“Once, there was a time” when I believed in National Geographic and in the British medical Journal The Lancet. I did not think they traded in propaganda, but in science and nature photography. But that was back in the era of the musical Beatles. Now, my views have changed. Reality has forced my hand. National Geographic cannot be trusted about Israel or about Christians in the Arab world. And, The Lancet leaves much to be desired on many subjects.
Some years back, I had an interesting “brush” with The Lancet over the issue of the unfortunately named “Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome” (CFS), also known as “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” — an illness which The Lancet’s man, Dr. Simon Wessely, considers a mere psychiatric disorder, a form of hysteria which cognitive therapy should be able to cure within twelve weeks. I and many others totally disagree with his point of view. In fact, an explosive but still unpublished journalistic account of the “Blood Feud” on this subject is right now in my hands. Written by Mindy Kitei, she documents the “transatlantic battle raging over the role of the newly discovered retrovirus in patients with CFS.”
In any event, I had completely forgotten all about this until someone sent me a more recent 2010 piece in The Lancet, “Intimate-Partner Violence in Gaza and the West Bank,” in which six researchers claim that they have documented an increase in Palestinian wife-beating — and that it is due to the alleged Israeli occupation. (Unfortunately the full article is available only to subscribers.) Thus, once again, the Israelis — or the Israeli right to defend itself — are to blame. The indigenous practice of wife-beating and the increase in political Islam are not blameworthy.
So, I instantly wrote a piece which challenged the so-called study and sent it to The Lancet; in turn, they suggested that I write a Letter. And so I did. And then I waited and I waited. In the interim, I joked that it may be taking the six researchers (the lead researcher is at Harvard) all this time to rebut the critiques.
Well, it took more than two months — but The Lancet finally published my letter together with other letters and the obligatory, long-awaited authors’ response. Here is my letter:
The study by Cari Jo Clark and colleagues is more propaganda than science. For example, Clark and colleagues write: “Occupation policies… affect family connectedness, depriving women of regular contact with their families who might otherwise intervene to prevent intimate-partner violence.” On the contrary. Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim families very often do not intervene when a husband is beating a wife. Both the husband’s family and the wife’s own family view this as a husband’s right or as a wife’s fault.
The study has many other weaknesses. First, Clark and colleagues focus only on violence among married couples and omit routine violence against daughters and sisters, including honour killings, even though a 2008 study that specifically addressed honour killings among Palestinians was available.2 Second, they established no baseline, and had no control group in terms of intimate-partner violence in the Arab Middle East where there is no Israeli occupation (eg, in Jordan, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia). Third, Clark and colleagues do not acknowledge that, in shame and honour societies, surveys and statistics about domestic violence are unreliable since women are punished for reporting it. Fourth, they do not attempt to measure intimate-partner violence in Sderot, Israel, where civilians have endured 8000 rocket attacks from Gaza. Finally, they do not factor in the effect of Gaza being “occupied” by an increasingly fundamentalist Hamas and the fateful consequences for women, which include forced veiling and child arranged marriages.
Thus, the study attempts to blame Israel for the indigenous violence against women that is a feature of Arab and Muslim societies, especially today, when they have been radically fundamentalised.
Is this worth doing? Hell, yes. ‘Twould be better if thousands of us did similar things every day. But, is it wise to always be on the defensive, always in the position of responding, not initiating? Hell, no. And that’s why Israel should set up a War Room for Propaganda, a massive but coordinated Office to debunk all the Lies and Blood Libels and to systematically keep putting out the truth.
America and Europe have a harder task. Our most distinguished professors and journalists are themselves putting out the Islamist disinformation, are themselves advising our president about the Middle East, the Muslim world, the nature of jihad, and Islam. How do we defeat or at least counterbalance this? Where do we start?
Well, right here of course. And on the Internet. And in parlor meetings, at tea parties, on any air-wave that will have us. Maybe we have to raise the money to have a new global channel that will not accept any Arab oil money. How about that?