- A keynote research paper showing that Middle Eastern
Jews and Palestinians are genetically almost identical has been pulled
from a leading journal.
- Academics who have already received copies of Human Immunology
have been urged to rip out the offending pages and throw them away.
- Such a drastic act of self-censorship is unprecedented
in research publishing and has created widespread disquiet, generating
fears that it may involve the suppression of scientific work that questions
- 'I have authored several hundred scientific papers, some
for Nature and Science, and this has never happened to me before,' said
the article's lead author, Spanish geneticist Professor Antonio Arnaiz-Villena,
of Complutense University in Madrid. 'I am stunned.'
- British geneticist Sir Walter Bodmer added: 'If the journal
didn't like the paper, they shouldn't have published it in the first place.
Why wait until it has appeared before acting like this?'
- The journal's editor, Nicole Sucio-Foca, of Columbia
University, New York, claims the article provoked such a welter of complaints
over its extreme political writing that she was forced to repudiate it.
The article has been removed from Human Immunology's website, while letters
have been written to libraries and universities throughout the world asking
them to ignore or 'preferably to physically remove the relevant pages'.
Arnaiz-Villena has been sacked from the journal's editorial board.
- Dolly Tyan, president of the American Society of Histocompatibility
and Immunogenetics, which runs the journal, told subscribers that the society
is 'offended and embarrassed'.
- The paper, 'The Origin of Palestinians and their Genetic
Relatedness with other Mediterranean Populations', involved studying genetic
variations in immune system genes among people in the Middle East.
- In common with earlier studies, the team found no data
to support the idea that Jewish people were genetically distinct from other
people in the region. In doing so, the team's research challenges claims
that Jews are a special, chosen people and that Judaism can only be inherited.
- Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East share a very
similar gene pool and must be considered closely related and not genetically
separate, the authors state. Rivalry between the two races is therefore
based 'in cultural and religious, but not in genetic differences', they
- But the journal, having accepted the paper earlier this
year, now claims the article was politically biased and was written using
'inappropriate' remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its editor
told the journal Nature last week that she was threatened by mass resignations
from members if she did not retract the article.
- Arnaiz-Villena says he has not seen a single one of the
accusations made against him, despite being promised the opportunity to
look at the letters sent to the journal.
- He accepts he used terms in the article that laid him
open to criticism. There is one reference to Jewish 'colonists' living
in the Gaza strip, and another that refers to Palestinian people living
in 'concentration' camps.
- 'Perhaps I should have used the words settlers instead
of colonists, but really, what is the difference?' he said.
- 'And clearly, I should have said refugee, not concentration,
camps, but given that I was referring to settlements outside of Israel
- in Syria and Lebanon - that scarcely makes me anti-Jewish. References
to the history of the region, the ones that are supposed to be politically
offensive, were taken from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and other text
- In the wake of the journal's actions, and claims of mass
protests about the article, several scientists have now written to the
society to support Arnaiz-Villena and to protest about their heavy-handedness.
- One of them said: 'If Arnaiz-Villena had found evidence
that Jewish people were genetically very special, instead of ordinary,
you can be sure no one would have objected to the phrases he used in his
article. This is a very sad business.'
- Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited