Wednesday, February 25, 2009

British Medical Journal on hasbara and orquestrated hate-campaigns

We all know it. Anyone who has even published a journalistic article, a book, made a public statement or even done the most mundane act of starting a blog, and has combined this act with even the most discrete criticism of Israel will probably experience the opening of floods of hate-mails and accusations. They wary from attempts to remove guilt from the Israeli government by blaming others (Hamas, Iran, the Bogeyman or anyone else) to outright racist diatribes against Palestinians and Muslims in general. I have tons of unpublished racist, pro-Israeli comments sent to this blog. We know that these comments and letters are part of coordinated campaigns, in which the Israeli state itself takes part. This mechanism is known as 'hasbara'.

Fiona Godlee and Tony Delamothe, editor and deputy editor of BMJ, writes that
"And it’s not only the small fry who are cowed. John Kampfner, chief executive of Index of Censorship, detected signs of caution in the BBC’s recent coverage of the Gaza conflict following earlier criticisms of pro-Palestinian bias10 (and this before the corporation refused to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee’s fundraising appeal for Gaza11).

Avoiding topics where medicine and politics collide is not an option for the BMJ. It’s not possible to remove medicine from politics or politics from medicine.12 Nor is this what our readers want. In an online poll on less than a quarter of respondents wanted less space devoted to political issues in the BMJ.13

Oxfam was describing conditions in Gaza as a "humanitarian crisis" a year ago.14 Since then Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip has left 1300 Palestinians dead, 5500 injured, and much of Gaza in ruins. The journal cannot avert its gaze from the health and human rights consequences of this catastrophe, no matter how "political" the issue."

"The best way to blunt the effectiveness of this type of bullying, counsels O’Donnell, is to expose it to public scrutiny. We have taken his advice and will try to follow Freedland’s too—to grow a thicker skin. We’ll give future orchestrated email campaigns as much credence as film producer Sam Goldwyn gave verbal contracts. He famously dismissed these as "not worth the paper they’re written on.""

Read the full article at the BMJ website. BMJ also carries articles by Karl Sabbagh on 'Perils of criticising Israel' (with samples of hate-mail sent to BMJ and a historical background on how the Israel lobby ganged up against the magazine World Medicine in 1981, after having reported on the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre) and by Micheal O'Donnell on 'Standing up for free speech'.

Blogs: Vindskupan, Jinge, Motbilder, Tikun Olam, Beyond the Fringe, Jews sans frontiers, Wadström, BRV
Articles in Jerusalem Post on Hasbara: 1, 2
Articles on 'Norwegian anti-semitism' accusations: 1, 2, 3, 4

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