Gazans protesting Hamas. (Screenshot) (Screenshot)
Gaza protesters

The medical journal based their claims on highly questionable data and unverified sources.

By Rachel O’Donoghue, Honest Reporting

One of the oldest peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, The Lancet, boasts of its “extremely high standards,” selecting “only the best research papers for their quality of work and the progression they bring.”

These supposed gold-star standards were not on display when editors at the journal made the troubling decision to publish content that clearly suggests Israel is guilty of genocide. This disinformation, presented with the journal’s prestigious name, gives it an undeserved veneer of legitimacy.

Co-written by Rasha Khatib, Martin McKee, and Salim Yusuf, “Counting the dead in Gaza: difficult but essential” begins with the assertion that more than 37,000 people had been killed in Gaza since October 7—a figure attributed to the Gaza Health Ministry. The authors claim this data is backed by Israeli intelligence services and supported by independent analyses.

First, the assertion that Israeli intelligence backs these figures is simply false, with scant evidence except unidentified secondary sources offered by the authors to support this baseless claim.

Second, there is no mention that competing and more credible analyses have concluded the fatality numbers coming from Gaza “have lost any claim to validity.”

The writers’ quick and sweeping assertion that the casualty numbers are accurate lays the foundation for the most outlandish allegation yet—that the reported number may actually be just a fraction of overall deaths and that “it is not implausible to estimate that up to 186,000 or even more deaths could be attributable to the current conflict in Gaza.”

The claim is reportedly the result of comparing Gaza to other recent conflicts, where “indirect deaths range from three to 15 times the number of direct deaths.” The authors applied this flawed logic to arrive at their grossly inflated figure.

Such comparisons do not aid any useful extrapolations.

They invariably ignore the unique dynamics of urban warfare in Gaza, including the high civilian population density, and demonstrate the authors’ lack of understanding of Gaza’s specific healthcare, infrastructure, and humanitarian conditions, not to mention the fact that the casualty figures make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants.

Moreover, the very concept of “indirect deaths” during warfare refers to those occurring as a result of conditions created by the conflict, such as deaths resulting from a lack of clean water, not from direct violence during the conflict itself.

It is generous to describe this piece as an “article,” which confers a level of trustworthiness when it is actually a letter—a work of opinion—filed in the “correspondence” section of The Lancet’s website.

The op-ed nature of the piece is obscured in media coverage, with publications presenting the data as endorsed by The Lancet itself. Somewhat predictably, this has led to a rash of headlines from chronically anti-Israel outlets such as Al Jazeera, The National, and The New Arab, claiming that The Lancet or its “experts” are behind the 186,000 casualty figure.

Khatib, McKee, and Yusuf likely know that adding footnotes to their writing makes it seem credible to most readers. This is why it’s always useful to play a little game of “follow-the-footnote” while reading.

In this case, clicking on some of the sources cited by the authors takes readers to the alternative news site Vice News, as well as Airwars, a non-profit that “tracks, assesses, archives and investigates civilian harm claims in conflict-affected nations.”

The quality of Airwars’ investigative work, and more importantly, its underlying agenda, is evident in the first article about Gaza on its website, which contains a glaring error in the second paragraph: the incorrect claim that the International Court of Justice found a “plausible risk of genocide in the Gaza Strip…”

No, it didn’t.

And even the marginally more trustworthy information that is provided is referenced incorrectly. For example, the authors link to a UN study, which they claim states that 35 percent of Gaza has been “destroyed” in the conflict.

However, a quick skim of the report reveals that the UN’s 35 percent figure includes “damage” sustained—it does not claim that more than a third of the Strip has been totally destroyed.

Finally, it has been pointed out that at least one of the Lancet letter writers, Rasha Khatib, a former researcher at Birzeit University in the West Bank, has a history of defending Palestinian terrorism, having previously justified such barbaric attacks as an “inevitable response to occupation.”

Exactly the kind of “objectivity” one might expect The Lancet to disclose.

The Lancet is considered one of the world’s most trusted medical journals, with an annual readership of 36 million. It is read by healthcare professionals, policymakers, and industry leaders.

This reputation will not endure if it continues to associate its name with thoroughly unscientific, politically motivated nonsense.


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