Canadian Medical Association Journal's Bad Medicine (March 18 2009)

March 18, 2009


Canadian Medical Association Journal’s Bad Medicine

March 19, 2009

By: Mike Fegelman

Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
Inserting anti-Israel rhetoric into ostensibly neutral medical journals is a tough pill to swallow. When the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) allowed crude anti-Israel propaganda to masquerade on its pages as legitimate academic discourse, the CMAJ went well beyond its mission statement to: “showcase innovative research and ideas aimed at improving health for people in Canada and globally” and instead promoted a grossly distorted picture of the Gaza health care system and the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.
In its March 17 edition, the CMAJ featured two “dispatches from the medical front” describing the state of Gaza health care before and after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead — an Israeli military operation prompted by years of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli civilians. Featured in the “news” section, reports by unknown writer Christopher Mason (read here in pdf) and Francois Dumont of Doctors Without Borders (read here in pdf) both presented over-simplified, misleading, and incomplete views of the health care situation in the Gaza Strip, blaming Israel alone for all of the territory’s ills.
Here is just a short list detailing the many deficiencies with these reports:

Israel did not face a ghost adversary: Remarkably, these reports failed to even mention Israel’s adversary, Hamas. The very word “Hamas” is not even referred to in both reports. Only references of “Israel’s offensive” and “military campaign in the Gaza Strip” are made, leaving readers with the overall impression that Israel’s campaign was against Gaza and its citizens, and not Hamas and its rockets.

Conflict did not happen in a vacuum: Reports fail to mention the raison d’etre for Israel’s incursion into Gaza, which was designed to thwart Hamas rocket attacks. As readers were deprived of the history and chronology of Hamas’ rocket fire, Israel’s defensive operations can only be perceived as being bellicose. The fact that Hamas unilaterally broke a truce firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns doesn’t even merit a single mention.

Passing the buck: Authors fail to mention the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamas’ responsibility for ensuring the health and welfare of its citizenry.

Baseless implications derived from unattributed accusations: Writer Christopher Mason cites unattributed “accusations” implying that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian medical health facilities.

Unsubstantiated and spurious claims allowed: Mason quotes Malene Sonderskov, Middle East Coordinator of DanChurchAid, making the following baseless allegation: “Gaza has the highest prevalence of traumatized children in the world.” We wonder, what scientific methodology did Sonderskov employ that could confirm the veracity of this egregious allegation?

Other significant omissions:

Spectator columnist Melanie Phillips recently asked: “what have the Arab/Israel impasse and Israel’s military strategy towards the Palestinians got to do with the practice of medicine?”
We agree. As Mason’s and Dumont’s analysis do not conform to the high standards of oversight and scientific scrutiny necessary to be published in a credible medical journal such as the CMAJ, it was both inappropriate and irresponsible for the Journal to publish their dispatches. Doing so has only tarnished the reputation of the CMAJ.
As a publication that aims to assist in the improvement and understanding of world health problems, the CMAJ has grossly failed to remain unbiased in its depiction of this particular world health problem. CMAJ readers have also been deprived of the opportunity to develop an educated, informed understanding of the health care problems in the region.
How You Can Make A Difference
If you agree that these articles were inappropriate for a respected medical journal to print, please send your comments to CMAJ Ombudsman Bruce P. Dancik at: and refer to Francois Dumont’s and Christopher Mason’s March 17 dispatches. If you are a certified medical professional please disclose this in your correspondence.


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