How credible are accusations about military tactics made by medical professionals who double as political activists? Not very credible, as recent outrage directed at The Lancet suggests. The British medical journal unethically politicized medicine when it published “An open letter for the people in Gaza,” providing scientific veneer to condemnation of Israel and its defensive actions in Gaza.
The letter—written by Drs. Mads Gilbert, Paola Manduca, and Swee Ang, all of whom are associated with highly politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—accuses Israel of carrying out a propaganda campaign that “justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre.” It makes unfounded allegations that Israel deliberately massacred civilians and uses illegal weaponry. No mention is made of Hamas, or its use of human shields. Israel’s right and obligation to defend its citizens against indiscriminate targeting by rocket fire is absent.
The article’s authors have no expertise in military law or tactics. Any sort of political, legal, or military analysis, such as an accusation of war crimes, is outside their competence. They have no evidentiary basis on which to allege that Israel is motivated by a desire to massacre civilians.
It is a wonder how anyone, let alone a highly regarded medical journal, could take these doctors as credible sources on the conflict. What we are witnessing is the “halo effect”—where NGOs perceived to promote good principles are shielded from scrutiny. Providers of medical assistance and relief enjoy an added degree of credibility, a “double halo effect,” and are rarely challenged on their biases or questioned statements’ accuracy.
This “double halo effect” was in full force for the letter writers, all of whom have extensive histories of acting as anti-Israel campaigners.
Thus, it is clear that the entirely unprofessional anti-Israeli letter published on July 23 is consistent with many other such biased articles published by The Lancet. For the medical professionals who publish in and rely on this platform for credible peer-reviewed research, this behavior strongly suggests finding another publisher.