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Eurasia Conference Fallout

November 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 47

With regard to Roald Hoffmann’s call for a boycott of the 11th Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences (ECC), Bernd Rode wrote in a letter to Hoffmann that “to act by letters to all invited speakers trying to prevent them from participation … is definitely not the approach one would expect from an academic person” (C&EN, Sept. 13, page 38).

While Rode’s reproach is understandable, he ignores the context of Hoffmann’s action. In past months, Israeli academicians and artists have repeatedly been the object of boycotts around the world. In a recent case, the University of Provence Aix-Marseille canceled a conference of Mediterranean writers when some of the invited participants objected to the invitation of an Israeli speaker (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 26).

The abrupt cancelation of the auxiliary program that Hoffmann was asked to organize for the ECC after he noted the absence of Israeli scientists sounds suspiciously similar to what happened at Provence Aix-Marseille. Other examples are the vote of the University & College Union in Britain to boycott all Israeli academics and the call by participants in the Toronto International Film Festival to boycott all Israeli films. In light of this pattern of discrimination against Israeli academicians and artists, Hoffmann’s response appears to be well justified.

Robert J. Gordon


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