During a three-day visit to Israel, where he toured medical facilities and met researchers and doctors, Lancet editor Richard Horton seems to have undergone a change of heart about the country, which has been frequently vilified in the pages of the medical journal.
Last month The Telegraph reported:
In August, [The Lancet] published a controversial “open letter for the people of Gaza” that condemned Israel in the strongest possible terms, but strikingly made no mention of Hamas’ atrocities.
The five principal authors of the letter made it clear that they had “no competing interests”. However, all of them have campaigned vociferously for the Palestinian cause over many years.
In addition, a cache of emails openly available in Google groups show that two of the authors, Dr Paola Manduca and Dr Swee Ang, have sympathies with the views of David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.
Dr Swee Ang, an orthopaedic surgeon, and Dr Manduca, a professor of genetics at the University of Genoa in Italy – who are both members of pro-Palestine NGOs – sent round-robin emails to their contacts promoting a video entitled “CNN Goldman Sachs & the Zio Matrix”.
The video features an extended anti-Semitic rant by Duke, in which he claims that “the Zionist Matrix of Power controls Media, Politics and Banking” and that “some of the Jewish elite practices racism and tribalism to advance their supremacist agenda”.
At the time Horton called the objections to the letter “irrelevant” and “a smear campaign.”
But his first-hand look at Israeli medicine seems to have caused a turnabout.
At the end of his three-day visit with senior researchers and physicians at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, Horton said his visit to Israel was “a turning point for me and my relationship with this region.”
Horton promised to write positively in the next edition of the British journal next week.
“I am proud and humbled to be here… I’ve learned a great deal: Rambam as a model of the partnership between Jews and Arabs; Rambam as a center offering an open hand to the people of Palestine; and Rambam as a place with a unique vision for a peaceful, productive, and diverse future among peoples,” Horton said.
Horton told an audience at Rambam:
“I need, very honestly, to set the record straight with you. First, I deeply regret the completely unnecessary polarization that publication of the letter by Paola Manduca caused… Second, I was personally horrified at the offensive video that was forwarded by two of the authors of that letter. The world view expressed in that video is abhorrent and must be condemned, and I condemn it.” He was met with applause.
Horton also met with Israeli Health Minister Yael German.
We’ll have to see how this all plays out. Even if the Lancet starts taking a more positive approach to Israel, there are still issues with Horton’s editorship. But well done to the officials at Rambam Medical Center for reaching out a hand to Horton instead of writing him off as a hopeless case. And well done to Horton for grasping that hand.