A letter from a group of over 100 academics, scientist and researchers blasting a virulently anti-Israel article in Scientific American magazine as “one-sided political propaganda,” prompted the publication to quickly pull the controversial piece.
During and following fighting between Israel and Gaza-based terrorists, as in past instances when Hamas attacks led to Israeli retaliation, many academics in the pro-Palestinian camp used their professional forums to promote their views on the conflict.
The 175-year-old classic scientific publication was no exception, running an opinion piece titled “As Health Care Workers, We Stand in Solidarity with Palestine, Israel continues to deny Palestinians essential care and resources.” The article was rife with harsh criticism of Israel’s countermeasures to Hamas rocket attacks and of the general state of Israel’s actions towards its Palestinian population, including accusations of “vaccine apartheid.” Its theme called for “U.S. medical and science communities to leverage their positions of power and privilege” to support boycotts against Israel and to pressure on government to “end financial and diplomatic support for the Israeli government.”
The authors were nine physicians and medical students with strong connections to the BDS movement.
After the piece was posted, Dr. Edward Halperin, Chancellor of Touro’s New York Medical College and Dr. Stanley Robboy, a professor of pathology at Duke University organized a letter to the journal’s editors signed by a large and diverse group of senior scientists, physicians, and scholars calling out the article for its bias, pointing out distortions, and requesting that they be allowed to publish a response. They also requested a meeting to discuss the issue.
“In publishing the cited article, Scientific American’s editors jettisoned appropriate editorial standards and ignored easily verified facts that counter the authors’ one-sided invective. While purporting to be a scientific statement about public health, the paper addressed important historical and political issues superficially, inaccurately, and prejudicially. In reality, the piece is a call for activism that, in our view, is unsupported by the facts,” read the letter in part.
Hours after the letter was sent, the article was removed from the magazine’s website and its editor-in-chief, Laura Helmuth responded with a brief email that it had been pulled and that “we are…revising our internal review processes.”
In response to a request from Hamodia, a spokesperson for Scientific American simply explained the magazine’s decision by saying in an email that “after publication, it was decided that this opinion and analysis piece fell outside our scope of coverage.”
Dr. Halperin said that while Scientific American has allowed itself to become increasingly political in recent years, the recent article had “crossed the line.”
“There is a difference between expressing your opinion about current events and promulgating falsehoods about current events,” he told Hamodia. The ‘opinion and analysis’ article was awash with errors of omission and commission. As such it was not an expression of opinion, it was political propaganda.”
Dr. Halperin added that the overwhelming lack of connection to anything legitimately scientific clearly fell outside of the magazine’s “scope of interest.”
While the magazine and its German owned publisher, the Springer Nature Group have not offered any explanation as to why it initially allowed for publication of the piece, past statements of Scientific American’s editorial staff seem telling.
Its senior editor, Sunya Bhutta’s twitter account contains a long list of statements supporting the BDS movement labeling Israel an “apartheid state” and saying that “Israel is the only ally of American white supremacy.”
Dr. Helmuth is an outspoken supporter of a wide range of ultra-progressive causes. In 2015 tweeted that it was “awful” that Binyamin Netanyahu had won reelection.
While disappointed that Scientific American has not been more forthcoming as to how the controversial piece found its way to publication, Dr. Halperin felt that the action he took proved the importance of pushing back against the bias he perceived.
“My colleagues and I encountered, in the pages of Scientific American, a piece of vitriolic propaganda. We elected not to remain silent but, instead, to convene a group of senior scientists and physicians, including three Nobel Laureates, to respond,” he said. “The incident proves that we must all strive to avoid the error of silence.”