As part of the PhD programme I am enrolled in, we're encouraged to publish a review paper within our first two years. After talking to my advisors, a suitable topic related to the area was agreed and I set about writing.

From the beginning, we had a particular journal in mind, but toward the end of the writing process my supervisor was invited to contribute a review to a different journal for a special edition, and suggested that my paper could be submitted there as the topic was in-keeping with the topic of the special edition.

The journal in question is an Israeli journal, though has contributions from researchers worldwide.

Personally, while not entirely supporting an academic boycott of Israel (I don't see this as being productive), I don't wish to publish there – I have significant concerns over Israeli policy and their handling of the Palestine conflict and don't want my name associated with the journal.

Clearly this is a very sensitive topic, and I don't wish to bring up politics with my supervisor - he hasn't ever expressed any political opinions and isn't Jewish, so I'm not concerned about offending him (we're in the UK, so generally the mood here is far less pro-Israel than in the USA).

I have tried to suggest that I would generally just prefer the paper to go into the original journal given that we've already formatted it for that journal etc, but without much luck.

How would I best go about dealing with the situation?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – aeismail
    Jul 23, 2018 at 21:51
  • This question is now protected, so I can only add this as a comment: while I agree with user37208 answer on most cases, if you are from a community where reactions toward Israel are strongly negative and a sensitive issue, you can say that while you don't have a problem with publishing in an Israel journal, you could be bad seen by your community. This avoid to bring your political opinion to the situation - you can't be blamed for the opinion of other people. Jul 25, 2018 at 15:06
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    I don't know if this is still true but in the past Israel has offered to pay students (through scholarships) to "combat anti-Semitism and calls to boycott Israel online". I do not know if that is happening here, but you should be aware that such things occur and this post may well be a target. usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/08/14/…
    – Sam
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:45

5 Answers 5


The other answers are focusing on OP's particular ethical stance, but I think this question deserves a somewhat general answer, so here goes:

You are essentially asking how to take a political stand without involving politics. This is impossible unless you hide your motivations for wanting to avoid this journal--as you've already tried without success.

You just have to decide whether you feel strongly enough to state your beliefs out loud, at least to your advisor. If you don't want to publish in this journal under any circumstances, even if it means taking your name off the paper, so be it, but be prepared to face the consequences of that. If your priority is not rocking the boat with your advisor, so be it, but be prepared to have your name associated (at least a little bit) with the journal. It's up to you how much that matters. A middle ground would be raising your objections with your advisor but leaving the decision up to him. This is about your personal ethics, so no one can tell you what the right choice is.

  • You are essentially asking how to take a political stand without involving politics. I see where you're coming from but I disagree here. OP is trying to avoid making a political stance. However, to justify his decision, he must inherently point out that there could be a political connotation. So while OP must raise a political point, his intention is to not take a stand specifically because it's a political point. Saying that the absence of a political opinion is a political opinion in and of itself is essentially arguing that "if you're not with me, you are against me".
    – Flater
    Jul 25, 2018 at 12:38
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    @Flater I disagree. The "default" stance would be to publish in whichever journal is best, regardless of the politics of the country. The OP wishes to avoid a journal because they disagree with the politics of Israel. Whether or not they want this stance to made public, they are taking a political action and are making a stand.
    – kuhl
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:06

I don't know if this will help you, but not all Israeli academics are united behind the policies of the current government. Most of those that I know are not, actually, and some actively oppose those policies.

However, if you truly don't wish to publish in an Israeli sponsored journal you should actually discuss it with your advisor, as uncomfortable as that might seem. I wouldn't present it to him as a stark refusal, just an feeling of unease about associating yourself in any way with the Israeli government or being perceived as such. If you get strong push back you will have a serious decision to make, but perhaps your fears are unfounded.

Also, the US government (mine) is, at the current moment, engaged in some terrible behavior with the concurrence of many Americans. But we don't all agree and many of us actively oppose the current regime. The same is true in Israel.

It is up to you to say whether anything similar can be said about the UK, of course.

I will also say that it is useful for anyone to make contact with academics in other places to see what common ground can be found and, more importantly, how we can work together to overcome the evil policies that we find in many places.


This is not a direct answer, but I feel that this is the kind of question where the premise needs to be challenged.

Your assumption that mentioning the true reason for not wanting to publish in that journal is safe might be overly "optimistic". I am a UK academic, neither Jewish nor with personal ties to Israel, very much not a fan of the current Israeli government and overall rather leftwing. If a PhD student of mine would bring up the desire from the question, I would be mortified, and would need to reevaluate whether I could work with that student.

Boycotting a journal with "Israeli" in the name due to disagreement with Israeli politics makes little sense to me. Such journals are published by professional societies, not by the government. This only really makes sense if the goal is to protest the existence of Israel as a whole, and I believe that this is a stance outside of the acceptable political viewpoints.

Let me briefly bring up some other boycotts, and explain the difference:

Some people refuse to buy produce from Israel. The reason given is that food produced in Israeli settlements in the Westbank is labeled the same as food produced inside the recognized Israeli borders, and that buying food produced in the settlements supports the settlement policies. Unlike in the boycott above, there is a link between the boycotted stuff and the policies critized.

In the context of the "bathroom bills" passed in North Carolina, some scientific conferences boycotted the state. Boycotting conferences held in Saudi Arabia is a common thing. In these cases, there are colleagues (trans, female, gay, etc) who could not safely attend the conference, and the boycott is an act of solidarity.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – aeismail
    Jul 23, 2018 at 21:51
  • 1
    The idea of reevaluating this student mortifies me. Do you live in an area where people don't appreciate questions?
    – user96501
    Jul 29, 2018 at 18:19

I side with the other answerers about challenging the premise of the question, but I'll nevertheless try to answer the question that was asked.

It may depend about the country, field, and advising style, but to me, whoever is the main driving force on a paper gets the final word about where and when the paper gets submitted -- even if they are my student. Of course your advisor's duty is to guide you, and probably to encourage you to submit to the most appropriate venue, but to me this is just advice, and they shouldn't be able to force you to follow it. In other words, to me it would be clear that the choice about where to publish your review work is yours. It may make sense for you to try to understand whether this is actually the case for you -- you don't approach a negotiation the same way depending on who gets to make the decision in the end.

If you are indeed the one who will be making the decision, and you wish to raise your concerns, I would do so while insisting that this is a personal belief. I wouldn't use the term "boycott" because it often gives the impression that the boycotter is also trying to influence others to join the boycott. It may help if you can share a bit with your advisor about why you feel the way you do -- do you know people from Palestine or neighboring countries, have you been politically involved with the issue, do you have family/friends whom you feel would disapprove if your name was associated to Israel? This may help your advisor understand how you feel even if they do not themselves feel the same way. In particular, if you don't care so strongly about the issue yourself but you worry about how it might look to other people, then this can also be a good manner to present things -- your advisor may not feel it's a cause of concern to them but it may make the underlying disagreement less political. In any case, make it very clear to your advisor that you're not trying to convince them. (The way you state things in your original question looks OK to me, for instance.)

As an advisor, if my student points out that for ethical reasons they want to submit their work to venue A rather than venue B, I may argue against it if A is a worse fit, but I'd go with it. Of course, my personal relationship to the student might suffer a lot if I disagree strongly with the underlying motive (let's imagine a student who wouldn't want to submit to a journal depending on the editor's gender, or religion, nationality, sexual orientation...); but it's still the student's choice to decide what they do with their work, and it probably doesn't imply I can stop being their advisor professionally. Personal ties are crucial in academia however, so you have to decide for yourself whether it's worth taking the risk. For the specific case of not wanting to publish in an Israeli journal, I would not personally agree with it but I think I would not think especially badly about a student who asked me this -- but of course your advisor may think differently.

  • "I am not a mass murder, I am simply taking the lives of many people. But I wouldn't go as far as calling it murder, that implies that I'm evil somehow". :-)
    – Ink blot
    Aug 1, 2018 at 11:41

Assuming the other answers didn't change your mind: just find another characteristic you don't like in that journal (and possibly all other Israeli journals) and use that as reason to not publish there. Ideally, of course, it should be a reason you actually believe in.

For instance, declare that you will only publish in a fully open access journal which uses Creative Commons Attribution and has the DOAJ seal.

According to a DOAJ search, there are only 3 OA journals in Israel, of which 3 have an unfree license and 0 have the DOAJ seal.

There are certainly other characteristics you can find, like connections to the military or some industry or some specific policy which can be condemned without supporting a specific foreign policy.

  • 6
    While noble, it's a huge hassle for a student to declare "OA or nothing". Students who need publications cannot limit themselves for open access.
    – Ink blot
    Jul 23, 2018 at 8:48
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    Yes, but your suggestion as to how to excuse this choice is just wrong for a student.
    – Ink blot
    Jul 23, 2018 at 9:25
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    +1 for suggesting an alternative. If keeping their dislike of Israeli journals secret is important to the OP, they would need to maintain the charade for a substantial amount of time though, and potentially debate and support a position they don’t actually believe. Jul 23, 2018 at 14:08
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    A problem with using an unrelated excuse is that it can lead to two problematic situations, in this research or the next: a) the researcher can say "well, we can publish this on the Another Israeli Journal", which has not the problems of your excuse; b) a non-OA journal appears as a good publishing opportunity but you can't publish on it because of your restriction Jul 25, 2018 at 14:16
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    @BrianHellekin indeed, which is why I suggested to pick «a reason you actually believe in», i.e. something you can stick to in the future as well. Publishing on OA only was only an example, but in my opinion a decent one because in many sectors it's possible, rather easy and even advantageous.
    – Nemo
    Jul 26, 2018 at 8:57

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