The controversy surrounding The Lancet, a British medical journal edited by Richard Horton, and its central role in targeting Israel continues to be an important and evolving issue. Last July, during the war with Hamas, The Lancet published an egregious “Open Letter for the People of Gaza.” As detailed by NGO Monitor, The Lancet has a history of exploiting health for anti-Israel advocacy, and two of the primary authors of the “Open Letter” – Drs. Paola Manduca and Swee Ang Chai – promoted an antisemitic video made by American white supremacist David Duke. As a result, Horton and his allies have sought to defend themselves and to vilify their critics.
The main critics consist of over 700 medical professionals under the framework of the Concerned Academics Group, who sent a detailed complaint to the publisher, Reed Elsevier. Led by Professor Sir Mark Pepys of University College London, they called on the publisher to retract the letter, issue an apology, and ensure that “any future malpractice at The Lancet is prevented.”
In response, a counter group, Hands off The Lancet, launched a media campaign to vilify Pepys and Horton’s other critics. This self-serving group includes two authors of the “Open Letter,” — Sir Ian Chalmers and Dr. Mads Gilbert. They have previously been linked to promoting antisemitic rhetoric and expressing support for the September 11 terrorist attacks, respectively.
These issues are highlighted by the close cooperation between The Lancet and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), a UK-based NGO that also exploits false medical claims to demonize Israel, as documented by NGO Monitor research. Horton, Chalmers, and other allies in “Hands off The Lancet” are very active in MAP activities. The Lancet has published numerous “papers” authored by MAP activists, and Dr. Swee Ang Chai is MAP’s founder. (MAP has failed to respond to Swee Ang’s promotion of antisemitism and racism.)
As further shown in NGO Monitor’s detailed research (see links below), by refusing to seriously address the politicization of the journal and the antisemitism of some of its authors, Horton and The Lancet have demonized Israel, the Israeli medical community, and the Jewish people. The campaign to vilify top medical professionals seeks to silence criticism of The Lancet for exploiting its academic authority and prestige, providing a scientific veneer to politicized NGO claims, and stripping away a complex political context. This professionalism failure has repeatedly led to factual errors and legal distortions unconnected to medicine or science. Until these are addressed independently, the criticism will expand, and the credibility of The Lancet will decline further.
For further information, see NGO Monitor’s publications (links below). Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, is available for interview and comment.
Relevant NGO Monitor publications:
“Medical Aid for Palestinians: Politicizing Medicine, Inflaming Conflict” (March 15, 2015)
“Medical NGOs, Political Warfare and the Lancet” (September 23, 2014, updated January 22, 2015)
“Analysis of Medical NGO Agendas and Distortions on the Gaza Conflict” (July 28, 2014)
“The Lancet: How an Anti-Israel Propaganda Platform was Turned Around” (August-September 2017)