Journal axes gene research on Jews and Palestinians
By ROBIN MCKIE - THE OBSERVER
Added: Sun, 11 Dec 2011 11:29:00 UTC
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 Biblical dogma.
'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 conclude.
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