The Lancet is a venerable and well-respected British medical journal. In August, it published an “open letter for the people of Gaza,” which harshly condemned Israel. Nothing terribly novel there, as both The Lancet and its rival, the British Medical Journal, have over the years published a series of tendentious attacks on Israel thinly disguised as reports on Palestinian health–judging from British medical journals, Palestinians’ health status is more important than everyone else in the world’s, combined. (UPDATE: I should note, though, that this particular letter barely even pretends to be on a medical subject, it’s almost pure political rant.)
What is new is that the Telegraph reports that two of the five authors of the open letter, Dr Swee Ang, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr Manduca, a professor of genetics at the University of Genoa in Italy, sent emails to their contacts endorsing a raving anti-Semitic video from David Duke entitled “CNN, Goldman Sachs & the Zio Matrix.” Dr Ang wrote: “This is a shocking video please watch. This is not about Palestine – it is about all of us!” Dr. Manduca, meanwhile, also “forwarded a message alleging that the Boston marathon bombings were in fact carried out by Jews.”
When contacted by the Telegraph, Dr. Ang said: “I didn’t know who David Duke was, or that he was connected to the Ku Klux Klan. I am concerned that if there is any truth in the video, that Jews control the media, politics and banking, what on earth is going on? I was worried.”
That’s more than Dr. Manduca could muster. She issued a statement denying being anti-Semitic, but apparently not distancing herself from the content of the video, instead stating that she was exercising her “right of freedom of opinion,” and to reiterate that she “does not agree or value the politics of the government of Israel, nor of many others, including Jews in and out of Israel.”
Is the Lancet the least bit embarrassed to have published the letter? Nope. “It’s utterly irrelevant. It’s a smear campaign,” the editor of the Lancet, Dr Richard Horton, told the Daily Telegraph. “I don’t honestly see what all this has to do with the Gaza letter. I have no plans to retract the letter, and I would not retract the letter even if it was found to be substantiated.”
UPDATE: NGO Monitor has documented Manduca’s nutty worldview, of which anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are only a start.
Contrary to what I wrote in the update earlier, the letter was published as “Correspondence,” not as a peer-reviewed article.
And commenter Loki wishes I had subsumed this post into a broader post, with the following structure (with some minor editing of the original):
A. Under leadership of Richard Horton, the Lancet has been gradually lowering their levels of scholarship for political reasons. This has resulted in terrible scandals. See, for example, Wakefield on autism.
B. Part of the partisanship has been increased coverage of Middle East conflicts, which have little to do with medicine.
C. These articles have been repeatedly criticized as being little more than propaganda; however, regardless of the merits, it is certain that they have little to do with medicine.
D. Together, we have a picture of an editor who is using a respected scientific journal to push a political point of view.
E. Recently, the Lancet published an “open letter” that purported to make many factual claims about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and advanced yet another political position.
F. Unsurprisingly, it has come out that two of the signatories to the open letter, and, in fact, two of the five authors, have been forwarding anti-Semitic videos, making the Lancet a forum for racist kooks to spout off about politics.
G. The editor of the Lancet needs to resign.
I think there are two scandals here. One is that the Lancet allows itself to be prostituted to political causes that are not essentially “medical” in nature. The second scandal is that Dr. Horton appears to be not the least bit embarrassed that he is publishing work by racists attacking a country run by the group in question. Because Jews.