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Journal axes gene research on Jews and Palestinians - Comments

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 1 by Premiseless

Perverted elitism. How can you blaspheme against something that doesn't exist? They simply dismiss other humans under the delusion of a non existent puppet. Politics making science its slave again!

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 11:36:59 UTC | #897756

Lapithes's Avatar Comment 2 by Lapithes

So now not being a racist is offensive to religious people?

Edit: anyone else noticed that this article was published in 2001?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 11:47:39 UTC | #897758

Moderator's Avatar Comment 3 by Moderator

Edit: anyone else noticed that this article was published in 2001?

Apologies - we didn't spot that. Thanks for pointing it out. But since that pre-dates RichardDawkins.net and the situation described is interesting and revealing, we'll leave the article up anyway.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 11:58:45 UTC | #897759

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 4 by Cartomancer

I would have thought that the ONLY legitimate reason for conducting such research is to demonstrate the fairly obvious genetic congruity of these two groups of people in an attempt to debunk the nasty religious dogmas that keep them at each other's throats.

I mean, did anyone really expect anything different? Was any serious scientist under the impression that they might very well find a suite of startling genetic differences in these two populations that have lived next to each other in the same region for thousands of years? Has there ever been a precedent for that? In fact, is this facile and self-serving myth of jewish specialness (or muslim specialness, or aryan specialness, or japanese specialness, or...) really a sound basis for conducting research at all? Is it really worth crediting as an hypothesis in the first place?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 12:08:04 UTC | #897763

billpg's Avatar Comment 5 by billpg

So its not Isaac and Ishmael but granddad and grandma.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 12:15:37 UTC | #897767

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 6 by Premiseless

Comment 2 by uuaschbaer :

So now not being a racist is offensive to religious people?

Edit: anyone else noticed that this article was published in 2001?

Apparently the refutations come from word of mouth codified in the 2nd century C.E. An article of considerable controversy. Little science seems evident in it in spite of the power it demands.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 12:55:26 UTC | #897777

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 7 by Jonathan Dore

Once the dust had settled there was an article in the BMJ in March 2003 trying to analyse what had led up to this situation. A couple of comments:

1) At no point, it seems, was a single accuser of, or complainer about, the article ever identified. So we are unable to verify how many people complained, or what their motivation was, or in fact if anyone complained at all.

2) It sounds as if a few ill-chosen words due to that bane of translation, false friends, were the cause of the problem -- words that would probably have been changed during copy-editing, which doesn't seem to have happened. As someone who spent six years as a freelance copy-editor, I say this with feeling: the kind of people who are now in charge of decision-making at large conglomerate publishers have no understanding of what editorial work is, or why it is valuable. I've lost track of the number of pitifully inadequate authors whose work I've saved from vulgar errors of fact, absurd non-sequiturs, and abysmal command of language. Yet how rarely does that work get even a passing acknowledgement.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 12:56:05 UTC | #897778

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 8 by justinesaracen

It seems to me that this is a non-issue, or should be, given our advanced ability to identify gene-families. Either Jews and Palestinians are genetically similar/identical or they are not. This is now childishly easy to demonstrate.

The objections to the observation seems suspiciously like the objections to evolution. That is, it makes our bible (and our specialness) look stupid.

Surely there has been follow-up research. Has anyone done a Google on the subject?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 13:39:13 UTC | #897786

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 9 by justinesaracen

Okay, I Googled it and found several articles. Here's the one at the top of the list, from 2009.

http://epiphenom.fieldofscience.com/2009/01/shared-genetic-heritage-of-jews-and.html

It confirms the similarity. So, it looks like there are no Special People.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 13:42:53 UTC | #897787

Byrneo's Avatar Comment 10 by Byrneo

It was my understanding that the same principle held true for humans from all over the world. In other words, you could take a European, an Asian and an African and they would all be almost genetically identical. In a sense, identifying Jews and Palestinians here is a bit misleading I understood that it had been shown, speaking in terms of genetics, that there is so little in terms of distinctiveness difference between human that we cannot be subdivided in this way?

I would very much like to be corrected if I've misunderstood this.
B

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 13:58:36 UTC | #897797

RomeStu's Avatar Comment 11 by RomeStu

Genetics aside (ha ha!), it seems that far from being different, Jews and Palestinians are marked by their very similar high capacity for self-delusion - after all even the god of their variant branches of wooooo is actually the same god!

Perhaps the world is not yet ready for such deep revelation ;-)

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 14:17:09 UTC | #897800

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 12 by justinesaracen

To be fair, the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is not a religious one; but a geographical one. Israel has expanded and gradually claimed almost all of what used to be Palestine and both the remaining Palestinians and those who fled to neighboring countries would like to return.

With the exception of a very small number of suicide bombers (who have not been active for years) Allah and Jahwah rarely come into the conversation.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 14:39:07 UTC | #897810

Reginald's Avatar Comment 13 by Reginald

comment 12 by esuther

To be fair, the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is not a religious one; but a geographical one.

But why is it a geographical dispute?

Answer: Because it was originally a religious dispute.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 14:58:53 UTC | #897815

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 14 by Red Dog

Comment 12 by esuther :

To be fair, the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians is not a religious one; but a geographical one. Israel has expanded and gradually claimed almost all of what used to be Palestine and both the remaining Palestinians and those who fled to neighboring countries would like to return.

With the exception of a very small number of suicide bombers (who have not been active for years) Allah and Jahwah rarely come into the conversation.

I very much agree with you that its not only a religious issue, perhaps not even primarily one. But I think the religious differences make the problem much harder to resolve then if there were only two groups fighting over things like land and water.

In addition to the suicide bombers you have Zionist fundamentalists from all over the world who settle in occupied territories and threaten violence even against their own government if they are forced to relocate. Or another example, the city of Jerusalem, considered holy by both sides. Its not just a piece of real estate but there are hard liners on both sides who insist it must be divided up in certain ways based on their religious dogma.

Or consider the unthinking support that Israel gets from religious factions in the US. Not just from fundamentalist Jews but from fundamentalist Christians who believe that the Jews must retain control in order to bring about the end times (its ironic how the two groups manage to skirt the issue of just what happens to the Jews in the end times).

As Dawkins said in the Devil's Chaplain: "My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a 'they' as opposed to a 'we' can be identified at all."

Or another Dawkins quote that I couldn't find but to the effect that even though religion may not be the primary cause behind most conflicts, having a religious difference as part of the problem makes the two sides far less open to a rational negotiated solution.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 15:08:53 UTC | #897816

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 15 by Philoctetes

The individuals responsible for this censorship are displaying all the intellectual rigour we are used to finding in people we formerly described as racist.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 16:00:35 UTC | #897837

ridelo's Avatar Comment 16 by ridelo

Do some Jews not see that considering themselves as genetcally special, they're opening the floodgates of racism?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 16:19:17 UTC | #897844

Dalmuti's Avatar Comment 17 by Dalmuti

Hmmmm. From reading the headline and some of the responses here you would think that the journal removed the research paper because they didn't like the conclusion of the research, and it didn't follow a number of their readers political views. But when reading the article I don't get that impression. What I see is the professor made some politically motivated remarks within the paper that readers of the journal, and the journal agreed, found to be inappropriate for a science journal. The journal chose to remain politically neutral and felt they had to pull the paper.

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. '

The words colonist and concentration camps, whether the author intended it or not, are politically charged in the context of this debate. Without seeing the research paper as a whole we can't know if there are other examples but even these likely have no place in an apolitical science journal. The editor(s) should have caught this before publication and asked the professor to remove or clarify the appropriateness of the remarks in the context of the paper. Keep in mind that the paper is titled: The Origin of Palestinians and their Genetic Relatedness with other Mediterranean Populations, and is an involved study of genetic variations in immune system genes among people in the Middle East. As such any political remarks seem out of context and to a science journal trying to remain political neutral, inappropriate. A separate article on the effects of the research could use such terms and even be the basis for a political opinion, but the research itself should contain no politically motivated bias.

Anyway thats what I got from the article. The conclusion that both Palestinians and Jews are essentially from the same genetic stock is a useful one and could potentially have some small effect on resolving this seemingly endless conflict. I wonder if the professor bothered removing the remarks and re-submitted it anywhere.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 16:29:40 UTC | #897845

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 18 by Stafford Gordon

So, what's new? Arabs and Jews are Semitic.

I find this difficult to believe, but if it is true, it demonstrates how religious dogma infantilizes.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 16:30:16 UTC | #897846

Dalmuti's Avatar Comment 19 by Dalmuti

@//////////etc.

The individuals responsible for this censorship are displaying all the intellectual rigour we are used to finding in people we formerly described as racist.

There is a difference between censorship and editorial responsibility. The journal wants to remain apolitical and focused on science, so political remarks are inappropriate and it's okay for them to choose not to publish or to remove such remarks. Thats what editors do. If it was a political journal that claims to be unbiased and they didn't agree with the remarks and then chose to remove the article then that would be censorship. Learn the difference and you will probably be happier.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 16:46:44 UTC | #897852

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 20 by Philoctetes

Thank you Dalmuti comment 19. The nuances of language can be a problem, so I am happy to redraft my comment to make it less a ambiguous for the pedantic.

"The individuals responsible for this editing are displaying all the intellectual rigour we are used to finding in people we formerly described as racist."

I trust this makes my meaning clear in spite of the limitations of my syntax, and vocabulary. I'm happier now. I am still a little unclear as to the difference between "editorial responsibility" and the "censorship"; which seems to me to be more political than linguistic, especially when the result is the removal of the author's work an the accompanying suggestion that recipients of the work rip out the offending pages. Surely you can't mean that it is only censorship if the offending article is burned?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 17:05:59 UTC | #897866

msaphra's Avatar Comment 21 by msaphra

Here are the politically opinionated phrases that precipitated this. Do they belong in a scientific paper?

The United Nations plan for Palestine partition in 1947 is illustrated in Figure 2 [9]. IsraelĀ“s self-proclaimed independent in 1948 and started a war a g a i n s t Mu s l im P a l e s t i n i a n s a n d o t h e r Mu s l im neighbouring countries. After several regional wars, Israel has taken more space and seized Jerusalem, as illustrated in Figure 3. The present situation (April 2001) is unstable. Palestinians were about 5,000,000 at the beginning of the last decade. Nowadays, they might reach 7,000,000 [9-11]. Three kind of Palestinians, according to their status, may be defined as follows: (1) the inhabitants under an autonomous Palestinian government (about 30%) that controls very little of the West Jordan Bank,

(inhabited by more than 1,500,000 Palestinians), but controls more in the Gaza strip (about 1,000,000 Palestinians), where Palestinians have to lived mixed with Jewish colonist in their theoretically own territories; (2) the Diaspora Palestinians (occurred after 1947), who have refugee status (about 40%, [9,10]), and live either in concentration camps or are scattered in Jordan (38%), Syria (12%) and Lebanon (13%). Saudi Arabia and Kuwait gather about 500,000 Palestinians; Egypt, Iraq and other Mediterranean, European and American countries have more reduced communities; and (3) the Israel Palestinians, who live within Israel (37%). Most of Palestinians profess Muslim religion, but there are also Druze and Christian minorities [10]. They speak the Palestinian-Arab dialect [10]. The aim of the present study is to examine the genetic relationships of Palestinians with their neighbours (pa r t i cul a r ly the J ews ) and othe r Medi t e r r ane an populations in order to: (1) discover the Palestinian origins, and (2) explain the historic basis of the present day Middle East conflict between Palestinians and other Muslim countries with Israelite Jews.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 17:10:35 UTC | #897870

Dalmuti's Avatar Comment 22 by Dalmuti

@//////////etc.

I am still a little unclear as to the difference between "editorial responsibility" and the "censorship"

Well, the difference is context. Editorial responsibility in this case is removing political statements from a scientific paper prior to, or as the case may be after, publication in an apolitical journal. The journal isn't saying you can't have or publish these views only you can't publish them here because it is an inappropriate venue for politics.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 17:18:39 UTC | #897875

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 23 by Alan4discussion

Dolly Tyan, president of the American Society of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, which runs the journal, told subscribers that the society is 'offended and embarrassed'.

If the American Society of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, is concerned with subscribers that want the society to have creationist status, so as to avoid being 'offended and embarrassed', could I suggest that SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTIONS and members decline to renew their membership and review future research works via some other publication.

Clearly the correct procedure by which to criticise peer reviewed work, is to write an evidenced constructive criticism for follow-up publication as part of a professional debate.

This "secret letters of complaint", approach, is simply not science.

The society looks like it is going to be much further 'offended and embarrassed', by its incompetent handling of this subject!

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 18:44:04 UTC | #897914

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 24 by Red Dog

A lot of the fuss seems to be that the authors used the word "concentration camp". From Wikipedia:

"The Random House Dictionary defines the term "concentration camp" as: "a guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc."

From what I've read about some of the camps in Lebanon, that is a pretty accurate description. But for the sake of argument lets acknowledge that the word has come to have a special meaning and that using that term for Palestinians may not be appropriate for a scientific journal. Wouldn't the correct response be to hand the paper back to the authors and ask for edits rather then just remove the paper?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 19:49:22 UTC | #897942

Austin K's Avatar Comment 25 by Austin K

Shouldn't these findings make sense if we all came from the descendants of Noah?

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 20:02:21 UTC | #897950

MnemonicMike's Avatar Comment 26 by MnemonicMike

Given that both Jews and Arabs are traditionally believed to have descended from Noah's son, Shem (as in "Semite"), having a genetic similarity should be no surprise to anyone. Using a purported scientific journal to publish a political piece, though, is probably embarrassing enough that the editors had second thoughts. The Guardian, being one of the most liberal and anti-Jewish papers in the UK, would of course skew the reportage and make it sound like there is some surprise that Semites, both Jews and Arabs, are Semites. I think everyone except the Guardian already knew that.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 20:35:23 UTC | #897962

Mrkimbo's Avatar Comment 27 by Mrkimbo

As Richard has pointed out, it's jut the same in Northern Ireland: genetically identical people divided into tribes by nothing but religion - result: hatred, war and death. No waffle about these being cultural or geographic or political differences please - all of these are subsequent to the religious division.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 23:03:27 UTC | #898015

Xor's Avatar Comment 28 by Xor

Comment 27 by Mrkimbo :

As Richard has pointed out, it's jut the same in Northern Ireland: genetically identical people divided into tribes by nothing but religion - result: hatred, war and death. No waffle about these being cultural or geographic or political differences please - all of these are subsequent to the religious division.

No, there are actual cultural and political differences. The difference with Northern Ireland is that Palestinians never lived with Jewish Israelis before massive immigrations of Jewish people from Europe during the 20th century.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 23:56:29 UTC | #898039

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 29 by prettygoodformonkeys

How ironic. With the violent occupation of Palestine ('settlements'), the complete disenfranchisment of the Palestinian people and the control of their natural resources (water, goods and services), the most actively antisemitic nation clearly seems to be Israel.

It is as ridiculous as if one were to form the very first Democratic Republic, immediately split into Democrats vs. Republicans and spend the next 200 years fighting.

Mon, 12 Dec 2011 00:18:26 UTC | #898047

RDfan's Avatar Comment 30 by RDfan

The Wikipedia article on the paper's co-writer, Antonio Arnaiz-Villena, makes for some interesting -- nay, very interesting -- reading.

The research paper in question is here:

The Origin of Palestinians and Their Genetic Relatedness with Other Mediterranean Populations. Human Immunology, 2001.

Mon, 12 Dec 2011 05:59:05 UTC | #898089