NGO Monitor claims anti-Israel bias at UK medical journal ‘Lancet’

"The Lancet has ostracized, and to a large extent, demonized Israel and the Israeli medical community.”

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January 11, 2015 04:27
4 minute read.
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RICHARD HORTON. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

BERLIN – The British-based medical journal The Lancet’s treatment of Palestinian public health issues has undermined Israel-Palestinian relations, according to a detailed study published by Jerusalem- based NGO Monitor.

The Lancet has set back relations between Israelis and Palestinians “by taking a highly politicized course in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” according to the new report, which was obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post.

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The Lancet has ostracized, and to a large extent, demonized Israel and the Israeli medical community,” the report continues.

Dr. Richard Horton, the Lancet’s editor-in-chief, is due to visit Israel later this month, in what will be his second trip to the country.

The publication was accused of bias last August after it published an “Open letter to the people of Gaza” attacking Israel while ignoring Hamas rocket attacks on the Jewish state. The letter accused Israel of committing a “massacre” in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

Two of the 1,600-word letters’ authors, Dr. Paola Manduca and Dr. Swee Ang, have connections with David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard in Louisiana and advocate of Nazism. Both Manduca and Ang expressed sympathy for Duke’s rabidly anti-Jewish positions.

Manduca and Ang praised a neo-Nazi video that purportedly “reveals how the Zionist Matrix of Power controls media, politics and banking...”

In response to criticism in the British media in September, which reported on NGO Monitor’s exposé of the letter, Horton partially walked back the contents of the letter. He said he regretted publishing the letter, but he has refused to take it down from the Lancet’s website.

As a result of the scandal, Horton visited Israel for the first time in October. Commenting on the letter at the time, he said, “This schism helped no one and I certainly regret that result. I have seen for myself that what was written in the Manduca et al letter does not describe the full reality.”

According to the NGO Monitor report, “In 2001-2014, The Lancet published an aggregate total of 264 items on Palestinian and Israeli healthcare and related issues. Of these, 58.3% could be defined as political opinion or commentary and 41.7% as medical, an annual average of 11 political opinion or commentary and 7.9 medical.”

The study continues, “During this period (2001-2014) Palestinian healthcare items published by The Lancet were 64.7% political opinion or commentary while 35.3% were medical.

During the same period, The Lancet published a total of 43 items on Israeli healthcare and related issues. Of these, 25.6% were political opinion or commentary and 74.4% were medical.

This disparity indicates a highly politicized agenda in the presentation of Palestinian healthcare issues.”

According to the report, “In the period 2001 to 2008 (pre- LPHA), The Lancet published 33 items [on Palestinian health] of which 88% were political opinion or commentary and 12% were medical, an annual average of 3.6 political opinion or commentary and 0.5 medical.”

LPHA refers to The Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance.

The 17-page study covers the Lancet’s treatment of Palestinian health in the period 2001-2014, Daisy Barton, a spokeswoman for Horton, wrote the Post on Wednesday by email, “The report from NGO Monitor covers much old ground and raises issues that we have already addressed in existing publications (which are available here: http://www.thelancet.com/ gaza-letter-2014-responses). We reject unreservedly the report’s allegations that The Lancet has ostracized or demonized the Israeli medical community.

Indeed, Dr. Horton is looking forward to continuing the journal’s very productive collaboration on a Lancet series about Israeli medicine with Israeli doctors this month during his planned visits to Haifa, Beersheba and Tel Aviv.”

When the Post asked to speak to Horton because the comment provided was general and did not address the full list of allegations in the NGO Monitor study, Barton said, “Dr. Horton is not available for interview; as stated in my previous email, we have no further comments on the matter at this time.”

Yitzhak Santis, NGO Monitor’s chief programs officer, told the Post on Thursday, “This non-response by the Lancet (and its parent company Elsevier) fails to address any of the outstanding issues, particularly the need to completely repudiate the infamous Gaza open letter, retract it from the Lancet’s website, and apologize for its publication.”

He added, “The ethical violations related to The Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance are not limited to the partnership with Bir Zeit University [north of Ramallah] and its ban on Jews, but extend to how the Lancet has been exploited by anti-Israel activists. This also includes the intensely anti-Israel NGO known as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) that also plays a key role in the LPHA.

“We welcome Dr. Horton on his second Israel visit. Nonetheless, as long as he refuses to retract the Gaza letter, the ethical stain continues to expand and the Lancet and Elsevier cannot be considered to be acting in compliance with norms of scientific and ethical publishing,” Santis said.


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