Saturday, August 2, 2014

The poisoned lancet

Recently the British "medical" journal The Lancet, which is infamous for its demonization of Israel, Israelis and by extension, Israeli doctors carried an "open" letter lambasting Israeli doctors for all sorts of imaginary crimes:

The Lancet's editor Dr Richard Horton has a pathological preoccupation with caricaturing Israel, and providing BDS proponents and conspiracy theorists with a platform (of course no right of reply usually allowed by him). 

Here are two responses to the apologists for Islamic supremacist terror featured uncritically by Horton: 

Response to “An open letter for the people of Gaza” which has been sent to The Lancet. The response was authored by Professor David Stone (emeritus, Glasgow University)

Like your correspondents Manduca et al (An open letter for the people for Gaza 22 July 2014), we too are appalled by the tragic situation in Gaza. Unlike them, however, our letter has been written on behalf of the people of both Gaza and Israel.
We take strong issue with both the factual and the ethical content of their letter. First the facts. Israel left Gaza entirely in 2005, removing almost 10,000 Israelis and all of its armed forces, with no intention of returning. The response from Gaza was escalating and unprovoked violence, mainly in the form of rocket attacks indiscriminately aimed at Israeli civilians in the south of the country.

Following the Hamas coup in 2007, the attacks intensified and the threat grew steadily more serious as the range of the missiles extended towards the densely populated centre of Israel. Israel acted to defend its citizens (as all countries are entitled to do under the UN charter) in two ways, first by imposing a partial military blockade to try to halt the flow of weaponry from Iran and elsewhere into Gaza – a policy that has since been fully vindicated by subsequent events – and second, by a calibrated and limited military response. Note a key point in the above timeline of events: the military blockade imposed by Israel did not precede Hamas’ rocket attacks but followed them.
When those measures failed, Israel again sought – as is her right and obligation – to defend her people by launching two larger-scale operations: Cast Lead in 2008-9 and Pillar of Defence in 2012. Ceasefires were repeatedly broken by Hamas who, emboldened by the lack of international reaction combined with increasing demands on Israel to relax the blockade, grew increasingly reckless as their military capacity and firepower increased.

In the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June of this year, Operation Protective Edge was launched. Hamas unleashed an unprecedented and sustained barrage of missiles – 2000 since the start of the current hostilities - at Israeli towns and cities as far north as Hadera and Haifa creating fear and havoc across the country. Every one of those missiles constitutes a war crime. The purpose of this reign of terror was clear: to disrupt normal life in Israel, bring the economy to its knees and, above all, to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. The last of these was only thwarted by the huge investment by Israel in civil defence measures – early warning systems, bombproof shelters and the Iron Dome missile defence system – that have proven largely effective. That is the reason for the imbalance of casualties between the two sides rather than any disregard for civilian safety on Israel’s part.

Israel’s defensive precautions contrast strikingly with the activities of Hamas, who have spent vast sums of money not on civil defence but the opposite – on an elaborate infrastructure of tunnels, weapon stores, missiles and rocket launchers. This was created with the sole aim of harming Israelis but that has, as a result of Israel’s obligatory defensive measures, inevitably brought death, injury and suffering to their own people. None of this human misery would have occurred had Hamas chosen to develop Gaza as a healthy and peaceful community following Israel’s departure in 2005 rather than as a renewed launching pad for violence directed at Israel. And a large number of casualties resulting from recent events would have been avoided had Hamas, like Israel, accepted at least four ceasefire proposals before and during the ground operation.

Throughout the entire period, including the current intensified conflict, Israel has permitted the continuous transfer of essential supplies such as food, clothing and medicines to be transferred from Israel to Gaza, has facilitated the entry of Gazan patients to Israel for specialist medical care, and has established a field hospital adjoining Gaza to enable injured Palestinian victims of Hamas’ war on Israel to be treated by experienced Israeli trauma surgeons. Those are not the actions of a country determined to inflict “collective punishment” or “siege” on a neighbouring people.
Neither the “siege” nor the “occupation” (Hamas’ code for the State of Israel) is the root cause of this latest conflagration nor indeed of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That is to be found in the Hamas charter and similar violently rejectionist positions – backed by actions – of extremist groups and politicians over many decades. We are disappointed, though not surprised, that Manduca et al, while claiming to be scientists, are oblivious to this verifiable reality even if it conflicts with their preconceptions. We are even more dismayed at their completely unsupportable allegations about “massacres”, “targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children”, the “use of gas” and “denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys.” Even by the standards of anti-Israeli rhetoric with which we have become all too familiar in recent years, the viciousness of this kind of demonization has surely sunk to new depths.

Manduca et al, while harshly criticising Israel, appear to offer understanding and even endorsement of Hamas’ extreme policies and behaviour. This is an extraordinary position for healthcare professionals to adopt. Most readers will be well aware of the true nature of that organisation. It is far from being a “political party” seeking to promote “resistance to occupation and siege.” It is a repressive and anti-Semitic group of religious fanatics, backed by Iran and Syria, which is committed, with chilling openness, to Israel’s destruction and the murder of most of her inhabitants. These aspirations are far from mere rhetoric but have been pursued with merciless cruelty over many years, in the process murdering over a thousand Israeli civilians, injuring many more and traumatising an entire nation. Nor does Hamas baulk at sacrificing its own civilians, by using young children as suicide bombers or instructing people to remain on rooftops, despite Israeli warnings of an impending strike. Little wonder it has been declared a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU as well as Israel.


And here is a second reply from Edgar Pick, M.D.,Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Richard Horton
The Lancet

Dear Dr. Horton,

My first scientific publication was a "Letter to the Editor" published in The Lancet vol. 279, p. 487, 1962. I was, at the time, a fifth year medical student at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, and my pride in having a 27-lines Letter printed in such a prestigious journal, had no limits. This "feat" was repeated, when a second Letter was published in vol. 283, p. 833, 1964, at about the time of my graduation as an MD. Soon after these "contributions", I decided to pursue a career in basic bio-medical research and studied for a Ph.D. degree at the University of London under Professor John Leslie Turk (1967-1970). The Ph.D. Diploma is on the wall of my office, at the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University.
It is with an uneasy feeling that I resume my correspondence with The Lancet, after a fifty years hiatus on a non-scientific subject.
I read with dismay the "An open letter for the people in Gaza", by Manduca, Chalmers, Summerfield, Gilbert, and Ang + other signatories. I shall not enter into a discussion concerning the truthfulness of the letter. I am quite sure that the medico-scientific community, all over the world, will react to the claims made in the letter.
I would like to protest in the most emphatic manner against the use of one of the foremost medical journals for the promotion of a political platform, independently of the nature of this platform.
It was your duty, as Editor, to either reject this attempt to use the pages of a scientific journal for promoting a political agenda, or submit it to objective review. I hope that you will agree with me that the chances of this article to pass honest review successfully and be recommended for publication were zero.
In addition to the blatantly nonscientific nature of the letter, the signatories of the letter have provided false information by stating that they have no "competing interests". The most elementary search for the political affiliations of all the five main signatories will reveal to the most unexperienced "googler" that these are long-time pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas activists. An indication for their extremism is that one of them (Dr. Mads Gilbert) was a justifier of the killing of innocents at 9/11.
It is simply unbelievable that the Editor of the Lancet was not aware of these partisan associations. I am an experienced scientist, who spent most of his life to find answers to questions. I, thus, have to conclude that you, purposefully, ignored these associations. This is a grave infringement of the most basic rules of scientific publishing.
My research into the reasons for your thoroughly unacceptable behaviour revealed that your political sympathies coincide with those of the authors. These heavily biased views were expressed repeatedly in the past. A good example is the essay, entitled
"Palestinians: The Crisis in Medical Care", by Richard Horton, The New York Review of Books, March 15, 2007. I have distributed to hundreds of colleagues, all over the world, the content of this biased, vitriolic anti-Israel piece of writing, for all to judge.
You are, of course, entitled to your views and to publish these in The New York Review of Books. However, you are not entitled to let your political affinities influence your decisions as an Editor.
In the light of the grave infringement of your duties as an Editor, the only correct definition of which is perversion of scientific objectivity for the pursuit of a political agenda, I am asking that you resign your function as Editor of The Lancet, the prestige of which you have gravely tarnished.

Sincerely yours,
Edgar Pick, M.D.,Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Julius Friedrich Cohnheim Laboratory of Phagocyte Research
Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978

cc: Mr Wisia Wedzicha, Ombudsman 

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