British medical journal The Lancet publishes issue devoted to Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The British medical journal The Lancet published a special issue on Israel three years after publishing an open letter that accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

The special issue, titled “Health in Israel: Progress and Challenges in a Region of Conflict,” was unveiled Monday in Tel Aviv. It was guest edited by A. Mark Clarfield of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and also staffed by Orly Manor of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy and Services Research and Zaher Azzam of the Rambam Health Care Campus.

The issue is part of The Lancet’s series of country analyses investigating progress toward universal health coverage, and explores the unique aspects of health and health care delivery in Israel. The papers, authored by academics and policymakers in Israel, offer constructive recommendations for strengthening the country’s health care system, improving health and addressing health inequalities in Israel.

In the August 2014 issue of the Lancet, “An open letter for the people of Gaza” accused Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza during the war between Israel and Hamas, as well as “cruel” and “vicious war crimes.” Physicians, researchers and Israeli officials decried the letter, which was signed by several dozen Western doctors.

Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, visited Israel that October and then wrote in an editorial that he regretted publishing the letter and said, “This schism helped no-one and I certainly regret that result. I have seen for myself that what was written in the Manduca et al letter does not describe the full reality.” He announced in that editorial that he would devote an issue to health care in Israel.

Horton said in a statement issued Monday, “This Series was conceived in the aftermath of a tragic conflict in 2014 between Israel and Gaza, and following publication of a letter that divided world medical opinion about that conflict. Through the generous and courageous outreach of the authors of this Series, we have sought to show that medicine and science can be a bridge to a better understanding of complex and seemingly intractable geopolitical challenges. Our future commitment is to work intensively with both our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues to provide the foundations in one aspect of society for peace and justice.” 

In the wake of the Gaza letter, the journal issued new guidelines to deal with “submissions that lie at the difficult intersection of medicine and politics.”

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