Editor of Lancet visits Israel following outcry over anti-Israel letter

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, which recently published an open letter to the people of Gaza accusing Israel of a “massacre,” is visiting Israel.

Dr. Richard Horton visited Rambam Medical Center in Haifa on Tuesday, where he was scheduled to meet with senior researchers and physicians at Rambam and the Technion’s Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.

The letter published in The Lancet during this summer’s conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, and signed by several dozen physicians from the West, also accused Israel of “cruel” and “vicious war crimes.” The letter was decried by physicians, researchers, and Israeli officials.

“The purpose of Horton’s visit is to provide a venue for academic discussions and meetings in Israel’s multicultural medical institutions that have strong medical cooperation agreements with the Palestinian Authority to treat people from the West Bank and Gaza,” Rambam said in a statement. “Some of the lectures and discussions will also examine the limits and appropriateness of freedom of political opinion in scientific journals, and openly consider and discuss the unilateralism of which The Lancet has been accused.”

“The trip will not provide Horton immunity from the justifiable moral outrage of Israelis, the Jewish community, and medical professionals,” said Yitzhak Santis, chief program officer at the media watchdog NGO Monitor. “Nor will it absolve Horton of his responsibility to correct his politicized, non-scientific editorial distortions. If he cannot do so, he should resign.”

“A visit to Israel cannot undo this lasting damage,” Santis added.

NGO Monitor last week unearthed evidence tying two of the letters’ authors to support for white supremacist David Duke.

“I don’t honestly see what all this has to do with the Gaza letter,” he told the British newspaper the Telegraph. “I have no plans to retract the letter, and I would not retract the letter even if it was found to be substantiated.”