Operation Protective Edge triggered a wave of academic activism, including new demands for BDS. The Israeli response, both by scholars and government officials, can be best described as a mixture of outrage and bewilderment as to why scholars, trained to be objective and scientific, would engage in what is perceived as a one-sided censure of Israel buttressed by a blatantly biased factual information.
While the question is legitimate, it betrays a misunderstanding of how the pro-Palestinian network in the academy operates. Academic Forensics is a new IAM series that would periodically address this issue.
The Case of Lancet
On July 24, 2014 the prestigious medical journal Lancet published an editorial denouncing in the sharpest possible terms the Operation Protective Edge. The essay, titled An Open Letter for the People of Gaza” was signed by Paola Manduca, Iain Chalmers, Derek Summerfield, Mads Gilbert and Swee Ang, on behalf of 24 signatures. It describes the operation as a “massacre” and states: “We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza.” In other words, the 95 percent who did not protest are fair game for boycott.
Richard Horton, the editor of Lancet aggravated the situation when he refused letters of rebuttal from some of Lancet readers. Among the many voices that condemned the essay and Horton, a few pointed out that both Horton and the lead signatories have a long history of pro-Palestinian activism. In the below article titled The Poisoned Lancet , Dennis Praeger, an American columnist, mentioned that Manduca, a professor at the University of Genoa, has “testified” at various anti-Israeli tribunal, at one point accused Israel of using “direct energy“ weapons, which she described a cross between chemical and biological agents, against the Palestinians. Sir Iain Chalmers, a former chief U.N. medical officer in Gaza, accused Israel of apartheid and ethnic cleansing; he cited Ilan Pappe’s book of the same title to prove his point.
Derek Summerfield, a British psychiatrists and the head of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture (UK) accused Israeli doctors of supporting torture. Summerfield had close relations with Neve Gordon, a professor at BGU and a former executive director of the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) that made the same allegations. Gordon and Summerfield organized a number of conferences and forums to publicize the alleged torture allegations. After years of protesting the allegations, in 2009, the Israel Medical Association severed all ties with the PHR-I, because of its “use of the international arena to “besmirch and sling mud at Israeli doctors.”
This act prompted Summerfield, along with the PHR-I, to launch a worldwide protest against Dr. Yoram Blachar who was elected to serve at the head of the Israel Medical Association. At the time Blachar wrote that “Derek Summerfield has a life-long agenda of criticizing Israel; he is well known to us through his inexorable venomous campaign against Israel, the IMA and Dr. Blachar, in numerous letters and on the pages of leading British medical journals such as the BMJ and the Lancet.” Derek Summerfield also “testified” before the Russell Tribunal for Palestine, a virulently anti-Israeli circle of self-appointed activists mascaraing as legitimate international law tribunal where Gordon serves on the International Support Committee.
The lynchpin of the group is Horton, whose high profile pro-Palestinian activism has earned him accolades across the network. Horton is one of the organizers of the Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (L-PHA). At a recent conference Horton stated: “We publish science at the Lancet, but the evidence has to go beyond that to the humanity of people.”
“We have to tell the story of Palestinians living a caged existence,” Horton suggested. We need to use different types of evidence to bear, he argued, to take more account of dignity and the quality of care and use our evidence and experience, “for resilience, for sustainability, for accountability, for our freedom and the opportunity to write a new future.”
The pro-Palestinian network in the medical field has existed for more than two decades, fueled by very generous contributions from the Arab world. For instance, the British–based Medical Help for Palestinians (MAP), one of the sponsors of the L-PHA alliance, has been highly active in publicizing the recent plight of the population in Gaza.
It is beyond the scope of this post to provide an in-depth analysis of the densely connected pro-Palestinian network. Israelis who are concerned about the delegitimizing impact of Lancet, among others, should look at the academic forensics of this and other cases. Writing letters and articles expressing moral outrage is not enough.
IAM has the largest database on the pro-Palestinian networks in the academy.
The Lancet, Volume 384, Issue 9941
, Pages 397 - 398, 2 August 2014
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.
An open letter for the people in Gaza
We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.
On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.
We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called “defensive aggression”. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.
We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.
This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.
The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza's population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.
People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”
Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business. Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited.
Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade. They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza's population is dependent on food rations from the UN.
Much of Gaza's buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.
Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.
Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.
According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),
as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.
The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.
Weaponry known to cause long-term damages on health of the whole population are used; particularly non fragmentation weaponry and hard-head bombs.
, We witnessed targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children and we constantly see that so-called intelligent weapons fail to be precise, unless they are deliberately used to destroy innocent lives.
We denounce the myth propagated by Israel that the aggression is done caring about saving civilian lives and children's wellbeing.
Israel's behaviour has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts. Even those of us who want to go and help are unable to reach Gaza due to the blockade.
This “defensive aggression” of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity must be stopped.
Additionally, should the use of gas be further confirmed, this is unequivocally a war crime for which, before anything else, high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe.
As we write, other massacres and threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys are reported.
We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world's largest and most sophisticated modern military machines. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.
We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organisations to stop this massacre.
a New Weapons Research Group and University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
b James Lind Library, Oxford, UK
c Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, UK
d Clinic of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromso, Norway
e Barts and the Royal London Hospital, London, UK
On July 23rd the prestigious and world-renowned medical journal The Lancet published an editorial entitled “An Open Letter to the People of Gaza” signed by medical professionals around the globe. The essay uses inflammatory language to accuse Israelis of indiscriminately massacring Palestinian children, fabricating the reason for Israel’s military engagement in Gaza, and implying the use of gas to murder civilians. While there is always room for critique and dialogue, these extreme allegations are one-sided, unreferenced and unfounded.
More shockingly, the authors state that since only 5 percent of Israeli academics signed a petition against the current military operation, the authors “are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5 percent, the rest of Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza.”
These are distressing, manipulative, inflammatory, and deeply disturbing allegations, however, what is even more shocking is the platform in which they were published.
The Lancet is an internationally known medical journal whose stated purpose is to publish and disseminate factually documented medical and scientific research. It is intended to be an objective, peer-reviewed enterprise to broaden access to medical knowledge for all peoples. No matter what your view on the current Mideast crisis, The Lancet or any other medical journal is not supposed to be a political publication used to further the personal agendas of the editorial board or its contributors.
Historically, academics were charged with the role of being the public conscience of society. In 1967, Noam Chomsky wrote in the context of the Vietnam War: “The responsibility of the intellectual is to speak the truth and to expose lies.”
But which truth takes precedence and who decides what is a lie?
An astonishing amount of words have gone into reporting on the Gaza-Israel conflict over the past few weeks at the expense of reporting on other conflicts. What has become clear as any reader of the comments section on Facebook or in any newspaper can attest is that the facts about the situation are hotly contested.
Although academics are trained to be critical thinkers, they are human, and can be as biased and subjective in their reporting of facts as anyone else. This goes for those on the right and those on the left - those who are pro-Israel, those who are pro-Hamas - and those who fall somewhere in the complicated middle.
Given that this is the case, it is objectionable that a purportedly scientific journal should publish a political polemic, but if it does, we would have expected the editors of a such a publication with the reputation and credentials such as The Lancet to follow due diligence and to check the facts. Instead controversial unfounded opinions are passed as truth, compromising the very nature of their professional credibility and mission.
At the very least, the journal could have invited a contributor to immediately provide a counter-argument to present another, and therefore, more balanced view of the situation as is normally the case when publishing a controversial manuscript in a scientific journal. Not only did they fail to do so, the editors belatedly published a bare handful of truncated letters in support of Israel and nearly a dozen in support of the open letter.
The only thing this kind of demagoguery achieves is more violence, rage, and divisiveness among academics, which serves no-one. The Lancet, in publishing this essay, has done a significant disservice to its reputation, its readership and its so-called “stringent peer-review process that ensures the continuing scientific merit and clinical relevance.”
Moreover, publishing political screeds in medical journals causes enormous damage to the environment of collaboration that is necessary to foster scientific progress.
Those in the medical community understand this exceptionally well. The sharing of data, the shared research endeavors, and the gathering at professional conferences with people one might consider an enemy in any other context has led to dramatic medical discoveries for the betterment of all humankind. The international sharing of data on Alzheimer's disease is one case in point. Israeli scientists (four of whom have won the Nobel Prize) have contributed dramatic medical discoveries in almost every area that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives the latest of which includes working on finding the cure for Ebola. Indiscriminately accusing all Israeli academics of being complicit in what the open letter’s authors call a massacre because they didn't sign one specific document smacks of the Salem witch hunts, is not good for collegiality, and is nothing short of a catastrophe for science.
We all lose when politics hijacks science. The Lancet has crossed over the line with the publication of this essay. The public and the medical and academic communities should not stand idly by when one set of editors decide on what they will publish based on the researcher's political beliefs, nationality, religion, or ethnicity. In recent days, a group of close to 9,000 medical professionals from around the globe have responded to The Lancet open letter by calling for the resignation of the editor, Richard Horton, who is responsible for the publication of the original anti-Israel essay.
No editor or contributor in any scientific publication has the right to abuse their power, privilege and platform to further their own political agendas.
Dr. Leeat Granek is a critical health psychologist and researcher in the Department of Public Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel. Her research expertise is in grief and loss, psycho-oncology, and women's health.
The Poisoned Lancet
The once-respected medical journal harbors anti-Israel extremists.
Two weeks ago, the British medical journal Lancet, considered to be one of the world’s leading medical publications, published “An open letter for the people in Gaza.” Signed by four European doctors on behalf of 20 others (17 from Italy and three from the UK), the letter had virtually nothing to do with medicine. Rather, it was a grotesque attack on Israel. Some excerpts:
“We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression.”
“Israel’s behaviour has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts.”
“We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre.”
“Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas.”
“These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future.”
“We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues.”
The four signatories were Paola Manduca, professor at University of Genoa, Italy; Sir Iain Chalmers of the UK; Derek Summerfield of the London Institute of Psychiatry; and Mads Fredrik Gilbert, professor at University Hospital of North Norway.
Nowhere in Lancet is it noted that each of them has devoted much of his or her life to delegitimizing Israel.
The first signatory, Paola Manduca, has, for years, gone around the world giving “expert” testimony against Israel and on behalf of those who would destroy the Jewish state. In 2006, for example, she wrote that Israel was using and experimenting with heretofore unknown weapons against Arabs:
In the present offensive of Israeli forces against Lebanon and Gaza “new weapons” are being used. New and strange symptoms are reported amongst the wounded and the dead. . . . Many of these descriptions suggest the possibility that the new weapons used include “direct energy” weapons, and chemical and/or biological agents, in a sort of macabre experiment of future warfare, where there is no respect for anything.
And in 2013, Manduca testified in Malaysia at a tribunal charging Israel with “genocide and war rimes.”
Sir Iain Chalmers served for two years as chief U.N. medical officer in Gaza. On July 24, the British-Palestinian website, Middle East Monitor, correctly wrote that Iain Chalmers “is an old friend of Gaza.”
Chalmers smears Israel around the world. For example, in Ireland in 2007 at the Global Congress on Dental Education, Chalmers spoke at length about Israel’s villainy. He described Israel as a country based on “racist nationalism,” and he recommended that attendees read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, a book by Ilan Pappé, a historian and former member of the Israel Communist party, who devotes his life to delegitimizing Israel’s existence. (In the New Republic, historian Benny Morris began his review of three Pappé books, including The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, this way: “At best, Ilan Pappé must be one of the world’s sloppiest historians; at worst, one of the most dishonest.”)
In a 2010 interview in Croatia, Chalmers was asked about the Middle East conflict. He began by saying, “There is an oppressed people [Palestinians] and an oppressor people [Israelis].” He went on to say: “Basically you’ve got a situation of apartheid at the moment, enshrined in Israeli state law. . . . We’re talking about 6 million non-Jews — it’s an awful lot of people to get rid of in what many Israelis see as their state from the river to the sea.”
Note the number 6 million.
Derek Summerfield organized a worldwide academic medical boycott of Israel in the 1990s. An honorary fellow of the Egyptian Psychiatric Association, Summerfield has written, among many other lies against Israel, that “Israeli soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot to kill children.”
Summerfield, who grew up in South Africa, goes beyond the libel that Israel is “an apartheid state.” In his view, Israel is “far, far worse than South Africa.”
Mads Gilbert is a member of Red, the Norwegian revolutionary Socialist party. Three weeks after 9/11, he told the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that the attacks on America were justifiable: “If the U.S. government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, the oppressed has a moral right to attack the U.S. with the weapons they may create as well.” When asked if he supported the 9/11 attack, he answered: “Terror is a poor weapon, but my answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned.”
The headline in Dagbladet read: “Norwegian doctors ADVOCATE TERROR attack,” and further reported:
“I advocate the moral right of the people you call terrorists to attack the United States, as a legitimate response to 25 years of wars of aggression, mines, starvation and embargo,” says surgeon Hans Husum, University Hospital of Tromsø. He is supported by physician Mads Gilbert.
These are the people whose Israel-hating letter was featured by the Lancet, ostensibly a medical journal. Not one is identified as the lifelong defender of Israel’s enemies and radical activist against Israel’s existence that each one is.
Lancet has a history of poisoning medical reporting with its radical left-wing politics. It made worldwide headlines in 2006 by reporting what were ultimately deemed wild exaggerations, if not outright lies, about the number of Iraqis killed during the American war in Iraq.
Lancet perfectly embodies four observations about our world.
One is from the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”
The second is from the legendary American screenwriter Ben Hecht (1894–1964), a two-time Academy Award winner: “How sad that in the warmest hearts I knew lurked always a little cold spot for the Jew.”
The third, if I may quote myself, is one of the earliest realizations of my life: “Those who don’t fight evil hate those who do.”
And the fourth is that, from the universities to the arts to religion, the Left damages everything it touches. Lancet was once a great medical journal.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.