not engage themselves in Political Polling
The urge of the BMJ editors and editorial staff to engage in
political matters, expressed in their recent preoccupation with the
proposed academic boycott against Israel, is simply unexplainable.
For several years the BMJ has gradually changed its role from being
one of the foremost medical journals, one which publicized clinical trials
and studies in the fields of medical and life sciences, to one which deals
with matters entirely outside the purview of a respected scientific
journal, and even those matters are not treated equally.
For example, there was no critical self-searching in the BMJ that I
can recall during the period of extremist violence in Ireland or any
condemnation of the inhumane treatment carried out by certain British
soldiers against Iraqi civilians.
Since one can assume that the academic institutions in Britain such
as Oxford, Cambridge and others did not bear responsibility for what was
happening in the political arena, including blatant violations of human
rights, the question of whether to impose upon them an academic boycott
simply did not arise.
Consequently, this continued fixation with human rights in the
Israeli-Palestinian realm is puzzling at best, and makes one wonder why we
have merited such singular treatment when there is no lack of places in
the world where human rights are trampled, to the point of genocide. For
some reason, the voice of the BMJ is silent regarding the atrocities in
Darfur and Sudan, the murder of millions in Congo, the carnage in other
countries and the unabashed breaches of human rights in China, where
organs are removed from prisoners awaiting execution, not to mention the
treatment of the Falun Gong. Yet the BMJ has not seen fit to debate the
wisdom of a boycott of Chinese academic institutions, nor have they made
it the topic of an opinion poll.
And rightly so: just as the idea of a boycott of Israeli academic
institutions is foolish, pointless and punishes exactly those who are most
active in providing help to people in need, so, too, a boycott of Chinese
academic institutions would serve no purpose.
Therefore, one must unequivocally protest this attempt on the part of
the BMJ to deal with political issues, particularly the complex, long
standing conflict in the Middle East. As an example of such complexity
one can consider the recent proposal of Qatar, a member of the UN Security
Council, regarding the serious humanitarian situation in Gaza. This
proposal was blocked by none other than the Palestinian delegation, in an
apparently censurable attempt to defend and excuse the Hamas, whose
leaders have aggravated an already difficult situation. Such action is
worthy of condemnation by everyone, including those British academics who
are so quick to delegitimize Israel, since the actions of these
Palestinian representatives blocked the discussion of a serious
humanitarian topic in an international forum.
If British academicians and doctors wish to help the suffering and
downtrodden, they would do well to stop dealing with harmful, counter-
productive opinion polls on academic boycotts of Israel and begin to
channel their energy toward easing the suffering in Gaza.
The BMJ, too, should forego dabbling in politics, and return to being
a valued and respected medical journal, in keeping with its distinguished
Dr Yoram Blachar is president of the Israeli Medical Association.
Competing interests: No competing interests