First, the good news:
Over 600 academics thus far have signed a new letter opposing an academic boycott of Israel. The signatories include at least one Nobel Prize winner, law school deans, and leading scholars in several fields (that is just based on the some of the signatories I personally know; I have not looked over the whole list).
The statement takes no position on the Israeli-Arab conflict, and tries to to be as neutral as possible about everything other than BDS itself. The key parts of the letter are below; it is open for signature by any college or university faculty faculty or academic staff, including librarians, researchers, post doctorates, etc.
The following comment by Eugene Kontorovich serves as an excellent justification for the opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement:
I have signed the letter, and would do so for any such statement about academic boycotts of any country, including those whose policies I particularly detest. I would not want an Iranian leader speaking at my campus, but cannot imagine extending that objection to an Iranian professor. While government control and intimidation in authoritarian countries may make scholarship less reliable or interesting, I cannot see a justification for any non-merit-based boycott. Indeed, I have had some useful correspondence on maritime piracy with Iranian academics.
And now, the bad news:
The Lancet is a venerable and well-respected British medical journal. In August, it published an “open letter for the people of Gaza,” which harshly condemned Israel. Nothing terribly novel there, as both The Lancet and its rival, the British Medical Journal, have over the years published a series of tendentious attacks on Israel thinly disguised as reports on Palestinian health–judging from British medical journals, Palestinians’ health status is more important than everyone else in the world’s, combined. (UPDATE: I should note, though, that this particular letter barely even pretends to be on a medical subject, it’s almost pure political rant.)
What is new is that the Telegraph reports that two of the five authors of the open letter, Dr Swee Ang, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr Manduca, a professor of genetics at the University of Genoa in Italy, sent emails to their contacts endorsing a raving anti-Semitic video from David Duke entitled “CNN, Goldman Sachs & the Zio Matrix.” Dr Ang wrote: “This is a shocking video please watch. This is not about Palestine – it is about all of us!” Dr. Manduca, meanwhile, also “forwarded a message alleging that the Boston marathon bombings were in fact carried out by Jews.”
When contacted by the Telegraph, Dr. Ang said: “I didn’t know who David Duke was, or that he was connected to the Ku Klux Klan. I am concerned that if there is any truth in the video, that Jews control the media, politics and banking, what on earth is going on? I was worried.”
That’s more than Dr. Manduca could muster. She issued a statement denying being anti-Semitic, but apparently not distancing herself from the content of the video, instead stating that she was exercising her “right of freedom of opinion,” and to reiterate that she “does not agree or value the politics of the government of Israel, nor of many others, including Jews in and out of Israel.”
Is the Lancet the least bit embarrassed to have published the letter? Nope. “It’s utterly irrelevant. It’s a smear campaign,” the editor of the Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, told the Daily Telegraph. “I don’t honestly see what all this has to do with the Gaza letter. I have no plans to retract the letter, and I would not retract the letter even if it was found to be substantiated.”
This portion of the blog post is dedicated to those who believe–against all of the evidence to the contrary–that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.”