Professor Richard Horton

Three years after publishing an attack on IDF conduct during Operation Protective Edge, The Lancet published a special issue praising Israel’s healthcare system.

Almost three years after publishing a letter critical of the IDF’s conduct during the counter-terror Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, The Lancet has published a special issue about the achievements and challenges of the Israeli healthcare system.

The Lancet is among the world’s leading medical and health journals as well as one of the longest-standing in publication. The special issue, titled “Health in Israel,” marks the fulfillment of a commitment by the journal’s editor-in-chief, Professor Richard Horton.

During the summer of 2014, in the midst of Operation Protective Edge, The Lancet published “An Open Letter to the People of Gaza,” which criticized Israel’s policies and provoked intense debates in academia and medicine worldwide.

At the height of the furor, Professor Karl Skorecki, director of Medical Research and Development at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, sent a special communication to Horton, inviting him to visit Rambam and experience for himself the reality of Israel in general and, specifically, Israel’s healthcare system.

Professor Rafi Beyar, Rambam’s director-general, gave his full backing to the initiative and secured the agreement of the Ministry of Health.

After three days at the hospital, which included tours of some of Rambam’s medical units, a series of medical and ethical lectures, discussions, debates and meetings with physicians who worked in the battlefield during the Gaza conflict and treated both Israeli and Gazan casualties, as well as with Arab and Israeli doctors working side by side, Horton expressed “deep regret” for publishing the anti-Israel letter to the editor.

“I deeply, deeply regret the completely unnecessary polarization that publication of the letter… caused,” he said.

Horton concluded his visit with a lecture about the responsibilities of medical and scientific journals, during which he stated, “I am extraordinarily humbled and proud to be here,” adding that Rambam Hospital serves as a model for Arab-Israeli coexistence.

Horton then committed to making return visits and promised to dedicate an issue of The Lancet’s country series to Israel’s health system. The issue was published on Monday and presented for the first time at the annual conference of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research in Tel Aviv.

“Publication of The Lancet special issue on ‘Health in Israel’ presents an important and unique example and opportunity for greater mutual engagement between Israel and the international health community in addressing health challenges, and for extension of achievements in the domain of health to other areas of societal well-being,” Israel’s foreign ministry stated.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel