The thrust of it is as follows: an academic at Ariel University, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, had a paper set to be published in the chemistry journal Molecules. As part of the publication, she needed to provide an address for correspondence, and she listed Ariel as being in Israel. The journal asked her to delete "Israel", the author refused, and the journal pulled the paper.
So a few things:
- Obviously, there's something off-putting about papers on chemistry being (not) published not on the basis of chemistry, but based on geopolitical debates over the proper assignment of sovereign authority in the West Bank.
- This does not appear to be a "boycott" of Ariel University or its scholars. The journal was willing to publish the article by the professor, with the notation that she taught at Ariel University, so long as it didn't claim that Ariel was in Israel.
- The article indicates that some activists wanted the journal to go further and require that the address be formatted as "Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory." But it doesn't look like the journal was going to demand that formulation.
- Ariel simply isn't in Israel. That isn't me wearing my anti-occupation hat -- Israel has not annexed Ariel (unlike, say, East Jerusalem). So to some extent, the journal is simply enforcing a rule that statements in its journal have to be accurate. It's undoubtedly rare that this comes up with respect to correspondence addresses -- but this is one of those rare cases. The same rule should apply if a far-left writer in Israel proper tried to render her address as "Acre, Palestine". It would simply be inaccurate.
- In some ways, the journal's proposal was similar to the long-standing American rule that persons born in Jerusalem have "Jerusalem" (rather than "Jerusalem, Israel") listed as their birthplace on their passport. This was famously litigated in the Zivotofsky case. One could argue it's more contentious there because Israel has annexed East Jerusalem (and has relatively uncontested sovereign jurisdiction over West Jerusalem). Ultimately, I'm not convinced that this solution was unreasonable under the circumstances.
- How does one mail a letter to Ariel University? Must one put "Israel" in the address for the letter to arrive? Can one put "West Bank" or "Palestine" or leave that portion of the address blank?
- I wonder if there was any explicit or implicit pressure on the author from her university (or the Israeli government) to refuse to accept the deletion of "Israel" from the address. Certainly, the Israeli government has been more than willing to punish academics whom it sees as insufficiently resistant to, or cooperative with, BDS.