CMAJ Editor-in-Chief Responds (March 25 2009)

March 25, 2009

 CMAJ Editor-in-Chief Responds
March 25, 2009
By: Mike Fegelman, Executive Director
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber,

In a recent HonestReporting Canada alert dated March 18, we questioned why the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) would insert anti-Israel rhetoric into a “neutral” medical journal. We felt that by allowing crude anti-Israel propaganda to masquerade on its pages as legitimate discourse, the CMAJ failed to live up to its mission statement and instead promoted a grossly distorted picture of the Gaza health care system and the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Thanks to your many emails, the CMAJ has acknowledged that they could have been more sensitive by balancing their reports rather than publishing two alone on the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the Journal has said that it will continue to publish letters on the matter, while inviting submissions for perspectives relating the health consequences of war in Israel and on Israelis.

Writing on the HonestReporting Canada website yesterday, CMAJ Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Paul Hebert stated the following:

I am writing in response to your posting concerning 2 articles published in the March 17 issue of CMAJ and the subsequent emails we have received.

We did not intend to take a position on the conflict in Gaza. We published the articles to provide a perspective on the health-related and health infrastructure consequences of war which is within our purview as a medical journal. We are sorry if this made it seem like we were taking sides in the conflict. It was certainly not intended.

As we have stated in a response on our website,, we welcome submissions that provide perspectives on the health effects of conflict in regions around the world including Israel, from people such as physicians who are treating wounded.

In a note regarding the “health impacts of war’ posted on the CMAJ website, Dr. Hebert acknowledged that:

Most letter writers seemed aggrieved that the articles failed to condemn the Palestinians and Hamas for their actions prior to the commencement of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” military campaign on Dec. 27, 2008.

Similarly, most letters appeared to be the product of a campaign launched by a group called “HonestReporting Canada,” which condemned the articles and asked its members to contact CMAJ and express their dissatisfaction.

In retrospect, publishing 2 articles on a single subject in one issue, albeit and industry norm, may have somehow made it appear to some readers that CMAJ was taking an editorial position on the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is certainly not the case. For those who would like to see the health effects better described for people in Israel, we invite submissions on the health-related consequences of war, whether in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. As of 4:30 p.m. Mar. 24, 2009, CMAJ has received over 250 letters in response to the 2 articles, which we will continue to post. As always, we welcome your insight, and invite you to continue articulating your opinions.

While Dr. Hebert’s reply did not answer the many deficiencies we pointed out, nor did he acknowledge how these reports managed to get through peer review, we do credit the CMAJ for recognizing that their coverage was open to the appearance of bias as it seemed that the Journal was “taking sides in the conflict.” Notwithstanding, in light of the seriousness of this situation and in order for the CMAJ to maintain its credibility, HonestReporting Canada calls upon the Journal to implement stricter quality control protocols to ensure that their editorial policies are followed and respected.

HonestReporting Canada would also like to commend its many subscribers for their prompt action. As of today, the CMAJ has published a remarkable 49 letters to its website (see here and here) which condemned the publication of over-simplified, misleading, and incomplete views of the health care situation in the Gaza Strip, which had blamed Israel alone for all of the territory’s ills.

How You Can Make A Difference:

you would like to take Dr. Hebert up on his offer to better describe the health effects on Israelis in the wake of the recent war or to detail the very real physical and psychological trauma prompted by years of Hamas rocket and other terrorist attacks on Israelis, please contact the CMAJ at 1-800 663-7336 x 2295 or to express your interest in submitting a formal manuscript.



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