On July 2, 2010 The Lancet published what it billed as “the best peer-reviewed abstracts” from a meeting of the 2nd Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance Conference.
HonestReporting’s research into the contributors of this multi-article series revealed a shocking who’s who of the anti-Israel boycott-divestment-sanctions movement (BDS for short).
One article claimed that hundreds of Jewish settlers, escorted by Israeli police, stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the day of the conference. Another article claimed without verification that the IDF shelled ambulances during the Gaza war. And this article blamed Israel for all the deficiencies of Palestinian health care in general.
One particular criticism of The Lancet, however, came from CBC ombudsman Kirk LaPointe. After the CBC picked up on the Palestinian malnutrition issues discussed in The Lancet, LaPointe, in an email with one HonestReporting reader, presciently noted:
In this case, I believe the public would have benefited at the outset from the inclusion of wider data to suggest how malnutrition among schoolchildren in the territories compares with data elsewhere. In an era of immense available information, the media have a responsibility to employ context to help the public understand a bigger picture. I would suggest a clarification be included in the body of the story to help readers understand how the territories compare with other countries and regions.
The question might arise: If this information had been taken into account in the first instance, would the story at all have been covered?
What happened to the scrutiny of peer review setting a high bar on what gets published in medical journals like The Lancet?
The Lancet failed on all accounts - it has unfortunately been hijacked by anti-Israel sympathisers and can no longer be relied on for fair and balanced studies when it comes to Israel. Given what Israel contributes to world medicine this brings into question The Lancet's whole editorial policy.
It should bear a government health warning on its front page no less conspicuous than those adorning cigarette packets.