Tag Archives: Richard Horton

Professors for Israel try to shut down Lancet

25 Apr

richard-hortonRichard Horton, editor of the medical journal, The Lancet, under attack.

By Jonathan Cook, 24 April 2015

[For a previous report on earlier attacks on the Lancet – see kiaoragaza.net post on 17 October 2014. Ed]

Academia is far from the bastion of free thinking and free speech it would like to claim for itself, as a newly confected “row” involving the leading medical journal The Lancet confirms.

Recently Southampton University in the UK caved in on hosting an important conference examining Israel and international law, following an intensive campaign of intimidation from Israeli apologists.

Now some 400 medical professors are blackmailing Reed Elsevier, publishers of The Lancet, by threatening to boycott its publications unless the company sacks editor Richard Horton – or as they duplicitously phrase it, “enforce appropriate ethical standards of editorship”.

By refusing to publish papers or peer review them, the professors, including five Nobel winners, hope Reed Elsevier will capitulate from fear that such a boycott might bring it to its knees.

Why target Horton? Because he has committed the cardinal sin of transforming what was once a sleepy academic publication into a journal dealing seriously with global health issues, including – and here’s the rub – reporting on the medical implications for Palestinians of Israel’s occupation, especially its attack on Gaza last summer.

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How Israel’s apologists smear ‘doctors for terrorism’

17 Oct

richard-horton Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet

Ben White, Middle East Monitor, 15 October 2014

Lobbying the Lancet: how Israel’s apologists smeared ‘doctors for terrorism’

Over 50 days in July-August, the Israeli army subjected the 1.8 million residents of the fenced-in, blockaded Gaza Strip to an unprecedented assault. 2,131 Palestinians were killed, including 501 children. At least 142 families lost three or more family members in the same incident. Israel’s attacks left 11,231 injured, including 3,436 children – many now have permanent disabilities.

The aerial bombing and shelling destroyed or otherwise damaged 55,650 housing units in the Gaza Strip – a third of those were left uninhabitable. 62 hospitals and clinics, 220 schools, and 419 businesses and workshops were also damaged by the Israeli army’s firepower.

This “carnage”, this “killing of children and the slaughter of civilians”, in the words of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, has produced substantial evidence of Israeli war crimes, as documented and reported on by Palestinian eyewitnesses, local NGOs, Israeli groups like B’Tselem and Adalah, as well as international organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

A letter in The Lancet

Two weeks after ‘Operation Protective Edge’ began, a letter by 24 medical professionals was published in medical journal The Lancet, “denouncing” the attack on Gaza. The co-signatories cited the Israeli army’s tactics and their impact on the Palestinian population, and the political context in which the assault was taking place. Readers were invited to add their own signatures, and 20,000 did so in just one week (the names are no longer displayed due to concern “about several threatening statements to those signatories, which have recently been posted on social media.)” [See article posted on this website http://www.kiaoragaza.net on 23 July 2014 “Open letter:Doctors denounce Israeli violence in Gaza”. Ed]

ICRC visit besieged Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al Balah - Gaza

The backlash was severe. The Israeli government led calls for the letter to be removed from the journal’s website, as Health Minister Yael German attacked the “one-sided and political” text. “Israel did not go to war to kill,” she said, even as Gaza was being pummelled by airstrikes and artillery fire. Health Ministry Director-General Arnon Afek slammed the letter as “a radical, one-sided scandal, which borders on a blood libel”, and promised: “We will launch a harsh protest against the journal.”

Soon a petition was drawn up, declaring a boycott of the Lancet until Richard Horton was dismissed from his position as Editor. Threatening the Lancet and its publisher Elsevier with “various options” including a wider boycott and cancellation of subscriptions, the petition concluded by claiming that the medical journal was “indirectly supporting terrorist organizations.”

The petition was widely shared, with U.S.-based cardiologist Ori Ben-Yehuda gathering support via his email address at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation. Canada’s Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies urged a retraction and investigation, while pro-Israel advocacy group ‘Scholars for Peace in the Middle East’ accused the letters’ authors of “financial and intellectual links to terrorism.” Horton received numerous other letters, often copying in the journal’s ombudsman.

The backlash intensifies

Leading the charge was NGO Monitor, an Israel advocacy group which smears human rights defenders, and whose head Gerald Steinberg has worked for the Israeli government. During the first half of August, NGO Monitor published an item on The Lancet’s “history of exploiting medicine for political warfare against Israel”, a separate piece on the “anti-Israel campaigners” behind the letter, and a Steinberg op-ed in Israel Hayom under the title: ‘Doctors for terrorism.’ Yet almost a month on from the original publication of the letter, there was no indication – at least in public – that The Lancet was going to buckle under pressure.

Israel’s apologists got their ‘breakthrough’ when NGO Monitor found that letter author Dr. Paola Manduca had forwarded an email to a Google group on August 14 from fellow signatory Dr. Swee Ang, containing a link to a video by former Ku Klux Klan-leader David Duke. On September 1, NGO Monitor shared this with senior executives of The Lancet’s publisher Elsevier, copying in, amongst others, Richard Horton, the journal’s advisory board and ombudsman, and “members of the media.”

This discovery was publicised on NGO Monitor’s website in Hebrew on September 1 and in English on September 10 – but it attracted little attention until a report appeared in the UK’s Telegraph on September 22 under the headline: ‘Lancet ‘hijacked in anti-Israel campaign’.’ This article was written by Jake Wallis Simons, a journalist who has quoted from and cited NGO Monitor in previous attacks on Oxfam and Israeli soldiers’ whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence. Among the first to share the article after Simons tweeted it out – the Israeli embassy in London and NGO Monitor itself.

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