Despite the claims of a widely circulated news report today, The Lancet has no plans to retract a controversial open letter to the people of Gaza that has drawn criticism since being published in August.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported this morning:
The editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, which ran an open letter accusing Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza, said on a visit to Israel that he will publish a retraction.
Dr. Richard Horton made a statement Oct. 2 during Grand Rounds at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, which he also visited earlier in the week.
That surprised us, since Lancet editor Richard Horton has been steadfastly defending the letter, saying as recently as last week that it would not be retracted. We checked with him, and by email, he told Retraction Watch:
…[N]o plans to, and indeed no grounds on which to, retract.
Indeed, no retraction. My personal view is that you don’t retract things you don’t like. Instead, you work to build something more positive.
The JTA, it appears, got it wrong. They have since removed the reference to the retraction, although the change is not noted anywhere on the piece. The first paragraph of the piece now now reads:
The editor of The Lancet said in Israel that he “deeply regrets” the divisiveness caused by the open letter published in the British medical journal accusing Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza.
We’ve transcribed the part of Grand Rounds in which Horton addressed the issue. Retraction is not mentioned:
I want to thank you, Professor Skorecki and Professor Beyar, for your courage, your openness, and your generosity of spirit in inviting me here in such circumstances. I want to thank all of those I have met this week, for their kindness, for their encouragement, and for their insight. I’ve learned a great deal during the past three days. RAMBAM as a model for partnership between Jews and Arabs. RAMBAM as a center offering an open hand to the people of Palestine, and RAMBAM as a place with a unique vision for a peaceful, productive, and diverse future among peoples. RAMBAM-ism, as somebody put it to me this week. Today is an opportunity for me, and I believe for us together. But before I talk about that opportunity I need to very honestly set the record straight with you.
First, I deeply, deeply regret the completely unnecessary polarization that publication of the letter by Paola Manduca caused, irrespective of our intentions, which I am very happy to discuss. This outcome was definitely not my intention.
Second, and contrary to some incomplete accounts of a conversation with a journalist I had recently, I was personally horrified at the offensive video that was forwarded by two of the authors of that letter. The world-view expressed in that video is abhorrent and must be condemned and I condemn it.
I have made that view, my view, very clear directly to those two individuals.
Third, I will be publishing what I just said in the Lancet next week.
Let me add, the Lancet is, always was, and under my leadership always will be 100% open, indeed more than that welcoming, of research and work submitted to us by colleagues and friends from Israel.
I need to say – I need to say – that I have received, personally these last two months some, I can only describe them as vile accusations about me, about my views concerning this country and its people.
Let me make it absolutely clear to you. Anyone who makes those claims simply does not know me, does not know anything about my life, my family, or my values. For reasons I find actually hard to explain or understand myself, I have a special feeling for this land, on which Israel and Palestine and the wider Arab world and their peoples live.
Here’s the entire video: