Anyone who is not a racist or a bigot has been outraged by Donald Trump’s apparent failure to categorically condemn David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.
What is less widely known is a scandal with similar reverberations involving the British medical journal, “The Lancet.”
The scandal began when ” An Open Letter for the People of Gaza” was published in the Lancet online on July 23 2014. The letter was so prejudiced against Israel and Israeli Jews that it created a storm of responses. Physicians and academics from the US, Canada, Australia, Britain and Israel called the Lancet to task for “the grossly irresponsible and damaging misuse of The Lancet for political purposes”.
More than 1200 Canadian physicians signed a disapproving petition. Critics noted that the Lancet “has also been a major source of immoral demonization and political warfare against Israel. Under Dr. Richard Horton, editor since 1995, it has published numerous pseudo-scientific articles falsely accusing Israel of war crimes, including causing birth defects among Palestinians.”
The Daily Telegraph later reported that two of the authors of the infamous letter, Dr. Paola Manduca and Dr. Swee Ang Chai, had promoted views of David Duke the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard. Horton responded on October 11, 2014:
“I was later horrified to discover that two co-authors of the letter had forwarded a vile and offensive video. The clearly anti-Semitic worldview expressed in that video is abhorrent and deserves universal condemnation. There are lessons to learn. For example, in the case of the Manduca et al letter, important interests should have been declared earlier” .
However, there was no acknowledgement that the content of the letter was biased, containing political and prejudicial statements that were non-scientific and unsubstantiated.
The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, himself had a clear conflict of interest, stemming from his commitment to the Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance, a collaboration with Birzeit University.
A quick search of the Lancet index from 1989 to the present identified 93 articles on Gaza, 32 on the West Bank, 83 on Israel, and 4 about the “Occupied Territories” for a total of 212 articles. Almost all of these were critical of Israel.
By contrast there were 86 articles on Afghanistan over the same time frame, of which only one was critical of British occupying forces.
THE COMMITTEE ON PUBLICATION ETHICS
Complaints were made to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) about the decision to publish the “Open Letter” in a scientific journal. The publication appeared to violate the COPE Code of Conduct for editors and publishers. Editors’ decisions to accept a paper for publication should be based on the paper’s validity and its relevance to the remit of the journal. Editors are required to ensure that peer review at their journal is fair and unbiased.
Journals are required to have systems for managing their own conflicts of interest, as well as those of their staff, authors, reviewers and editorial board members
The Lancet has admitted that there was no peer review or due diligence on this matter. There was no identification of conflicts of interest when the letter was published.
The authors and The Lancet failed to disclose the authors’ conflicts of interest.
Indeed, the letter had no relevance to a medical journal but was propaganda plain and simple.
COPE however deemed that the decision to publish the article was “an editorial decision” and as such, was beyond the remit of what COPE could comment on.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS CASE.
The Lancet scandal is just one example of the racism and prejudice against Israel and Jews that has become acceptable among certain elite segments of the British establishment (e.g., the BBC, Oxford University, the Labour Party). The misery and mayhem perpetrated by the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan are given relatively short shrift in the Lancet. The appalling living circumstances and deprivation of human rights imposed on Palestinians by Hamas in Gaza are denied. Racist and gender apartheid regimes in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt are given a free pass.
Oh, and by the way did I mention that Richard Horton was a founding member of COPE?