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"Use Science for Diplomacy, Not Division"
In a commentary for the Baltimore Sun, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner said the boycott of Israel proposed by some U.K. academics runs counter to the values and goals of global science and urged that the proposal "immediately be abandoned."
"It would be a momentous misstep for the University and College Union's membership to use a boycott to demonstrate its disapproval of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians," wrote Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science.
"The shared pursuit of knowledge has long been a cultural touchstone. Free and open communication throughout the worldwide scientific community has been essential to countless scientific contributions toward improving human welfare. It also has been, at times, virtually the only form of open conversation among countries whose other relationships are fragile, badly strained or nonexistent."
The op-ed, published 16 July, detailed how past cooperation among scientists in the United States and the former Soviet Union "provided critical diplomatic connections that helped to ease tensions" during the Cold War. Similarly, current engagement and cooperation among Israeli and Palestinian researchers is helping to build trust and improve the lives of people in the region.
For example, he wrote, researchers with the support of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization are pursuing breakthroughs related to leukemia, food crops, and heart disease. Further, he said, a boycott of Israel by U.K. scientists could disrupt research in agriculture, cancer research, and physics, among other fields.
"There's little doubt that a vocal, politically motivated minority within the union is driving the call for a motion to boycott," Leshner said. "But mixing political goals with scientific pursuits undermines the positive role of free inquiry in improving the lives of citizens everywhere, and in promoting cooperation among nations despite political differences."
18 July 2007