In an article published in the Guardian (“Doctors demand Yoram Blachar resign as ethics chief over Israeli torture,” June 21, 2009), health editor Sarah Boseley publicized a campaign to remove an Israeli doctor as the head of the World Medical Association. Dr. Blachar, also the head of the Israeli Medical Association, is accused of “turn[ing] a blind eye to the involvement of [Israeli] medical staff in torture.”

Aside from the extremely prejudicial and offensive nature of the effort, based primarily on Blachar’s status as an Israeli and as the head of an Israeli institution, the allegations are rooted in the baseless and out-dated reports of Amnesty International and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). Their claims do not reflect the reality in Israel, and certainly not the reality of the Israeli Medical Association. In fact, the underlying accusation, the “involvement of medical staff in torture,” is never established beyond the NGOs.

This episode reveals the power of the “halo effect,” which grants credibility to NGOs that claim a human rights agenda and their allegations, and allows them to avoid scrutiny. Without any independent verification or confirmation, Amnesty’s and PCATI’s reports became the backbone of a smear campaign designed to generate pressure against Israel and promote a negative PR image of its policies. And Ms. Boseley reinforced this illusion by presenting the accusations as objective fact.