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MIT defends scholar's right to publish

Avner Cohen, a research fellow in the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS), has won an initial round in a battle with the Israeli military censor over an article on the Israeli nuclear program.

The Supreme Court of Israel ruled April 20 that the Israeli military censor must show cause within 40 days to justify his decision to bar publication, both in Israel and abroad of the article.

Dr. Cohen, an Israeli citizen, is associated with the Defense and Arms Control Studies program of the CIS. His article covers the early political history of the Israeli nuclear program and was written for American scholarly journals.

Before coming to MIT, Dr. Cohen was a lecturer at Tel Aviv University from 1983 to 1991. He says he has never held a position which gave him access to sensitive data.

Dr. Cohen said that the research was based entirely on nonclassified information available in the open literature or on US declassified documents released through the US Freedom of Information Act. Some of the research is based on interviews with former and current policy makers in the Middle East and the United States.

MIT issued a statement last week, defending Mr. Cohen's right to publish. The statement, issued by Kenneth D. Campbell, director of the MIT News Office, said:

"In this case as in previous ones, MIT supports the right of its scholars to publish the results of their scholarly research. Publication without governmental interference is a basic element of academic freedom. Accordingly, MIT encourages governments and courts, whether at home or abroad, to affirm this fundamental right. We have enjoyed many decades of close professional and personal relations with Israel and Israeli institutions, and very much hope that needless confrontation on this matter can be avoided.

"MIT's official policy on research is as follows (from MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 5.12):

`Open Research and Free Interchange of Information-MIT affirms that the encouragement of research and inquiry into intellectual areas of great promise is one of the most basic obligations to its faculty, to its students, and to society at large. It affirms the profound merits of a policy of open research and free interchange of information among scholars as essential to that responsibility.'"

The material will also be a chapter in a book on nuclear weapons in the Middle East to be authored jointly by Dr. Cohen and Dr. Marvin Miller, a senior research scientist in the MIT Department of Nuclear Engineering.

A version of this article appeared in the May 4, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 31).

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