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Soft boycott: How the news of a revolutionary new cancer treatment was spun to hide its Israeli origins

The news of an amazing new treatment for prostate cancer shot around the world this week - but it was missing one important detail...

    Medical laser
    Medical laser iStock

    The past 24 hours have seen wall-to-wall coverage of an amazing breakthrough on prostate cancer. Newspapers, TV, radio and social media have all carried reports of the research.

    According to the BBC report:

    “Surgeons have described a new treatment for early stage prostate cancer as ‘truly transformative’. The approach, tested across Europe, uses lasers and a drug made from deep sea bacteria to eliminate tumours, but without causing severe side effects. Trials on 413 men - published in The Lancet Oncology - showed nearly half of them had no remaining trace of cancer.”

    And when I heard the report on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, I thought it does indeed sound amazing.

    But let’s leave the science aside and look at another aspect of the story.

    Guess where the breakthrough happened.

    I say that not as a figure of speech but as an instruction – because from almost all the coverage, you would indeed have to guess where the research was carried out: the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel.

    Not once in the Today programme report was it mentioned.

    And in this BBC report there is a throwaway line right at the end detailing the originators of the science.

    I wish I could believe this is just an honest mistake – that, purely by chance, the Israeli origins of a medical breakthrough had been left out. But I’m afraid I don’t think that – and I don’t think you will, either. It happens too often and too regularly for it to be pure chance. It’s what I call the soft-boycott strategy.

    The campaign for BDS is so obviously racist and antisemitic, singling out the Jewish homeland alone in the world for boycott, that some of those who would rather Israel doesn’t exist choose an alternative approach – ignoring anything remotely positive about Israel and focusing only on bad news that fits their anti-Israel agenda.

    And it is an unfortunate fact that many of those Israel haters work in the media and have the ability to shape perceptions.

    So the huge and entirely disproportionate number of Israeli scientific breakthroughs are reported as if they have simply happened by magic, with their Israeli origins ignored.

    The Weizmann Institute itself is in little doubt about this. As they told the JC: "We were naturally disappointed that the media coverage of game-changing treatment for prostate cancer managed to avoid any reference to Israeli scientists' fundamental role in this breakthrough treatment. 

    The discovery  of this drug called TOOKAD – meaning light in Hebrew - was the result of over fifteen years of painstaking research by Avigdor Scherz and Yoram Salomon at Israel’s Weizmann Insitute of Science. It was disappointing, but not entirely surprising, that the news providers should consider that fact unworthy of a mention."

    Not entirely surprising - a classic piece of British understatement from an Israeli. It means, of course, entirely predictable. Which is why this latest egregious example was far from the first, and will certainly not be the last.

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