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Jordan Conference Controversy

October 25, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 43

The failure of Jordanian organizers of international chemical conferences to allow participation by their Israeli neighbors is hardly new (C&EN, Sept. 13, page 38). I was invited to speak at such a conference at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, in April 2000. At the time, I was on sabbatical at Weizmann Institute in Israel, only 75 miles from Irbid, so I accepted the invitation.

I mentioned the conference to a colleague, a prominent Israeli chemist who expressed an interest in attending and speaking at the conference. My colleague asked me to send a message to my contact in Jordan indicating that an invitation to speak would be viewed as a welcome, peace-promoting gesture, and would be very appropriate given that Israel has long promoted use of its scientific and medical resources by its Arab neighbors. However, my Jordanian contact shortly responded, denying my request. He indicated that he was concerned about criticism (or worse) from his colleagues, should he formally extend this invitation to an Israeli chemist, no matter how distinguished he might be.

That is where matters ended in 2000. Apparently, nothing has changed since then!

Eric Block
Niskayuna, N.Y.

I was disappointed by the unbalanced picture presented in the article “Jordan Conference Stirs Controversy.” To argue that it was “just an oversight” that no Israeli scientist was asked to give one of the 100 invited lectures is disingenuous at best.

Take a look at an atlas. Ninety percent of all significant chemical research carried out within 1,000 km of the Jordan conference is done in Israel. Equally disappointing is the credibility given (in several quotations) to the idea that Roald Hoffmann is an opponent of international scientific cooperation. Hoffmann has played a prominent role in several conferences dedicated specifically to outreach to young scientists from Islamic countries.

Henry F. Schaefer III
Athens, Ga.



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