Doctors in Support of Genocide
Below is a letter from Professor Dr Derek Summerfield to Sir Mark Pepys, a Zionist academic at University College, London. Pepys has spearheaded an attack on The Lancet medical magazine and its editor, Dr. Richard Horton, for it printing a letter criticising Israel for its genocidal bombing of Gaza last year.
I also enclose a letter that I sent to Pepys.
|Sir Mark Pepys - Apologist for Mass Murder|
Dear Sir Mark Pepys and signatories
I am aware that Professor Graham Watt and colleagues have already sent you a response to your attack on The Lancet editor Dr Richard Horton and the signatories to the Manduca et al letter published in The Lancet during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer. As one of the signatories of that letter I wish to reply on my own account.
An early indication that yours is simply an indiscriminate smear letter is the inclusion of entirely irrelevant material- the Lancet publication of the Wakefield MMR paper 17 years ago, your highlighting of what one signatory might have said in a talk somewhere, what Internet material another signatory might have looked at etc.
Our case rests on the substantive evidence base from a range of international and regional human rights and documentation centres generated by Operation Protective Edge and precedent events like the long-running seige of Gaza. The indiscriminate bombardment and mass killing of a helpless, trapped civilian population (including the killing of hospital patients in their beds, and of health professionals on duty) is at the centre of all these accounts. Look at the photo I attach. You cannot be unaware of this evidence base but your letter ignores it entirely. I attach just one example, an independent medical fact-finding report organised by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and other reputable documentation centres. (1)
Your detachment from the human costs of Operation Protective Edge, and the medical ethical issues thrown up, was there from the start. I note that you, Sir Mark, were quoted in the Telegraph of 22 September 2014 as saying on 29 August, at the height of the bombardment, that the Manduca et al authors were displaying "most serious, unprofessional and unethical errors". Not a word about events on the ground in Gaza, yet these were the events which even then the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were all recording as prima facie evidence of war crimes! Since then The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary examination of war crimes violations during Operation Protective Edge.
I would suggest that if a letter of protest with exactly the same contents had appeared in The Lancet, but where the State concerned was, say, Sudan or Syria, you would have no reason to see as it as objectionable or as inappropriate material for a medical journal, and might well have applauded such coverage- after all, the medical profession has a duty to individual patients, but also a generally recognised wider ethical duty to address the social origins of distress and disease. So how are we to understand the apparent exceptionalism you display? In his classic work "Phenomenology of Sociopolitical Actions: A Methodological Approach to Conflict", the sociologist Max Weber distinguished between an "ethic of responsibility" and an "ethic of conviction". By "ethic of responsibility", Weber meant conformity to professional standards and accountability. In our profession this means the ethical standards by which doctors should practice, including a commitment to factual evidence- standards determined by their peers, employers, the General Medical Council and, on the international scene, by the World Medical Association. By "ethic of conviction", Weber was identifying actions that were inspired by personally valued ideals, political or other philosophies, or identities. In my 29 years of conflict-related human rights work (23 on Israel-Palestine), I have witnessed how regularly an ethic of conviction trumps an ethic of responsibility, not least amongst doctors, and this is sadly true of you too. The signatories of your letter seem united around a felt connection with Israel and a wish to defend it, and this is what counts. In the service of this you can dismiss war crimes, seek to bludgeon a medical journal into silence, and demand that a letter grounded on so multiply documented an evidence base be retracted. This is a flagrant abuse of medical ethics. You write as if you had the ethical clarity that would attach, say, to your discovery of research fraud in a published paper, and your further discovery that the editor of the journal concerned had been in knowing collusion with this fraud!
Those signatories who are Israeli are in support of the state of which they are citizens; the majority of signatories who reside elsewhere are serving the propaganda interests of a foreign power.
Your allegations are defamatory and libellous: that we published "deliberately inflammatory falsehoods....abusive dishonesty.....unverifiable dishonest 'facts'.....malignant wilful disregard of honest and ethical medical authorship and editorship.....under the direction of Horton, The Lancet has become a vehicle for publication of deliberately false material..." So we - both authors and editor- are publishing lies which we know to be lies in a famous international medical journal? Few allegations made against a doctor could be much graver than this.
I quote from the GMC publication Good Medical Practice (2006). In the section on Working with colleagues, doctors must "respect the skills and contributions of your colleagues" (para 41); "you must treat your colleagues fairly and with respect. You must not bully or harass them or unfairly discriminate against them by allowing your personal views to affect adversely your professional relationship with them. You should challenge colleagues if their behaviour does not comply with this guidance" (para 46); "you must not make malicious and unfounded criticisms of colleagues that may undermine patients' trust in the care or treatment they receive, or in the judgement of those treating them" (para 47). In the section on Probity, the GMC says that "probity means being honest and trustworthy, and acting with integrity: this is at the heart of medical professionalism" (para 56); "you must make sure that your conduct at all times justifies your patients' trust in you and the public's trust in the profession" (para 57). In the section on Writing reports, giving evidence etc, the GMC says that "you must do your best to make sure that any documents you write or sign are not false or misleading. This means that you must take reasonable steps to verify the information in the documents, and that you must not deliberately leave out relevant information" (para 65); ...you must be honest in all your spoken and written statements. You must make clear the limits of your knowledge or competence" (para 67).
As one of the signatories whose academic reputation your letter seeks to blacken, I am an involved party and I challenge you retract your allegations promptly or justify them evidentially. If you fail to do so I will look to appropriate action, starting with a formal complaint to the General Medical Council naming yourself as lead signatory for a start.
Yours Derek Summerfield
Honorary Senior Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London Consultant Psychiatrist, South London & Maudsley NHS Trust Formerly Research Associate, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford; Consultant to Oxfam and other humanitarian organisations; Principal Psychiatrist, Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture.
Dear Prof. Pepys,
I find it difficult to believe that you could attack The Lancet and its Editor Dr Richard Horton over its coverage of Operation Protective Edge.
Findings of an independent medical fact-finding mission
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights-Gaza, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
״There was a call for help in a house which had been randomly shelled at Mujama’a St, East Gaza City. It was nearly 01:00 on the last day of Ramadan. The house was in complete chaos when the team arrived. There was dense smoke everywhere and a very bad smell which hardly allowed them to breathe. I got the stretcher and the flashlight and entered the building, where I immediately saw a badly injured woman under the staircase. I took her to the ambulance and went back to the house. We managed to fit 3-6 people into the second ambulance…. What shocked me most about this incident was that I forgot the flashlight in the house and my colleague asked me to go back and get it, since we would need it later for other evacuations. When I went back, I heard the feeble cry of a small baby which I hadn’t noticed before. I looked around but couldn’t see anyone. Then I felt that the voice was coming from under a heap of rubble in flames. I searched in the rubble, though I felt my hands getting burnt, and finally I found a baby around one month old. I took her and ran back to the ambulance, but before I arrived she stopped breathing. I performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her, and she came back to life. I was shocked by the incident, because she could have been one of my children, and I had almost left her behind in the fire to a certain death. I still thank God that I forgot the flashlight, so I was forced to go back to the house and could find her! I found a picture of her in the hospital on the internet, and I saved it, because it is a great encouragement for me. Now I want to look for her and see her grow, to tell her how proud I am that she is alive. ״
(Yousef Al Kahlout, a PRCS paramedic)
• The overwhelming majority of injuries causing death or requiring hospitalisation seen by the FFM were the result of explosion or crush injuries, often multiple complex injuries;
• A majority of hospitalised patients interviewed reported people being injured or killed while in, or very close to, their homes or those of relatives and neighbours;
• Numerous cases in which significant numbers of casualties including members of the same family and rescuers were killed or injured in a single incident; - ‘double tap’ or multiple consecutive strikes on a single location led to multiple civilian casualties and to injuries and deaths among rescuers;
- heavy explosives were used in residential neighbourhoods, resulting in multiple civilian casualties;
- emergency medical evacuation was not enabled and/or in which medical teams were killed or injured in the course of evacuation of the injured (notably in Shuja’iya, Gaza City);
• At least one case in which a mine-breaching explosive device (tsefa shirion) was used in a residential street in Khuza’a, Khan Younis, causing massive destruction.
• At least one case, of Shuhada’ Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al Balah, where several people were killed and injured in what was apparently a deliberate attack on the hospital on 21 July 2014. An in-depth study of the town of Khuza’a suggests that:
• A convoy of hundreds of civilians came under fire while attempting to flee the town on 23 July 2014;
• A medical clinic in which civilians and injured people were sheltering after this attack was hit by missiles, causing deaths and injuries;
• A seriously injured 6-year-old child was not assisted and his evacuation was obstructed despite eye contact with troops on the ground on 24 July. He later died;
• Civilians in a house occupied by Israeli soldiers suffered abuse and ill-treatment including beatings, denial of food and water, and use as human shields. One was shot dead at close range.
In addition, the FFM examined:
• The strains placed on hospitals in Gaza during the attacks;
• Problems with referral and evacuation of patients from Gaza hospitals to hospitals outside;
• Long-term internal displacement in Gaza as a result of the partial or total destruction of about 18,000 homes;
• Long-term psychosocial and mental health damage caused by this and previous wars;
• An increased need for rehabilitation services and insufficient current resources in Gaza to meet them.
• The attacks were characterised by heavy and unpredictable bombardments of civilian neighbourhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between legitimate targets and protected populations and caused widespread destruction of homes and civilian property. Such indiscriminate attacks, by aircraft, drones, artillery, tanks and gunships, were unlikely to have been the result of decisions made by individual soldiers or commanders; they must have entailed approval from top-level decision-makers in the Israeli military and/or government.
• The initiators of the attacks, despite giving some prior warnings of these attacks, failed to take the requisite precautions that would effectively enable the safe evacuation of the civilian population, including provision of safe spaces and routes. As a result, there was no guaranteed safe space in the Gaza Strip, nor were there any safe escape routes from it.
• In numerous cases double or multiple consecutive strikes on a single location led to multiple civilian casualties and to injuries and deaths among rescuers.
• Coordination of medical evacuation was often denied and many attacks on medical teams and facilities were reported. It is not clear whether such contravention of medical neutrality was the result of a policy established by senior decision-makers, a general permissive atmosphere leading to the flouting of norms, or the result of individual choices made on the ground during armed clashes.
• In Khuza’a, the reported conduct of specific troops in the area is indicative of additional serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.