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eLife Editor-in-Chief dismissed for endorsing satirical article condemning indifference to Palestinian lives

Renowned American computational biologist Michael Bruce Eisen faced removal as eLife’s editor-in-chief due to endorsing a satirical Onion article.

His dismissal triggered resignations from fellow editors, who decried it as a threat to academic freedom of expression.

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UNITED STATES: Michael Bruce Eisen, an American computational biologist and the editor-in-chief of the open-access journal eLife, made a surprising announcement on social media platform X, revealing that he lost his position for publicly endorsing a satirical article posted on ‘The Onion’.

The Onion, renowned for its satirical take on socio-political issues, published an article titled “Dying Gazans Criticized For Not Using Last Words To Condemn Hamas,” satirically critiquing individuals in Gaza who did not condemn recent attacks on Israel by the Palestinian group Hamas.

On Tuesday (24th Oct), Mr Eisen tweeted,  “I have been informed that I am being replaced as the Editor in Chief of @eLife for retweeting a @TheOnion piece that calls out indifference to the lives of Palestinian civilians.”

The sudden termination of Mr Eisen’s position was a direct consequence of his post on 14th October, where the geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, commended the article on X published by The Onion.

Eisen stated, “The Onion speaks with more courage, insight and moral clarity than the leaders of every academic institution put together. I wish there were a @TheOnion university.”

Mr Eisen’s post has since garnered some criticism. However, a day later, he tweeted, “Every sane person on Earth is horrified and traumatized by what Hamas did and wants it to never happen again.”

“All the more so as a Jew with Israeli family. But I am also horrified by the collective punishment already being meted out on Gazans, and the worse that is about to come.  …The Onion is not making light of the situation. And nor am I. These articles are using satire to make a deadly serious point about this horrific tragedy.”

Israeli researchers call for resignation of Eisen and boycott of eLife 

Following the controversy, there were demands from some Israeli researchers for Eisen’s resignation and for colleagues to refrain from submitting papers to eLife as long as he remained in charge.

In response, a petition was initiated, urging the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the publisher of eLife, not to remove or censor Eisen over his tweets.

The petitioners emphasized, “Our stance is not based on the merits of Eisen’s views. Rather, we believe that penalizing Eisen would establish a discouraging precedent for freedom of expression in academia.”

Other eLife editors also resigned, in protest of the journal’s decision against Mr Eisen

In the wake of Eisen’s statement, Lara Urban, a reviewing editor and early-career advisor at eLife, took to Twitter to declare her resignation from the journal.

“Mike’s dismissal for expressing his personal views sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of speech in our academic community,” wrote Urban, a genomics researcher at Helmholtz Munich. “[I]t validates cyber-bullying as a successful and legitimate tool to get scientists with controversial opinions fired.”

Furthermore, another eLife editor, Graham Coop, also utilized the same platform to announce his departure from the organization.

The British-American geneticist criticized eLife’s management of Eisen’s statement on X and his subsequent resignation as “extremely deficient.”

Molly Fox Przeworski, an American population geneticist and professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, also expressed her thoughts on the incident.

She criticized the decision to terminate Mr. Eisen, calling it “discriminatory and a perilous precedent,” violating eLife’s code of conduct promoting respect for diverse opinions and experiences.

“It is also a violation of eLife’s own code of conduct, to be “respectful of differing opinions, viewpoints, and experiences.”

“I have therefore made the unhappy decision to resign as senior editor at eLife, after ten years working for the journal, ” she said.

Guy Sella, an associate professor in the Columbia University Department of Biological Sciences, also publicly declared his decision on the same platform to step down as a reviewing editor at eLife.

In his statement, he empathized with Mr. Eisen, expressing his distress over the recent events in Israel and his profound apprehension about the situation evolving in Gaza.

 

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The Zionists are an extremely powerful group. They are threatening college students and universities with cancellation of their donations in the US. If people look at the bigger picture of Hamas actions of terrorism and the Zionists imprisonment of millions of Palestinians in Gaza for decades, it can be concluded that both are terrorist movements.

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