Media Blog

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A one-third boycott, perhaps?


This is a follow-up to my story about the British paper The Guardian removing Israelis from its Nobel Prize winners list.

Israel has won more Nobel Prizes per capita in science – by far – than any other country. This year was no exception as the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry (for a discovery which sounds as though it has major medical implications) is shared between three winners, one in the U.S., one at Cambridge, England and the third – a woman – an Israeli, at the Weizmann Institute.

It ought to be a big story, not least because the question of how much women achieve at the highest levels in science is still a controversial one. (One recalls the Larry Summers row at Harvard.) But, perhaps because it tells one something important and positive about Israel, the media have virtually ignored this story.

Israeli Professor Ada Yonath is the first woman to win a chemistry Nobel since 1964. She won the award for her research on ribosome, a key component of the cellular machinery that translates DNA sequences into protein chains – the exact sort of protein chains that form the basis of life in all humans, including both Israelis and Palestinians of course.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said her work had been fundamental to the scientific understanding of life and has helped researchers develop antibiotic cures for various diseases.

If valuable new drugs are developed as a result of her work, perhaps there will be a campaign to boycott them by European academics. Or perhaps only a third of them will be boycotted, or they will only be boycotted a third of the time!


… that yet another Israeli female scientist was winning a major award, Hamas further cracked down on the rights of Palestinian women, this time by banning females from riding motorcycles in the Gaza Strip.

The decree was issued by the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the movement’s security forces in Gaza. They said the ban was in keeping with “Arab traditions.”

This follows Hamas’s recent reported ban on women laughing in public. Public female laughing, they said, was “unIslamic”.


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