Leading medical journal compares Israel to al Qaeda

October 18, 2004

* British Medical Journal, one of the world's leading medical publications, runs another anti-Israel diatribe
* Same British Medical Journal article also appears on pro-Hamas website
* Separately: the editor of "Diabetes Voice," the journal of The International Diabetes Federation, resigns after printing attack on Israel



1. Editor of the Journal "Diabetes Voice" resigns after magazine publishes political attack on Israel
2. The international Diabetes Federation apologizes for article in "Diabetes Voice"
3. British Medical Journal: "Palestine: The assualt on health and other war crimes"
4. British Medical Journal (Letters, October 17, 2004)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Yet again, the highly respected British Medical Journal (BMJ) – read the world over by leading physicians and others – has published an anti-Israel diatribe (issue of October 16, under the title "Palestine: The assault on health and other war crimes.")

This comes only days after Israeli chemists won the Nobel Prize.

Among the complete fabrications in his article, BMJ author, Dr. Derrick Summerfield (who is the "Honorary senior lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, London" and is also a British government employee), writes: "The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number of people who died on September 11, 2001... Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot to kill children..."

(In fact, the vast majority of Palestinians killed over the last four years have been armed, many perpetrating attacks on Israeli civilians at the time they were killed.)

In the guise of respectable scientific writing, the British Medical Journal allows its pages to be used to accuse Israel of war crimes, deliberate child-killing, illegal colonization, apartheid, and the destruction of "more than 60 000" Palestinian houses (another complete lie). In this supposedly academic article, there is no reference at all to any Palestinian culpability or to the enormous corruption by the Palestinian Authority, aided and abetted by the European Union and others, which has helped to damage the healthcare of ordinary Palestinians.

Attached below is Dr. Summerfield's article followed by heated correspondence for and against the article. One doctor says he does not wish to take issue with Summerfield's "skewed opinions and prejudices" but with "the Editorial team of the BMJ which can permit publication of such an inflammatory political diatribe." Some Jewish doctors are considering resigning from the BMA.

Not surprisingly, the same article by Dr. Summerfield appears at www.palestinecampaign.org/archives.asp?xid=1278 (The logo for this website has a map of Palestine containing all of Israel.)

Ironically, the paper following Dr Summerfield's in the same issue of BMJ (by Dr McNaughton from New Zealand) has a headline "We are not trained in the dark arts of politics".



NGO-Monitor, which tracks whether non-governmental organizations are living up to their stated bipartisan and charitable commitments, has severely criticized an article in "Diabetes Voice" ― the quarterly publication of the International Diabetes Federation ― which they said amounted to "a blatant political attack [on Israel] that has little or nothing to do with diabetes."

They state: "The one-sided and highly distorted version of history that is presented is based on the Palestinian version of events and vocabulary, and immorally ignores the brutality of Palestinian terrorism. It is also entirely inconsistent with the goals proclaimed by Diabetes Voice, the International Diabetes Federation, and Medecins Sans Frontires.

The editor-in chief of Diabetes Voice resigned over the matter; the abstract was re-written for the publication's archived website; and the International Diabetes Federation published an official apology (below).



In a very rare move (not matched by far worse culprits among editorial staff at the BBC, The Guardian and elsewhere) the magazine Diabetes Voice has apologized for printing anti-Israel propaganda. It reads as follows:


Diabetes Voice: an apology

The aim of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is to help people with diabetes everywhere in the world.

In the June 2004 issue of the official IDF Bulletin Diabetes Voice, Dr Panagiotis Tsapogas, Medical Co-ordinator of MSF (Médecins sans Frontières) in Gaza 2002-2003, reported on the challenges of living with diabetes in the Gaza Strip, expressed hope and called for help. Sadly, this article was preceded by an introductory paragraph, not written by Dr Tsapogas, which was intended to "set the scene". The paragraph, which had also been posted on the IDF website together with the Table of Contents of the said issue, expressed views which were not those of the IDF and was immediately removed from the website.

We regret the political tone of this introductory paragraph, which in no way represents the views of the Federation. On behalf of IDF and Diabetes Voice, we offer our unreserved apology to those who have been offended.

As bearing responsibility for the content of Diabetes Voice, the Editor-in-chief has offered his resignation which IDF has accepted.

We wish to affirm that the IDF as a Federation of 185 associations in 142 countries does not represent any political views and that its mission is to "promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide".

Pierre Lefèbvre, President, IDF
Martin Silink, President-elect, IDF
Philip Home, Editor-in-chief, Diabetes Voice



Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes
By Derek Summerfield
British Medical Journal
October 16, 2004


Does the death of an Arab weigh the same as that of a US or Israeli citizen? The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number of people who died on September 11, 2001. In conducting 238 extrajudicial executions the army has also killed 186 bystanders (including 26 women and 39 children). Two thirds of the 621 children (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest – the sniper's wound. Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat. These statistics attract far less publicity than suicide bombings, atrocious though these are too.

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the killing of Asma al-Mughayr (16 years) and her brother Ahmad (13 years) on the roof terrace of their home in Rafah on 18 May, each with a single bullet to the head. Asma had been taking clothes off the drying line and Ahmad feeding pigeons. Amnesty noted that the firing appeared to have come from the top floor of a nearby house, which had been taken over by Israeli soldiers shortly before. Amnesty suspects that this is not "caught in crossfire," this is murder.

Israeli military reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza – a system of military checkpoints splitting towns and villages into ghettos, curfews, closures, raids, mass demolition and destruction of houses (more than 60 000), and land expropriations – has made ordinary life impossible for everyone, and is driving Palestinian society and its institutions towards destitution. Moreover, Israel has been constructing a grotesque barrier that, when completed, will total over 400 miles – four times longer than the Berlin Wall. Extending up to 15 miles into Palestinian territory, the real purpose of the wall is permanently to lock more than 50 illegal Israeli settlements into Israel proper. This is expansive, aggressive colonisation, in defiance of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the United Nations General Assembly resolution of last July.

Last year a UN rapporteur concluded that Gaza and the West Bank were "on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe." The World Bank estimates that 60% of the population are subsisting at poverty level (£1.12; $2; 1.6 per day), a tripling in only three years. Half a million people are now completely dependent upon food aid, and Amnesty International has expressed concern that the Israeli army has been hampering distribution in Gaza. Over half of all households are eating only one meal per day. A study by Johns Hopkins and Al Quds universities found that 20% of children under 5 years old were anaemic, 9.3% were acutely malnourished, and a further 13.2% chronically malnourished. The doctors I met on a professional visit in March pointed to a rising prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women and low birthweight babies.

The coherence of the Palestinian health system is being destroyed. The wall will isolate 97 primary health clinics and 11 hospitals from the populations they serve. Qalqilya hospital, which primarily serves refugees, has seen a 40% fall in follow up appointments because patients cannot enter the city. There have been at least 87 documented cases (including 30 children) in which denial of access to medical treatment has led directly to deaths, including those of babies born while women were held up at checkpoints. The checkpoint at the entrance to some villages closes at 7 pm and not even ambulances can pass after this time. As a recent example, a man in a now fenced in village near Qalqilya approached the gate with his seriously ill daughter in his arms, and begged the soldiers on duty to let him pass so that he could take her to hospital. The soldiers refused, and a Palestinian doctor summoned from the other side was also refused access to the child. The doctor was obliged to attempt a physical examination, and to give the girl an injection, through the wire.

There are consistent reports of ambulances containing gravely ill people being hit by gunfire, or detained at checkpoints while drivers and paramedics are interrogated, searched, threatened, humiliated, and assaulted. Wounded men are abducted from ambulances at checkpoints and sent directly to prison. Clearly marked clinics are fired on, and doctors and other health workers shot dead on duty.

Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) have lambasted the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) for its silence in the face of these systematic violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which guarantees the right to health care and the protection of health professionals as they do their duty. Remarkably, IMA president Dr Y Blachar is currently chairperson of the council of the World Medical Association (WMA), the official international watchdog on medical ethics. A supine BMA appears in collusion with this farce at the WMA. Others are silenced by a fear of being labelled "anti-semitic," a term used in a morally corrupt way by the pro-Israel lobby in order to silence. How are we to affect this shocking situation, one which to this South African-born doctor has gone further than the excesses of the apartheid era.

Derek Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer
Institute of Psychiatry, London



British Medical Journal
October 17, 2004

[Letters can be submitted at bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/329/7471/924]

The other side of the Palestinian tragedy

Michael L. Loren,
Lee's Summit, Missouri 64064
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Re: The other side of the Palestinian tragedy
15 October 2004

All of us should hope that the Israel and the Palestinians will come to peace rapidly and stop the bloodshed. This is not a one sided war. Many Israeli children and Adults have been slaughtered by terrorists and suicide bomb killers. Israel is forced to search out and destroy terrorist elements that hid in crowded areas among innocents. And innocent children and adults die. This is the tragedy. New Arab leadership is needed to stop the violence and suicide bombings and convince their people that peace is the only alternative. Finally, there has been no evidence that Israeli soldiers have been trained to shoot directly at innocent children.


Palestine: "war crimes"

Kenneth Lancer,
Private Medical Practitioner
Gardeners Cottage Shenley Park,
Radlett Lane Shenley Herts WD7 9JP
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Re: Palestine: "war crimes"

15 October 2004

Sir, I found Derek Summerfield's "personal views" article (BMJ 16th October) extremely disturbing. The account is a highly biased political statement without any reference to any Palestinian culpability. I do not, however, wish to take issue with any of his skewed opinions and prejudices. It is rather with the Editorial team of the BMJ which can permit publication of such an inflammatory political diatribe. I feel I may need to reconsider my membership of the BMA (as will no doubt many others) unless an apology is forthcoming.


The truth is not so one-sided

William L Jackson,
Washington, DC 20307
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Re: The truth is not so one-sided

15 October 2004

If reading Summerfield's rant in a vacuum, one would be tempted to think violence and provocation in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a purely one-sided affair. Everybody knows this is not the case, and failure to even briefly recognize the barbarous atrocities that move Israel to self-preservative acts is dishonest and serves only to deepen mistrust. Moreover, Summerfield's last sentence begs the following questions: Why didn't those subjected to the disgraceful injustices of apartheid respond with similar homicidal and genocidal means? Were they less humiliated, oppressed or squalid? Or did they simply have an appreciation for human life, unaffected by twisted religious and racial ideology, that didn’t allow for such barbarity?


Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

Giovanni David Zoanetti,
Medical Scientist
Adelaide, Australia. 5006
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Re: Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

15 October 2004

I find the almost rabid nature of Derek Summerfield's article not only grossly biased but unhelpful. I look forward to some authoritative responses, but wish to make a few personal comments.

To suggest that the Israeli military has in some way given the green light to target Palestinian civilians is ridiculous. Yes, there are tragically innocent victims, but this will occur when the terrorists hide among their population. Indeed, they realise it is great publicity world-wide when there are innocent victims. If Israel did not care about civilian casualties, surely it would adopt a policy similar to the Palestinian suicide bombers or simply carpet bomb areas. Why bother sending in soldiers and risking their lives?

If Palestinians did not continually use ambulances to transport terrorists and weapons, there would be no need for the Israelis to stop and search them. If Palestinian homicide bombers did not kill and maim hundreds of Israelis there would be no need for a fence. If the Palestinian Authority was not so corrupt and incompetent some of the many millions of dollars donated to them could be put to good use.

The response to Ehud Barak's offer of around 97% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, etc, was for Arafat to turn up the terror and in so doing deprive many of his constituents of employment in Israel. The Palestinian people have continually been failed and hoodwinked by their leaders. More and more people around the world have come to realise this fact. What about Derek Summerfield? Israel is not entirely blameless for the mess and must take steps to ensure a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians. Leaving Gaza as Sharon wishes would be good. It would be good if the Palestinians would reject terrorism, stop inciting their population (starting in kindergarten) to violence and hatred and present themselves back at the peace table.


BMA should campaign on Palestine

Peter M Neville,
Consultant Physician
Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, NP7 9ET
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Re: BMA should campaign on Palestine

16 October 2004

I am writing to heartily congratulate Dr Summerfield for his brave comments (Personal View, 16/10/2004) on the gross abuses of human rights that have been taking place in occupied Palestine for many years. His comments are brave because I predict that your email box will rapidly be submerged in messages condemning him (unjustly) as anti-Semitic and/or ill -informed. For the record, I support the existence of the state of Israel, but do not recognise its right to systematically deny the Palestinians all the trappings and rights of a civilised society.

I endorse his appeal to the BMA to campaign on this issue. It is the responsibility of the BMA, as representatives of the British medical profession, to speak out about the abuses taking part on a daily basis in occupied Palestine. The standard political justification for the treatment meted out to Palestine is that it is in the interests of Israeli self- defence. I am certain that had the British government taken a similar view at the peak of the Northern Irish problem, and started aerial bombardment of Catholic areas of Ulster cities, the overall death toll (on both 'sides') would have been far higher, and the international opprobrium far louder. The effects on mental health of the policies described are also incalculable and will inevitably cause polarisation of opinion, and ever worsening atrocities from a population who have no other means of protest.

The astounding aspect of this whole story is that it has been well- covered and described in many international newspapers, but the story has completely failed to generate any international government-led protest. There is an international culture of silence at the highest levels with regard to this issue.

Many independent authorities recognise that the long-standing human rights abuses in Palestine (and failure of UN enforcement of its own decrees), is a (the?) major cause of anti-Western resentment and hatred in the Middle East, yet this issue is almost never mentioned when discussions of terrorist motivation are heard (all too rarely). Palestine is the 'elephant in the corner' that everybody is aware of yet nobody will acknowledge. I appeal to the BMA to consider campaigning on this issue.
Yours sincerely

Peter M Neville Consultant Physician Nevill Hall Hospital Abergavenny Monmouthshire Peter.Neville@gwent.wales.nhs.com


The truth hurts

Ali Riza,
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Re: The truth hurts

16 October 2004

May I congratulate Dr Derek Summerfield for this honest and truthful account of the terrible tragedy the Palestinians are living under?

I find most responses to this article disgusting. It is obvious that there is a grave attempt to justify these war crimes committed by the Israeli army against Palestinian women and children.

Israel occupies Palestinian land. Israeli government is in violation of over 121 united nation resolutions condemning Israeli abuse of Palestinian human rights and asking of immediate withdrawal of the occupying terrorists from Palestinian land. What’s happening to the Palestinians now is a crime that the world should not turn a blind eye for.

I am not going to bother replying to responders to the article above, as their intentions are clear. I hope that most readers agree that we should try to help the Palestinians survive through and protect their women and children. We should ask the UN to send a peacekeeping force to Palestine NOW and before it is too late.


Obedience to international law

Mark Struthers,
Bedfordshire, UK. mark.struthers@which.net
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Re: Obedience to international law

16 October 2004

There is something curiously depressing about the predictable outrage and denial engendered by Derek Summerfield’s personal view on war crimes and the health of the Palestinian people.

Americans and Israelis know what will bring a lasting peace to the Middle East and security to the State of Israel.

In 1967, after the Six Day War, the United Nations made it clear what had to be done. Resolution 242 passed by the UN on 22 November 1967 emphasised the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. The UN determined that Israel would give up occupied territory in return for peace with the Arabs. The Arabs signed up to 242 and fully realised that it was a tacit acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist.

The US, as always, shows utter contempt for international law and international convention. Israel now follows its master’s footsteps with complete impunity in its suicidal war on terror. Both countries stand as outlaws, as international renegades. The entire world can see that the life of an Arab is not the equivalent of that of an Israeli or a US citizen – the disgraceful actions in Iraq are testament to that – where revenge, humiliation and violent retaliation have been the driving force.

What if ... the Palestinians stopped the atrocious suicide bombing that targets innocent Israeli citizens? Would Israel obey resolution 242 and leave the occupied territories? Israel is building a 400-mile wall extending deep into Palestinian territory with the purpose of locking more than 50 illegal settlements into a greater and permanent Israel. No one in the world believes that Israel intends to obey international law after nearly 40 years of obstruction and sabotage: why should the Palestinians?

The State of Israel, protected as ever by the Americans, will not fall to suicide bombers. When Israel withdraws completely from the occupied territories and complies with all humanitarian laws and principles, there will be peace. America understands simplicity. This is simple.


Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

Ahmed Alsaidi,
Sr.consultant in Rheumatology
The Royal hospital, Muscat.Oman
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Re: Palestine: teh assault on health and other war crimes

17 October 2004

I would like to thank and congragulate Dr. D.Summerfild for his article which has shed some light on the daily suuffering of the Palestenian civelians under the Israili occupation.No doubt his and the BMJ e-mails will be pomparded by letters labling him as "anti-semetic" and accusing him of beeing baised against the"threatened" state of Israil! which is the most heavily armed and the only neuclear power in the region Over the last 10 days alone more than 120 Palestinians were killed by the Israili army many of them were children,including a 13 years old school- girl, and elderly men and women ,in addition to the destrucion of many houses and other properties.This was barely mentioned in the western media. For those who are interested in the international law ,Israil has NOT implimented a single United Nation resolution issued against it. And instead of sanctions ,the state of israil continued to recieve unlimeted support from the Unite States of America, which encourages it to continue its attrocities against the Palestinians.



Gerald M. Fraser,
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Unit
Department of Gastroenterology, Rabin Medical Center, Petach Tikva, Israel
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Re: Unbalanced

17 October 2004

The dividing line between "reasonable force" and "excessive force" used to protect your citizens is rather dependent where you are located geographically. Dr. Summerield in London cannot begin to understgand the feelings of Israelis who are under constant threat of suicide bombers and are exposed to rocket attacks in the south. The death of any civilian let alone a child is a cause for the deepest regret. However, civilians are being killed on both sides. Whatever Dr. Summerield thinks about Israeli policy, Israelis do not condone the deliberate and indescriminate blowing up of a child or civilian and certainly do not go out into the streets to rejoice as do the Palestinians. It is the Palestinians that restarted the intifada 4 years ago, not Israel. That events have not turned out as Palestinian leaders had hoped, clearly appears to be a source of frustration to many beyond the borders of the region.


Misuse of the columns of the BMJ

Joy Wolfe,
No relevant medical postion Governor of a special needs college
24 Marchbank Drive Cheadle Cheshire SK8 1QY
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Re: Misuse of the columns of the BMJ

17 October 2004

How Sad that the BMJ should allow itself to become a vehicle for an ill-informed and largely inaccurate diatribe against Israel.

What place does this have in a respected medical journal I realise that the author of this piece sought to legitimise it by giving it an minimal medical link, but most of the article is an anti Zionist attack bordering on antisemitism.

It would not be so bad if the statistics and allegations in Derek Summerfield's piece were accurate and honest, but they are largely questionable at best and downright incorrect at worst.

Where he got his statistic on so-called extradicial killings I will never know, any more than his misguided opinion on the objective of Israel's security fence.

As for Israel damaging Palestinian health, it is here more than anywhere Summerfield demonstrates his ignorance. With Israeli help there has been a huge improvement in many areas of Palestinian health, not least in the infant mortality rate and in eliminating a number of life-threatening diseases.

Israel has been responsible for sending Palestinian children abroad for life-saving treatment, and may I suggest that a visit to any Israeli hospital where many Palestinian and Arab patients are treated alongside their Israeli neighbours would give the lie to spurious allegations.

His total lack of understanding about the purpose of the security fence is clearly shown, and his list of allegations about its effect is highly exaggerated. No-one denies that the fence does inconvenience the Palestinians, but Summerfield conveniently overlooks the fact that the only reason it has been erected is to curb Palestinian terrorism, something that it has largely been successful in achieving, and which has been welcomed by the leaders of many Israeli Arab villages which are also protected by the fence. But maybe Summerfield does not think the lives of Israeli women and children on buses, in cafes, discos and their homes are worth protecting.

While Palestinian terrorists continue to use ambulances and UN vehicles to transport terrorists and suicide belts, (Reuters video May 2004) Israel is intent on protecting her citizens from terror.

I am deeply saddened that so many Palestinian children have been the victims of this senseless Intifada unleashed by Yasser Arafat, but if they were not cynically used to be among the terrorists as human shields and if they were not incited through their school books and summer camps to want to kill Jews, the casualty list of accidental deaths would have been far lower. The use of children as suicide bombers, the worst example being a boy with learning difficulties who was told this was his only chance of having sex, is nothing short of child abuse.

How sad that a man in the medical profession should care so little about accuracy in his clear desire to blacken Israel and propound his anti Zionist viewpoint. Joy Wolfe Manchester UK



Alan Ferris,
GP Extraordinaire
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Re: Palestinians

17 October 2004

I am outraged that such a one-sided article should appear in the BMJ.... but then it would appear that Dr Summerfield is not really unbiassed. The same article appears almost word for word at www.palestinecampaign.org/archives.asp?xid=1278
which is a more appropriate place for such an outrageous cr*p. Others with better verbal skills than I will respond, I am almost speechless, but I would like to ask the BMJ:
Are there not rules about duplicate publication?



Raymond Million,
Consultant Rheumatologist (retired)
11 St John Street Manchester M34DW
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Re: Palestine

17 October 2004

Dr Summerfield may be right in his bald presentation of facts but in so doing may be skewing reality by the apparent unscientific omission of background.

No sane person can justify damage and death to innocent people.

It is well that his article appears under the title "Personal View" which it might be claimed exonerates him from the publication of "personal bias".

History reveals that the United Nations created the state of Israel and the following day the Arab nations declared a state of war which continues to the present day. Inevitably, as exemplified by a multitude of bitter conflicts throughout the world since that date, prejudice, bias and dishonour are rampant. Just as there can be no justification for the horrors examplified in Dr Summerfield's paper, neither can there be any exoneration for rocket attacks on innocent communities, for the abuse of ambulances in the concealment of terrorists, for the ghastly self- destruction and wholesale indiscriminate murder via suicide bombing.

It is beyond the clinical remit to introduce politics to a medical journal but having done so, it merits balanced response. It is of note that the paper following Dr Summerfield's in the same issue by Dr McNaughton from New Zealand has a headline "We are not trained in the dark arts of politics". Authors please note.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.