British Medical Journal ‘played along with Hamas’, claims leading US doctor

Prof Philip Greenland
Prof Philip Greenland claimed the editor of the journal 'put his hand on the scales' - BiomeUMiami

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has been accused by a leading doctor of “playing along with Hamas” in its coverage of the Gaza war.

Within three weeks of the Oct 7 attack by Hamas which sparked the conflict, the BMJ-owned Global Health journal published an article accusing Israel of “indiscriminately killing” Palestinians.

The piece, published on Oct 27, also said Israeli forces were deliberately targeting a hospital in Gaza to “increase morbidity and mortality”.

Philip Greenland, a US professor of medicine, wrote a response disputing claims in the article, but Global Health did not publish the rebuttal for three months.

The journal also initially demanded Prof Greenland pay a $2,000 (£1,500) fee, although the editors backtracked on this after claiming that the initial article had not been invited.

‘Editorial malpractice’

Global Health’s editor subsequently told Prof Greenland that the decision not to charge the authors of the original article was an error, and therefore he was not asked to pay a fee to have his response published.

But Prof Greenland, a senior editor at the Journal of American Medicine Association, accused the journal of “editorial malpractice” because his article was by then three months out of date.

The delay, he said, “almost made our piece irrelevant because so many other things happened after then”.

In addition, his response was shared before publication on Feb 1 with the authors of the original anti-Israel article, who in the same issue wrote another piece disputing several aspects of his argument.

Prof Greenland, a specialist in preventive medicine at Northwestern University, Illinois, accused the editor of “putting [his] hand on the scale and letting them have another crack at it”.

“People need to know that medical journals are playing along with Hamas,” he said.

The original article, headlined “Violence in Palestine demands immediate resolution of its settler colonial root causes”, makes no mention of the Oct 7 atrocities and instead argues: “It is impossible to divorce the violence of recent days from the long history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

The follow-up response to Prof Greenland’s rebuttal of the article rejects the idea that Israel chose violence in Gaza because of Oct 7, describing the argument as “false”.

‘Eliminatory colonial strategy’

It goes on to accuse Israel of pursuing an “eliminatory settler colonial strategy” as evidenced by the “necropower” that Israel exercises over Palestinians – which the authors define as “death-worlds” where people are put in a position constantly close to death.

Prof Greenland said the articles were “nowhere near appropriate” for the publication.

“This is not a social sciences journal,” he said. “They’re wading into territory that medical journals should not be in.”

David Katz, an emeritus professor of immunopathology at University College London and editor of the International Journal of Experimental Pathology, said: “The authors of the two articles do not seem able to acknowledge the context: Oct 7 happened.

“For many identified Jews, there is a sense of disquiet and betrayal. Jewish patients and families query: can they trust the doctor they consult?

“The least we can expect, surely, is that journals, publishers, and other media do not betray their own standards and responsibilities to combat pernicious anti-Semitic prejudice in any form.”

Seye Abimbola, the editor-in-chief of BMJ Global Health said: “We published Professor Greenland’s criticism on Feb 1, alongside the authors’ reply, which is entirely standard practice, especially on a contentious issue.

“Greenland’s criticism was only one of many responses, both supportive and critical, that formed the basis of the authors’ reply. Both articles went through the same editorial due diligence. One was not delayed for the other, and open access fees processes were applied for both articles as standard.

“We do not accept the baseless allegation that we are ‘playing along with Hamas’. As a global health journal, BMJ Global Health is interested in the drivers of health and wellbeing in disadvantaged and oppressed communities.”

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