The Lancet’s Negativity Toward Israel

The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, published two editorials critical of the Jewish state in the last two editions (March 9 and 16). These editorials represent a continuing pattern of negativity about Israel and its medical establishment in the journal. In October 2012 alone it published eight separate items on Israel.

The editorial on March 9 comments on the death in detention of Arafat Jaradat, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist group, who was held on suspicion of participating in a rock throwing incident that injured an Israeli. Palestinians officials claimed that Jaradat died under torture, while the Israelis claimed that he died of cardiac arrest. Israeli pathologists reported finding injuries to his chest but said they were consistent with what would result from CPR measures done in an attempt to resuscitate him. The Israelis have retained pathologists to investigate further.

The Lancet editorial adopted an accusatory tone, reflected by its title “Israeli doctors accused of collusion in torture.” British psychiatrist Derek Summerfield, leader of a decades long campaign to smear the reputation of Israeli medical practitioners, is quoted as stating,

By Israel’s own admission, Jaradat was seen by Israeli doctors 2 days earlier and they found him in good health. The key medical ethical question is what were these doctors examining him for, if not to assess whether he could withstand torture.”

Summerfield’s statement presumes Israeli guilt, even though he has no evidence. This is typical of Summerfield, who published an article in the British Medical Journal in 2004 titled, “Palestine: The Assault on Health and Other War Crimes” in which he accused the Israelis of killing Palestinians with impunity.

Summerfield’s imputing of nefarious motives to Israeli doctors suggests a deep-seated animosity towards the Jewish state. In an interview given to Al Ahram (August 14-28, 2008) he stated,

the most awful crime has been played out down there by a colonial power that considered itself part of Europe. They were grabbing Palestinians’ land and torturing them in ways that were reminiscent of South Africa but, as it turns out, far, far worse than South Africa.”

When asked if he has been called an anti-Semite, Summerfield replied,

“I’m called that all the time. It doesn’t inhibit me. If anything, it encourages me because it means I’m getting through to them.”

He added,

“Israel continues to play the Holocaust story and anti-Semitism as a way of blocking the truth.”

Summerfield advocates boycotts against Israel and wants to bar Israeli physicians from participating in international academic conferences. Apparently, to him, punishing the Jewish state’s medical practitioners by impeding their ability to exchange information with practitioners worldwide outweighs any benefits to worldwide health that such exchanges foster.

Even the Palestinians, whose cause Summerfield claims to champion, benefit immensely from their access to Israeli medical institutions. Thousands of Palestinians, including residents of Gaza, are treated by Israeli doctors and nurses every year. Fortunately, Israeli contributions to advancing the state of medicine are of such consequence that Summerfield’s efforts to isolate Israel has generated little support.

The following week, The Lancet published an editorial, “Protecting the rights of Palestinian children detained in Israel,” commenting on a UNICEF report criticizing Israel for its practices detaining Palestinian children and adolescents suspected of engaging in attacks against Israelis.
The UNICEF report, Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations states that Palestinian youths detained by the Israeli military have been subjected to “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” ill-treatment. The charges are serious, however, the actual report and the press release by UNICEF exhibit a distinctly more balanced tone than the editorial published in The Lancet.

The UNICEF report makes serious allegations about Israeli military detention practices, but avoids using inflammatory language. It comments favorably on steps Israel has taken to be in compliance with “international norms.”

UNICEF’s press release also reflected this balanced tone. Its lead stated, “UNICEF today outlined practical measures that could be adopted to improve the treatment of Palestinian children who are in contact with the Israeli military detention system.” It also concluded on an optimistic note, stating,

UNICEF welcomes some improvement in the treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military system over the past years, including raising the age when Palestinian children reach adulthood from 16 to 18 years. UNICEF will continue its engagement with Israeli military authorities to improve the safeguards that promote the rights and well-being of Palestinian children in military custody.

The Lancet< /I>, by contrast, contains none of this balance. Its lead diverges from the actual story, the UNICEF report, instead emphasizing the theme of Palestinian grievance:

“What it feels like to live here you ask? It’s like being a shadow of your own, caught on the ground, not being able to break out and you see yourself lying there, but you cannot fill the shadow with life.”

Alleged Israeli detention violations are characterized as “appalling acts.” But no such words are applied to Palestinian stone throwers. After mentioning the occasional use of Palestinian minors as suicide bombers, The Lancet informs that “most detainments are for throwing stones,” implying that it is not a serious crime. However, shattering the windshields of automobiles driven by unsuspecting civilian commuters is a very serious crime. Ironically, the day before The Lancet editorial appeared, an Israeli infant was critically injured in an automobile accident caused by Palestinian stone throwers.

The Lancet’s biased coverage of Israel and the Palestinians and its willingness to promote the anti-Israel message of Derek Summerfield seem out of place alongside serious, objective articles on medicine and medical science.

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