Israel Skewered by Medical Journal

The history of politicization of science for political ends is long, and sadly, destructive.

As HonestReporting has previously highlighted, formerly credible medical media outlets such as the British Medical Journal have drifted away from scientific exploration to scientific exploitation, particularly when concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Lancet describes itself as “one of the world’s leading medical journals” and claims an online registration of some 1.8 million users. On July 2, 2010, it published the “best peer-reviewed abstracts” from a meeting of the 2nd Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance Conference.

A cornerstone of most peer-reviewed journals is freedom from bias. No conference or article today can be promoted or published without a clear declaration of conflict of interest by its authors or promoters.  No such declarations are published in The Lancet series.

A medical background is no guarantee of objectivity or lack of bias when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After all, some of the Hamas leadership such as Mahmoud al-Zahar and the late Abdel Aziz Rantisi were medical professionals, while the Marxist Dr. Mads Gilbert pumped out propaganda from Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Some research into the background of a number of contributors to The Lancet’s articles reveals some disturbing information and calls into question the credibility of the content, particularly as most of those below are active supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

  • Weamm Hammoudeh: Testified at the US trial of her own brother, indicted for providing material support for a terrorist organization. The indictment included Hammoudeh’s Florida school where she studied, which was believed to be a front for supporting Islamic Jihad. While Hammoudeh’s brother was eventually acquitted, he and other members of the family were deported from the US after Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they believed that “Hammoudeh had ties to terrorists,” despite his acquittal.
  • Rita Giacaman: The co-author of three of the featured articles has appeared on a panel with none other than Noam Chomsky, railing (somewhat ironically considering the contents of this communique) at the power of pro-Israel lobby groups silencing criticism of Israel in medical journals. (See video from 3.09 mins.)

She co-authored a report on the effect on Palestinian living conditions during Israel’s 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, concluding “What this population experienced in this unilateral war cannot be justified simply by the prerogative of Israeli security, and can only point to a more insidious purpose for the re-invasion, a purpose that in the Palestinian experience, could only have been the destruction of the structures and framework for the survival and the social development of the Palestinian nation.”

Also authored a 2005 article in Nature magazine entitled “A boycott could do good in Israel, as in South Africa.” Signatory to Palestine Solidarity Campaign 2009 open letter to Choir of Clare College, Cambridge urging it to reconsider performing in Israel.

  • Majdi Ashour: During his time as a student in the US, was a supporter of the Third Annual Palestine Solidarity and Divestment Conference at Rutgers, and a signatory to a petition that spoke of the Palestinian fight “against apartheid all over historic Palestine occupied in 1948″ and “ethnic supremacy and pursuit of purity” being carried out by Israel.
  • David Henley: On the Board of Advisors to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, described by NGO Monitor as politically biased, attributes social problems in Gaza only to the Israeli “occupation,” and ignores intra-Palestinian violence and corruption. It is involved in political campaigning: has signed petitions for economic and academic boycotts of Israel and on November 12, 2005, GCMHP hosted a delegation of European Parliamentarians and described to them the “psychological violence” waged by Israel in Gaza and claimed that “the disengagement was a mirage to be consumed by the Western Media.”

A signatory to a manifesto attacking former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon who is described as “the biggest threat to the Israeli people and to Jews around the world.”

  • Espen Bjertness: Co-author of five of the featured articles, is a prominent supporter of an academic boycott of Israel in Norway and was a signatory to a petition in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel calling “upon all those who oppose occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes”.
  • Gerd Holmboe-Ottesen: Co-author of two of the featured articles, was also a signatory to the same petition in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel as described above.
  • Abdullatif Husseini: Co-authored a report on the effect on Palestinian living conditions during Israels 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, concluding “What this population experienced in this unilateral war canno
    t be justified simply by the prerogative of Israeli security, and can only point to a more insidious purpose for the re-invasion, a purpose that in the Palestinian experience, could only have been the destruction of the structures and framework for the survival and the social development of the Palestinian nation.”
  • Rema Afifi: Signatory to Palestine Solidarity Campaign 2009 open letter to Choir of Clare College, Cambridge urging it to reconsider performing in Israel.
  • Judy Makhoul: Signatory to the Lebanese academic boycott of Israel which calls on “our colleagues worldwide to support the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to comprehensively and consistently boycott and disinvest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joining projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israels occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.”
  • Sawsan Abdulrahim: Signatory to a 2006 statement criticizing the Lebanese government for not embracing the “Lebanese Resistance Operation” – code for Hezbollah. Also a signatory to the Lebanese academic boycott of Israel as described above.
  • Angelo Stefanini: Signatory to a 2009 petition calling for the removal of Israeli Dr. Yoram Blachar as head of the World Medical Association and a 2009 petition calling on the University of Trondheim to boycott Israel.

Misinformation and Bias

Indeed, the overall impression that The Lancet seeks to bring can be summed up by an article that states:

On Feb 28, the day that international contributors to the conference were arriving in Ramallah, hundreds of Israeli settlers, escorted by Israeli security forces, stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. There was tension in the air; the smell of violence everywhere; and denial or restricted access from one part of the West Bank to another and to East Jerusalem.

Of course, there was no such incident as a storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by anyone let alone “hundreds of Israeli settlers”.

Another article states:

1400 people were estimated to have died, and many were injured during the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, occupied Palestinian territory, from Dec 27, 2008, to Jan 18, 2009; and the destruction of infrastructure, including homes, was unprecedented.

Even without addressing the fact that the report ignores that terrorists were part of the estimated number of casualties, have the authors forgotten that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005? How can it be described as “occupied Palestinian territory”?

This same mistaken description appears again in another article under the emotive title “Women in labour and midwives during Israeli assault on Gaza Strip: between bullets and labour pains“:

We report the personal accounts of childbirth experiences and coping skills of women and midwives during the 23 days of the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, occupied Palestinian territory, in December, 2008, and January, 2009.

This article also includes allegations lacking in context from so-called “eyewitnesses” that do not belong in a credible medical study:

As one woman said “nights were like ‘ghouls’…I was not thinking like other people in face of death or shelling…but was only thinking of my case! What would happen if I had labour pains at night? How will I manage? They were shelling even ambulances!”

Another outrageous claim that “pregnant mothers were denied access to hospitals for birth care” appears in a related article. While freedom of Palestinian movement has been restricted due to legitimate Israeli security concerns (context that is not mentioned in any of the reports), it is simply disingenuous to imply that Israel has deliberately withheld healthcare for pregnant Palestinian women.

Indeed, one is left with the overall impression from many of the articles that deficiencies in Palestinian health are purely Israel’s fault as this article suggests:

One of the most important achievements in Palestinian science was the publication of five reports from the ICPH in The Lancet 2009 Series Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This Series showed that Palestinian right to health was compromised because of Israeli occupation (squeezed economy, movement restrictions, spread of fear, uncertainty, insecurity), and confirmed adverse health effects due to occupation and systematic and avoidable differences in health implying health inequity.

 

Omissions and Lack of Context

The above examples are but a tiny sample of how this large number of articles combine to create an overall bias against Israel. Also notable is what has been omitted from the articles. There is no mention of:

This included the extensive use of ambulances bearing the protective emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to transport operatives and weaponry; the use of ambulances to “evacuate” terrorists from the battlefield; and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation-rooms, command centers, and hiding pl
aces.

  • The approval of entry of Gazans into Israel for medical treatment.
  • No acknowledgement of the fact that there were terrorists amongst those killed during Operation Cast Lead.
  • No mention of Israeli humanitarian aid to Gaza both during and after military operations.
  • No mention of Hamas or Palestinian rocket and terror attacks.

Calling on Doctors to Take Action

Anti-Israel bias should have no place in medical journals. Getting an article or study published in such places as The Lancet is supposedly extremely difficult and subject to intense scrutiny through peer-review.

Why is it that the bar is lowered to allow the publication of articles by medical professionals and others who have clearly demonstrated a politicized anti-Israel agenda that goes way beyond the field of medicine?

If you are a certified medical professional, please contact The Lancet’s Ombudsman, Charles Warlow – ombudsman@lancet.com

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