Ariel U. study rejected because author refused to remove ‘written in Israel’

An activist group asked the journal to change the address to say “Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The international open-access science journal Molecules has canceled the publication of a study by Dr. Mindy Levine from Ariel University after she refused to erase the word “Israel” in the address of the university, according to Israeli activists.

The study was originally meant to be featured in the journal’s January 2021 edition. Levine marked the address in the study as “The Department of Chemical Sciences, Ariel University, Ramat HaGolan 65, Ariel, Israel.”

A group of chemists from around the world complained to Molecules that Ariel is located in occupied territory and not in Israel. The group is led by Prof. George Smith, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and Prof. Malcolm Levitt, a fellow of the Royal Society. The group asked the journal to change the address to say “Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory,” according to the “Palestinian No Academic Business as Usual with Ariel University” initiative.

After the complaint was issued, the editors of Molecules asked Levine to remove the word Israel from the address at the head of the study, but Levine refused and the journal canceled the publication of the study.

Levine is an olah (immigrant) from the US who was at the University of Rhode Island, Columbia, MIT and other universities before arriving at Ariel in 2019, according to a profile on Ariel University’s website.

THE GROUP led by Smith and Levitt has worked for years to prevent cooperation with Ariel University, claiming that the university is illegal and built in an illegal settlement.

“All we asked in the original petition was for Professor Levine to correct the address of her university to comply with international law: Ariel is an Israeli Jewish settlement in Occupied Palestinian Territory, not a town in Israel,” said Smith in response to the cancellation, according to the initiative.

“Sadly, she has refused, effectively choosing pro-occupation propaganda over her own academic freedom and the larger interest of the global science community in unfettered publication of scientific ideas and results. The editors of Molecules are to be commended for taking the only responsible course of action in the circumstances.”

Later, speaking not on behalf of the organization but of his own accord, Smith told The Jerusalem Post that he has nothing against the professor.

“The fact that she was invited by Molecules to guest-edit an entire issue devoted to her field suggests that she is a well-respected scholar,” he said. “I probably would have been happy to have her as a colleague at my own university, regardless of our political differences. I wish her career well.”

But he added that “Hiding the occupation from readers by giving Ariel’s location as Israel rather than occupied Palestinian territory is typical of this propaganda campaign.”

“All that was asked of Dr. Mindy Levine was that she be more exact with facts. Ariel is not part of the State of Israel. That is not a political statement, it is a simple fact,” Gush Shalom movement spokesman Adam Keller said in a statement. “Ariel is not part of the State of Israel, not according to international law and also not according to the laws of the State of Israel itself.”

Keller stated that the full legal process, including a decision by the government and the passing of an annexation law by the Knesset, would need to be carried out for Ariel to be considered part of Israel. “A process such as this has never been carried out concerning Ariel,” stressed Keller, pointing to the planned annexation announced earlier this year that would have affected Ariel, but was never carried out.

“Therefore, the factual situation is clear – Ariel is not a part of the State of Israel and also does not stand to become a part of the State of Israel in the foreseeable future,” Keller said.

“Molecules has put politics over science,” said Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, in response to the event. “It requires all authors to provide a mailing address; whatever one thinks of the politics, ‘Ariel, Israel’ is indeed the correct mailing address, as one can discover by sending a letter. The purpose of a contact address – to allow communication with the author – has been turned into a geopolitical judgment by chemists unqualified to make it.”

“Papers from authors in other contested areas have been published without any insistence on any ‘legally correct’ description,” he continued. “Now Molecules must revise its policies for several territories, or stick with a Jewish-only double standard.”

“Scientists are obligated to be precise with facts – this is a basic and self-evident duty for all chemists as in any other science,” Keller said. “The publication of the address ‘Ariel, Israel’ at the head of an article would constitute a blatant and obvious factual distortion to any eye, and would call into question the factual credibility of all the research that followed it.

“It is a pity that a talented and active researcher, who gained a reputation in the American universities where she lectured and engaged in research, chose to move to a university in occupied territory and thus cast a heavy shadow on the continuation of her scientific work.”