The Brits aren’t alone in their politicization of science. But because of the long ancestry of their journals and the reflexive respect they command, the British organs are looked up to as role models; when they allow ideology to trump accuracy and objectivity, they give encouragement to insalubrious elements in other research entities.
And so now the gangrene is everywhere, even in my own backyard. Canadian scientific scholarship is generally widely respected and used to be entirely credible. But as early as 2004 the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published an article, “Prevalence of Psychological Morbidity in West Bank Palestinian Children,” whose thrust is to blame the Israeli occupation for the psychological problems of Palestinian children. The methodology is transparently shoddy and no attempt is made to obscure the partisanship governing the focus. Any objective study would have sought to compare data about the suffering of Israeli children under constant threat of (and actual) terrorism. Worse, from a scientific point of view, not a single one of the authors is academically accredited in psychology or psychiatry. It took months before a letter of rebuttal was accepted for publication. By then the damage was done.
It’s too bad these medical journals don’t choose to highlight the amazing medical benefits Israel has brought to Palestinians. As detailed in a May 30, 2009, study by U.S. medical researchers Ted H. Tulchinsky et al., Palestinians in the territories boast the lowest age- and sex-standardized mortality rate per 100,000 of all Middle Eastern Arab populations. Since 1972 immunization coverage in the territories has reached 99%. Polio and measles have been eradicated. Life expectancy rose from 54 in 1970 to 73 in 2007. Major sanitation and disease-control projects have reduced morbidity and hospital admissions.
And of Israeli and North American doctors giving of their time and expertise to improve the medical lot of Palestinians, there seems to be no end. Some Toronto heart surgeons, to cite but one shining example, 10 years ago founded a strictly non-political, non-sectarian group called Save a Child’s Heart (SACH), whose motto is “mending hearts, building bridges.” Headquartered at Woolfson Hospital in Tel Aviv, with satellite offices in the U.S., the UK, and Germany, SACH has operated on 2,100 children from 35 different countries at a cost of about $10,000 per child. Almost half of them are from neighboring Arab countries, including the West Bank, of course. Money raised by SACH also goes to train foreign medical teams. During the Gazan conflict, an infant nephew of the Hamas minister of defense was brought in for urgent heart surgery.
Why don’t Lancet and the others choose to write the good medical news about Israel? They could start with Israel’s stellar performance following the recent earthquake in Haiti, where by all accounts the Israeli field hospital and human and material resources rose head and shoulders over every other country’s.
If the medical profession were a human body, any objective doctor would issue the obvious warning that if it wants to thrive — in academic terms, to be taken seriously by real scholars — it must cut off the gangrenous anti-Israel limb that has already turned black and stinks to high heaven.
Time is running out. Physicians, heal thyselves.