A senior Israeli scientist has resigned from an advisory board of prestigious medical journal ‘Lancet’ and accused the editor of publishing an open letter criticising Israel despite knowing that the authors had conflicts of interest.
Professor Eli Pollak, Sam and Ayala Zacks, Professorial Chair and Chairman of the Chemical Physics Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science (pictured), told bosses at publishing giant Elsevier that he was resigning as a member of the Advisory Editorial Board of Chemical Physics.
In his resignation letter to the publisher’s chairman, chief executive and vice-president, Pollak said he felt saddened that he could no longer lend his name “to an organisation which has failed to uphold minimal ethical standards”.
His forced departure is the latest show of anger from within the medical profession, after the Lancet published “An open letter for the people of Gaza” on 28 July, in the middle of the conflict.
Among the 24 authors were prominent Italian geneticist Prof. Paola Manduca, British health services researcher Sir Iain Chalmers, London psychiatrist Dr. Derek Summerfied, Singaporean medic Swee Ang and Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert.
Several of the authors went to Gaza to volunteer during the fighting, with Ang recalling how she was “taken aside, interrogated in a very humiliating way for three hours, detained, and then deported”.
Furthermore, it was later revealed that Manduca and Ang had previously circulated a link to a video clip featuring an anti-Semitic diatribe by David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.
In the July letter, they wrote: “We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called ‘defensive aggression’. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity.”
They also said that the use of gas by the IDF – if proven – would be a war crime and that “high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe”.
Pollak is one of several scientists and clinicians to have taken exception to the letter, denouncing the “false facts, half truths and unscientific one‐sidedness” which he said “branded Israel for Nazi-type war crimes, without having a shred of evidence”.
But in his resignation, Pollak went further, accusing the editor of having known about “personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) the authors’ actions. “The letter of Manduca et al ended with the statement ‘We declare no competing interests,’” said Pollak.
“This was far from the truth, and the editor of the Lancet must have known this.”
Last week Lancet editor Prof. Richard Horton sought to make amends as he went to Israel to express his “deep regret” to Israeli doctors over the journal’s letter.
Addressing clinicians at the Rambam hospital in Haifa, he said: “I deeply deeply regret the completely unnecessary polarisation that publication of the letter by Paolo Manduca did… this outcome was definitely not my intention.”