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    Monday, November 08, 2004

    Politicization Watch: I missed this, but a couple of weeks ago, the prestigious British Medical Journal descended to the level of The Lancet (perhaps a bit lower) with this diatribe against Israel and the U.S. - evidently the European version of an "axis of evil." One can only shake one's head in wonder that anyone thought this belonged in a medical journal:

    Does the death of an Arab weigh the same as that of a US or Israeli citizen? The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number of people who died on September 11, 2001. In conducting 238 extrajudicial executions the army has also killed 186 bystanders (including 26 women and 39 children). Two thirds of the 621 children (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest—the sniper's wound. Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat. These statistics attract far less publicity than suicide bombings, atrocious though these are too.

    The article was appropriately savaged by the journal's readers. One pointed out that the author had published a similar piece at a Palestinian propaganda site. Another provided a link to video documentation from Reuters of Palestinian ambulance abuse. Others had scathing words for the journal:

    Like all good cowards, Summerfield and to some extent the BMJ editorial team, prefer to attack the easy target. The hideous human rights abuses across the Arab world, the stonings, beheadings and amputations, the mistreatment of women and other minority groups are all swept under the carpet. Sudan, China, Iran and a large part of the Muslim world are all seemingly ignored while Israel is lambasted. Then to cap it all, Summerfield calls people who defend Israel ‘morally corrupt’. Well Derek, that’s what the Jews would call ‘chutzpah’.

    I was one of the leaders of the "Supine" BMA [British Medical Association] who led it out of the WMA [World Medical Association] because of the readmission of the Apartheid- ridden Medical association of South Africa. Unlike Dr. Summerfield I am old enough to remember the root cause of the Israel-Arab conflict and why the refugee camps were established, and maintained. In 1948 the Arab League armies invaded Israel, and their radio urged Arabs -not Palastinians- to leave, and return behind their "victorious armies".

    No one disputes many Palestinians suffer terribly, and their lives are miserable. Those languishing in camps could have been rehabilitated by the wealthy Arab states many years ago but they were political pawns in the long term aim of destroying Israel. Persistent attempts to destroy Israel militarily failed, but the dogma, formulated at Khartoum in 1967, of no recognition, and no negotiation - of and with Israel- is still the basis of their policy and actions.

    I have sympathy for the Palestinian's plight. I have equal sympathy for those in Israel, and elsewhere, whose lives are blighted by the constant treat of suicide bombers and other terrorists. Much as I dislike the government of Ariel Sharon, sadly I accept that, at present, the "Wall" and its offensive presence is necessary.

    When rational people on both sides decide to do it, the Palestinian "problem" will be solved.

    .....I read Dr Summerfield's wholly political article in the BMJ with some sadness. The fact that it is totally biased and one-sided and fails to address a complex political situation leading to an ongoing urban war which is a tragedy for both sides is one issue. In my opinion the more important issue is that such political articles have no place in a respectable and respected medical journal which is demeaned by its publication.

    ....I have always enjoyed reading the BMJ. I have respected its principles of impartiality and fairness. I was horrified to read Summerfield's letter this week. It beggars belief that such an august publication as yours would print such a politically biased diatribe without evidence-based backup or even the opportunity for the other side of the argument to be aired.

    Please distance yourself from such vitriol. If I wish to read propaganda like this, I can avail myself of the gutter press! If Israeli and Palestinian doctors are to work together, either in the Middle East or abroad, then letters such as Summerfield's will hardly pour oil over troubled waters.

    In other words, stick to medical issues, not political ones!

    And this was particularly interesting:

    As a stamp collector, I found it interesting to collect certain themes. One was Israel and its relations with surrounding nations.

    As late as 1970 most Arab states were still issuing stamps with a dagger or blood covering Israel, with words in Arabic (for which I cannot vouch personally, but have ascertained with the help of those who can read Arabic) inciting the destruction of the Jewish state.

    The Israel Post Office on the other hand has more than recognised its Arab population, with stamps commemorating mosques, Moslem holidays and personalities.

    And this was on the mark:

    [I]t is inconceivable that something like this could be published if it were directed at anyone else than Israelis and Jews. Perhaps we can look forward to the appointment of a BMJ editor with something resembling integrity.



    posted by Sydney on 11/08/2004 07:30:00 AM 0 comments


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