International collaboration is a cornerstone of scientific progress. Researchers rely on global peer review processes for advancement, enhancing the body of knowledge across borders. Yet, when academic exchanges are compromised by political biases, the repercussions are significant, especially for nations like Israel, where innovation is a critical economic driver.
A survey conducted in December by The Israel Young Academy and the Afik in Academia Israeli Women Professors Association underscores the growing concern within the Israeli academic community. Engaging 1,015 senior faculty members from universities across Israel, the survey exposes a worrying trend: a tangible impact on international collaborations, including mutual visits, joint research initiatives, and the recruitment and retention of international students. The future appears bleak to many researchers, anticipating challenges in securing grants, publishing in international journals, and collaborating with peers globally.
CUNY students and workers are AGAIN demanding divestment now, adherence to academic boycott, transparency regarding CUNY financing, contracts, investments, and exchanges with apartheid Israel, & an end to targeting of student & worker organizing for Palestinian life & liberation. pic.twitter.com/oqZt3AondW— CUNY4Palestine (@Cuny4P) February 8, 2024
Professor Miri Yemini, a prominent member of The Israel Young Academy and an educator at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, reflected to the Israeli publication Globes on the immediate consequences of these strained ties. Instances of bias have already emerged, such as a medical article on the Israeli population being rejected for publication due to timing concerns, and international experts withdrawing from collaborations, citing peer pressure and threats.
The survey reveals that the damage is uneven across disciplines, with humanities and social sciences facing more severe setbacks compared to the natural sciences, engineering, and medicine. This disparity underscores the inherent inequality between fields, particularly exacerbated when research focuses on the Israeli populace.
מוזמנות להירשם לאירוע המקוון שלנו - "חוקרות בחזית המדע"! האירוע, לרגל היום הבינלאומי לנשים ולנערות במדע, יתקיים ב-12.2 בשיתוף עם פורום היועצות להוגנות מגדרית באוניברסיטאות ופורום היועצות להוגנות מגדרית במכללות.— Afik in academia (@AfikInAcademia) February 6, 2024
לתוכנית: https://t.co/SjBrufkdxx pic.twitter.com/Ntd6gYQbvJ
The implications of these challenges extend beyond academic pursuits, potentially affecting crucial societal sectors like education, social work, and mental health. Yemini notes that while some improvements in international academic relations were hoped for, the reality remains unchanged, if not worsened.
Moreover, the survey sheds light on the disproportionate effects on female researchers and those early in their careers, highlighting significant emotional, financial, and daily disruptions. These findings suggest a generational impact, with the potential to influence the trajectory of Israel's academic and research institutions.
Interestingly, the survey also explores the inclination of researchers to relocate, showing a nuanced response to international opportunities, especially against the backdrop of antisemitism and political unrest. While the allure of prestigious positions abroad is acknowledged, many express a desire to leverage these experiences for Israel's benefit.
TV presenter and former English footballer Gary Lineker retweeted a post uploaded on X by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which called for Israel to be banned from international sporting bodies due to the “genocidal attacks on Palestinian… pic.twitter.com/ot4bqSYk4X— MintPress News (@MintPressNews) January 15, 2024
In response to these challenges, the survey participants proposed several measures to mitigate the damage, including increased funding for student scholarships, research grants, and international collaboration efforts. These suggestions aim to fortify Israel's academic standing and ensure its resilience in the face of global academic biases.
Yemini's personal reflections offer a poignant perspective on overcoming adversity through excellence and governmental support, emphasizing the need for financial investment in science. The question of whether Jewish students facing antisemitism abroad will see Israel as a viable academic refuge remains open, highlighting the complexities of navigating academic excellence in a politically charged environment.
Israel's 'scholasticide' is central to its colonial project, because education is at the heart of Palestinian resistance and liberation, writes @Samarsaeed. Now more than ever, we need an academic boycott ⬇ https://t.co/enOEQWJixF— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) February 10, 2024
In conclusion, this survey not only maps the current landscape of academic challenges faced by Israeli researchers but also offers a forward-looking approach to overcoming these hurdles. It underscores the importance of global collaboration in science, the detrimental effects of politicizing academia, and the potential strategies for sustaining Israel's academic excellence amid geopolitical tensions.