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Lancet Withdraws Gaza Article, Author Responds

On 2 February 2009, The Lancet Medical Journal’s Global Health Network online published Dr Swee Ang and Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta’s The Wounds of Gaza. It introduced the article by stating:

Two Surgeons from the UK, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang, managed to get into Gaza during the Israeli invasion. Here they describe their experiences, share their views, and conclude that the people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack.

On 2 March, the Journal removed the article (though The Lancet Student still has it), stating: “We have taken down the blog post The Wounds of Gaza because of factual inaccuracies.”

No specific faults or amendments to the alleged inaccuracies are suggested. The reader comments, overwhelmingly in support, remain posted. A letter penned by four israelis (surprise, surprise!) that objects to the article was published on February 18. Our friend Dr Swee responds to this development and elaborates on the figures.

Dr Swee Ang on reporting from Palestine and Lebanon

Many of us are afraid to put numbers down because the pro-Israel Lobby will inundate us with emails and complaints. This has gone to the extent that only figures sanctioned by the Israelis are credible. Everything else is viewed as suspect!

Over the last twenty-six and a half years, I have taken many blows over this kind of issue. The only question I ask myself when writing is – when is the version according to the victims going to be articulated? The people of Gaza knew that 5,000 were killed in the Khan Younis massacre in 1956; 100,000 gone missing in 1967 of which 35,000 were murdered – just because they cannot go to the Sinai and take pictures, or dig up the mass graves, does not mean we refuse to let them state their case.

I looked at Northern Gaza – how often have I driven down Sala -Uddin Road in 1988 and 1989. I remember every turn and corner- I know the citrus orchards, the farms and the homes. Often I would stop my ambulance to give a ride to the farm workers and they in return would give me freshly picked lemons and oranges. I now see it completely laid waste by Israeli explosives like the nuclear holocaust of Hiroshima, and yet we were called liars when we put forward the figure of one and a half million tons of explosives. We have seen apartment blocks not only reduced to rubble but incinerated – how many kilotons of explosives are responsible for this kind of damage?

The Lancet Global Health Network withdrawing ‘The Wounds of Gaza’ is not a problem at all. The wonder is how it even got to be published in the first instance.

My book From Beirut to Jerusalem, when first published in 1989, was reprinted hard back and then paperback within 2 months, as it was sold out on publication, and again sold out as soon as reprinted. Then Tom Friedman came out with a book with exactly the same title half a year later and by the same publisher. My book was withdrawn from the shelves. It went out of print for many years.

But the truth has to come out. Most times at great inconvenience to some of us as we well know.

I just want you to know that I am not afraid to believe the Palestinians. It is a scandal that the extent of the Khan Younis massacre had not come to light for all these years. It is a scandal that what happened in the Six Day War was not published. The intimidation to silence witnesses has to stop. We cannot allow the case to be stated only by the perpetrators of the killings.

Like the Palestinians in Gaza – I am also not afraid. My witness of Gaza counts. So does your witness. We should not be afraid of saying what the Palestinians told us. They are the ones whose families were killed, who bear the wounds of violence, who are dispossessed and persecuted. Their voices must be heard.

Dr Swee Ang on the explosives used in Gaza

The actual tonnage of the explosives dropped on Gaza can only be accurately known to the IDF themselves. So other figures can only be estimates. However some of us have many years of experience looking at bombed out countries.

Over the 22 days, Gaza was intensely bombed from land, air and sea. The bombs dropped from the air are large, and most of them are more than a ton on average. In the south the bombs used to destroy the tunnels and structures around them are large heavy bombs.

Of the 21,000 buildings destroyed, 4000 of them are completely demolished. Some believe that these are by small nuclear fission bombs. However there is no proof and it is impossible to tell, though the effect of all structures, especially concrete, being incinerated, would suggest that the size of these bombs are of the order of kilotons—whether they are conventional explosives or otherwise. If you were to look at the effect of the atom bomb on Hiroshima (about 15 – 20 kilotons), you would see the incineration of concrete similar to that of that seen in these 4,000 buildings. These 4,000 buildings would have been destroyed by 4,000 kilotons of explosives. The other 17,000 destroyed buildings are the result of bombs of single figure tonnage judging from the kind of destruction. Apart from bombs being dropped on buildings reducing them to rubble, bombs were also dropped on fields, orchards, farms and roads.

We do not know enough of the explosive values of DIME to comment and hence have not speculated on it. They have been used in Gaza. But from what is commonly known about them, they are very heavy bombs, more so than conventional.

As to the person who queried the “million and a half tons of explosives dropped in 22 days” as such an amount would have obliterated Gaza [a question put forward to http://www.womenforpalestine.org, a site which carried Dr Ang’s article]—we can safely answer him that the whole of Northern Gaza has indeed been obliterated – he or she is most welcome to see for themselves! The whole stretch of Northern Gaza has been converted to a complete wasteland. In the South again vast stretches of agricultural areas have also been demolished.

The figure of one and a half million tons of explosives in our view is a conservative estimate. Those who are sceptical about it need to see it for themselves.

Dr Swee Ang on the figure of 35,000 political prisoners being executed during the 1967 Six Day war

The number 35,000 was from the International Co-operation Department (ICD) of Gaza. Within the first 2 hours of the attack on Egypt, 11,000 Egyptian soldiers were killed. But we are not talking about them, as they would be those killed in action.

After the first 2 hours till the end of the 6-Day War, about 100,000 Egyptian and Palestinian combatants were missing and never found. These included many young men in Gaza who had joined the Egyptians and the early PLA (of Nasser) to fight the Israelis. There are at least 2 mass graves in El-Arish on the edge of the Sinai desert, and the Israelis themselves had admitted to killing those captured, but had not admitted to killing so many. The Gaza information had stated 35,000 executed, but we had not asked them the whereabouts of the remaining 65,000. Many of the missing still have surviving relatives living in Gaza. The names of those executed could be traced from the ICD in Gaza. 1967 is a long time ago, and I do not see what advantage it is to the ICD in Gaza to make up these figures.

As many of you will be aware, a similar situation occurred with the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, where Palestinian sources believed that 3,000 were killed and IDF only admitted to over 300. Bayan Al-Hout had compiled at least one and a half thousand names to date, and the list is still increasing. We still do not know the whereabouts of the men murdered in the Stadium, now that some soldiers of the Phalange have admitted to executing people there. The bodies buried in Martyr’s Square were from within the camp itself, and not those abducted to the Stadium.

16 comments on “Lancet Withdraws Gaza Article, Author Responds

  1. Christian Avard
    4 March, 2009

    Jesus. They don’t stop at anything.

    Now what do they do? What next?

  2. iadiedee
    5 March, 2009

    I reposted the report on my blog and will repost this also if that’s OK. This is information that needs to circulate. I was once told that if you didn’t want something around forever don’t post it on the internet. Well, this is here forever and the more eyes that see it the more the lies are smashed away. Those that died deserve to be accurately remembered. Maybe the full count won’t ever be known, only to God. But we can do the best we can and not be afraid of those who did the killing. It gives me comfort to know God is the final judge and he is most just. Their judgment is coming.

    The Lancet Medical Journal caved in. I won’t.

    JazakAllah khairan

  3. Pingback: Lancet Withdraws Gaza Article, Author Responds « Thoughts by Dee - Open your mind, uncover your eyes, use your heart.

  4. Jonathan Coleman
    5 March, 2009

    I’m sorry, but this such unapologetic Israel-bashing. The conditions of the farms, orchards, and Palestinians in general, are in a sad state. There is no denying this. And we should not ignore the suffering of the Palestinians for multiple reasons – 2 of which are humanitarian and socio-political.
    Nonetheless, it is the pinnacle of hypocrisy to state that the Palestinian personal accounts should be trusted while the Israeli Government’s numbers should be suspect.
    More importantly, the UN came out and stated that the the umber of casualties and deaths in Gaza in the most recent incursion were wildly overstated by Palestinians.
    But let us ignore these factual inaccuracies. Let us get to the root of the issue: Israel too has had many refugees. Refugees kicked out of Arab lands post 1948; and more refugees from Russia and Ethiopia. However, they are integrated into a society that fosters their development.
    The bottom line is that in order to help the Palestinians, the Arab brother nations should be building hospitals, schools, and infrastructure. Not providing weapons.

  5. SHF
    5 March, 2009

    Just from the title of the articles, it is obvious that there would be anti-Israel bias in them. “Occupied Palestinian Territories”? How about calling the place what’s it’s called–Gaza–instead of introducing political–and incorrect (Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza three years ago)–rhetoric right in the title of almost every article? The Lancet lost credibility by publishing this series. Your bias is clear when you write “A letter penned by four israelis [sic] (surprise, surprise!)” Is there something wrong with Israelis writing in to defend their country and the facts? Is anyone who calls you wrong part of a “pro-Israel Lobby”? Is it possible that you are just wrong? How many of the authors of these articles are Palestinian or of Arab origin? Everyone should be allowed free speech and all should be held to the same standards of truth and accuracy.

  6. Etai
    6 March, 2009

    “Some believe that these are by small nuclear fission bombs. “However there is no proof and it is impossible to tell, though the effect of all structures, especially concrete, being incinerated, would suggest that the size of these bombs are of the order of kilotons”

    There are many problems with this statement, but let me just deal with it by saying that nuclear fission bombs do leave unmistakable evidence of their having exploded.

    This article is clearly the work of someone who has more confidence than knowledge and plays loose and fast with facts. I should hope that the suffering of a people could be documented by a more honest man.

    Dr. Ang, try sticking to what you know.

  7. Amane
    6 March, 2009

    I seriously need to respond to Jonathon’s post, because it reflects typical Zionist propaganda talking points; first, and foremost, why is it that whenever the suffering of the Palestinians are pointed out–forceably kicking Palestinians out of their homes to steal their lands, child imprisonment, bombing innocent civilians in hospitals–some zionist always comes out to point out a completely irrelevent point about Jewish suffering at the hands of NON-PALESTINIANS. What, Jonathon, does human rights violations against the Palestinians in 2009 have anything to do with Jews being kicked out of Russia, Ethiopia, and other Arab countries in 1948? While what happened to the Jews in the past was absolutely horrific, the Germans–and other Europeans–perpetrated the holocaust, please quit taking it out on the Palestinians. And by the way, while England, France, and the US were limiting the number of persecuted Jews to enter their countries, it was Middle Eastern countries who were allowing unrestricted Jewish immigration in order to protect them from Hitler! And while you are correct, many Middle Eastern leaders expelled Jews in 1948, a greater amount of regimes actually protected their Jewish citizens from persecution post-1948 until the present, most ironically notable, Iran. The Palestinians, however, have no protection; Arab countries CAN’T build hospitals, schools, and infrastructure, because Israel WON’T ALLOW THEM TO. The Israeli’s have pretty much closed the borders and only allow a trickle of food and water in, not NEARLY enough to help the 1.5 million Gazans. And whenever infrastructure is built, Israel just demolishes it. To directly respond to your point–what you need to learn to do Jonathon–while the Palestinian statistics were off, the UN, Human Rights Watch, and other credible sources ALSO discredited the numbers given by the IDF as ludicrously low. If you want to argue, please stop picking and choosing what parts of history best suits your ideological bias, and start forming a well-informed opinion based on a multi-faceted and thorough understanding of history, what normal people call the TRUTH.

  8. Ann
    6 March, 2009

    @ Jonathan: “Nonetheless, it is the pinnacle of hypocrisy to state that the Palestinian personal accounts should be trusted while the Israeli Government’s numbers should be suspect.”

    A gross misrepresentation: it was in fact the opposite that was occurring and Dr Swee was highlighting the ridiculous situation that only israeli official figures were being presented as credible.

    “Let us get to the root of the issue: Israel too has had many refugees. Refugees kicked out of Arab lands post 1948; and more refugees from Russia and Ethiopia. However, they are integrated into a society that fosters their development.”

    Jewish citizens of Arab countries were only expelled (and often violently induced by zionists) when israel was established/ imposed and its native inhabitants ethnically cleansed. Moreover, israeli racism is rampantly racist along and against ethnic lines contrary to your claims, with Ethiopian Jews experiencing systemic discrimination.

    “The bottom line is that in order to help the Palestinians, the Arab brother nations should be building hospitals, schools, and infrastructure.”

    The resourceful and resilient Palestinians have infrastructure, often helped by Gulf states, the US and the EU, the israelis keep blowing it up, in contravention of morality and international law.

    @ SHF Ho-hum: very old-hat zio talking points: “Occupied Palestinian Territories”? How about calling the place what’s it’s called–Gaza–instead of introducing political–and incorrect (Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza three years ago)

    Yes, OPT because that is what they are and it is a widely employed and recognised term that applies to Gaza and the West Bank.

    No, israel (the small ‘i’ is deliberate) did not withdraw from Gaza, its occupation continued and its stranglehold tightened. Taking some of your illegal settlements out, finally, and to much trumped-up fanfare, does not mean you’ve “withdrawn”. This is hogwash the rest of the world recognises for what it is.

    “Is there something wrong with Israelis writing in to defend their country and the facts? Is anyone who calls you wrong part of a “pro-Israel Lobby”? Is it possible that you are just wrong? How many of the authors of these articles are Palestinian or of Arab origin? Everyone should be allowed free speech and all should be held to the same standards of truth and accuracy.”

    Muzzling an article by two long-established surgeons, without refuting their figures specifically, is NOT free speech. I pointed to the fact that the article was pulled some time after the letter by the israelis was published. They have a right to respond, certainly. But Drs Swee and Abu Sitta also have a right not to be muzzled. The israeli medical profession is particularly responsible for being complicit in war crimes and their apologia.

    @ Etai, As it happens, Dr Swee is neither Palestinian, nor a man. Your one small refutation is drowned out by the reality of israel’s brutality and destruction and war crimes. To quote an Ohio academic in response to the muzzling of free speech and the pulling of the article:

    “The criticisms of “The Wounds of Gaza” on the Lancet are a beautiful specimen of a very specific move employed by the apologists for Israeli and American brutality: call it a red herring or smoke screen (a rhetorical version of white phosphorus bombs?) used to direct the focus away from the charges of war crimes and onto the reporters’ qualifications instead.

    We end up in a numbers game or a citations game rather than a real examination of the death and misery erased by such cynical diversionary gestures. In the end nobody ever has to take responsibility for the carnage on the ground and the social conditions that allow such carnage to continue and to be rendered invisible at the same time. When are we going to catch on to the game in which we end up being criticized for misspelling genocide while the actual genocide escapes from the conversation, only to continue unabated behind the furious flurry of words?”

  9. Ann
    6 March, 2009

    Dee, thanks for coming by, your repost is welcome and appreciated.

    Amane, thanks for your comments. “To directly respond to your point… the UN, Human Rights Watch, and other credible sources ALSO discredited the numbers given by the IDF as ludicrously low.” Exactly.

  10. Sami Joseph
    6 March, 2009

    It is amazing that Dr Swee Ang’s book ‘From Beirut to Jerusalem’ had the same treatment as Douglas Reed’s The Controversy of Zion! Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a journalist whose credentials include writing for the pro-Israel media, authored an identical title ‘The Controversy of Zion’ which won an American National Jewish Book Award in 1996! Now, there is a surprise!!!

  11. Amane
    6 March, 2009

    Thank you, Anne. One further point I’d like to make regards Gaza as “occupied” territory. Although Israel dismantled their illegal settlements, Israeli authorities thoroughly compensated settlers by stealing land from the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank–all land internationally recognized as Palestinian–and nearly doubling the number of illegal settlements in the West Bank alone during the Oslo accords. Ridiculously enough, while Israel created a PR flurry to publicize their withdrawal from Gaza, they coincidentally forgot to mention they stole a lot more land in the West Bank than they left behind in Gaza. Simply moving one illegal settlement from one place to another is hardly a gesture of peace and reconciliation, and to call it “unilateral” to belabour Israel’s supposed attempts at peace ignores reality in favor of empty rhetoric. And trust me, the lands taken weren’t empty pastures, but towns, villages, and municipalities; Israeli soldiers moved in with tanks and bull dozers to kick out Palestinians from their homes to rebuild mansion-like villas for the illegal settlers from Gaza.
    You want to talk about “Israeli refugees” to these people?

  12. Deborah
    6 March, 2009

    We should never take any government’s let alone military’s figures as gospel, no matter which state. Militaries lie. There is nothing anti-Semitic or anti-American to start with scepticism toward their numbers. Eye witnesses on the ground are absolutely crucial in situations of warfare to get at the truth of what actually happened. And it’s not controversial to acknowledge this fact. It seems to only engender controversy when the country in question is Israel, but that’s only because of the partisanship of Western governments toward it. Nonetheless that partisanship shouldn’t stop the Lancet from publishing articles that do not tow that line, just because there may be some readers who are unhappy with the effort. For the Lancet to cave into political pressure in that manner is not in the Lancet’s interest, because it just invites more political pressure from those who have naive views of the Israeli govt. or military.

  13. Pingback: Lång är vägen.. | Bahlool

  14. Kathleen
    6 March, 2009

    I was in Gaza last year and became a citizen…but who had to approve my passport to make it valid to use in my subsequent travels?? Israel..who no longer “occupies” Gaza! Yet as we say in January has control over life and death in Gaza. Israel also threatened to blow up the boat I arrived on..but apparently decided not to follow up their threat and I landed in Gaza with the permission of the Palestinian government rather than Israel. When I arrived non-occupying Israel had in effect in spite of the agreed upon cease fire, a devastating blockade for 18 months and few were allowed to go in and out of Gaza. Richard Falk, UN envoy was arrested when he landed in Israel to go to Gaza and was deported. NGO’s are being kept out of Gaza by Israel even though thousands of people suffer in Gaza fromn lack up essential goods. Darfur was just condemned for doing the same when it kicked NGO’s out of Darfur where the population also depends on humanitarian aid. 80% of Gaza needs aid as a regular necessity because of Israeli policies.Egypt and Israel are letting food rot rather than let it in arrive above ground. Only tunnels are successful in having food etc get inside Gaza and Israel continues to bomb tunnels, shoot at farmers and fisherman on their own land and in their own territorial waters. Gaza is a prison. Israel is their jailor .

  15. Pingback: Lancet Removes Gaza Article, Author responds | Palestine Think Tank

  16. NWL Talks
    25 May, 2009

    Dr Swee will be giving a talk on this topic at a centre in North West London on Friday the 5th of June at 20:00.

    For more information please visit:
    http://groups.google.co.uk/group/nwltalks

    NWL Talks

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This entry was posted on 4 March, 2009 by in Gaza, Israel, Palestine and tagged , , .

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