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Sunday, July 29, 2007

BMJ blasted for boycott Israel debate

British Medical Journal went out of its way to dump on Israel, and got dumped on in return.
Doctors slammed British Medical Journal for boycott op-eds as the headline reads. BMJ allowed Boycotter Tom Hickey to air his views in a "debate."  Naturally the editor in question is (apparently) Jewish. Her lame excuse:
Deborah Cohen, BMJ's features editor, who commissioned and edited the debate, told Haaretz in an e-mail interview that the journal is on record condemning any academic boycott of Israel. However, in view of recent boycott proposals by several professional unions in Britain, BMJ felt it appropriate to discuss a matter relevant to many of its readers, Cohen said.
"The BMJ is reflecting a debate that is currently occurring on academic campuses within the U.K. Both sides of the debate have their views represented and there is an opportunity for readers to respond electronically," she added.
If some unions had proposed to drown cats, would that also be a worthy topic of editorials in a medical journal? "We are on record as being against drowning cats, but as these proposals have been made by so many people, we thought there should be a debate."
Amazingly, even the Guardian thought it was in bad taste it seems. Ann Robinson wrote:
It is hard to explain quite how upsetting I have found this exercise. I am profoundly upset that the academic journal of my trade union (the BMA) has waded into these murky and complex political waters.
This week there has been news of a meeting between the Arab League and Israel to try to move towards a lasting peace settlement. It has to be a particular form of post-colonialist arrogance to suppose that the key players in the Middle East need the BMJ to discuss a boycott so they understand how very important a settlement is. Like the dead on both sides aren't enough.
Tom Hickey made one very strange point. He defends calling for a boycott of Israel and not any other country "whose policies are barbaric" because "education and scholarship are held in high regard" in Israel and among Jews. Is he suggesting that other countries like China and Iran don't value education? Why is the BMJ giving voice to these sweeping generalisations about people? And why is it conducting what must be the least scientific poll in the history of polls? And that's saying something.
Boycott should be anathema to the medical profession, which, after all, depends on keeping channels of communication open to understand and solve problems. It belongs with book burning and show trials. Blunt instruments which help no one.
But as in so many other cases, once the bottle is unstoppered, the genie comes out, and he doesn't go back in so easily. There will be a lot more of such Boycott Israel initiatives, "debates" and what-have-you.
Ami Isseroff

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