Last year, after chemistry professor Mindy Levine was invited to guest-edit a special issue of the journal Molecules, a group dedicated to the academic boycott of Israel briefly persuaded the journal to rescind the offer unless she consented to removing “Israel” from her published address: “Ariel University, Ariel, Israel.” When she refused, the special issue was canceled, and Levine was scrubbed from the journal’s website.
The protesting group, called the Ariel University Non-Recognition Campaign, wanted Levine’s address listed as “Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The journal eventually reinstated Levine as guest editor and issued a “Statement of Political Neutrality with Regards to Affiliation of Scientists at Ariel University,” but her case illustrated briefly, and perhaps is a harbinger of, something many thought couldn’t happen — science bending to the will of political ideology.
The hard sciences once seemed immune to the politics that dominate the humanities and social sciences, but no longer. A growing assemblage of scientists has singled out Israel as the one nation on earth that must be excluded from all normal contact with other nations, and the movement is not merely a phenomenon of the fringe blogs: Molecules is a peer-reviewed journal published in partnership with the Swiss Chemical Society in Basel, Switzerland.
Humanities academics were the vanguard of the movement against Israel, led by Edward Said, the English professor whose book Orientalism (1978) inspired many followers and imitators. Another milestone came in 2001, when the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in Durban, South Africa, gave rise to the trope that Israel is like apartheid South Africa. This inapt analogy of Israel’s self-defense and South Africa’s apartheid regime has become the chief rhetorical weapon in the academic offensive against Israel. Nearly every other hyperbole levied against Israel also originated through the conference’s NGO–academic alliance, which eventually evolved into the BDS movement.