Israel is not committing genocide, Dr. Soni: Woode-Smith

Nicholas Woode-Smith argues that Dr. Aayesha Soni’s assertions about Dr. Bridget Farham and the Israel-Hamas conflict are flawed. Dr. Farham faced pressure to resign from the South African Medical Journal for refusing to publish biased articles on the Gaza conflict without proper context. Wendy Kahn of SAJBD called for Farham’s reinstatement, citing academic freedom violations. Soni, linked to MRN, a group promoting hate against Israel, submitted an emotive, factually flawed article. Farham rightfully demanded contextual accuracy, emphasising Hamas’s responsibility for the conflict.

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By Nicholas Woode-Smith*

Dr Aayesha Soni is wrong about Dr Bridget Farham and wrong about the Israel-Hamas conflict. For a brief context, Dr Farham was pressured to resign from the South African Medical Journal after refusing to publish two articles that biasedly and unprofessionally presented the conflict in Gaza as a genocide, without providing the necessary context of the October 7th Massacre.

Wendy Kahn of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) called for the reinstatement of Dr Farham, citing unfair treatment, and the violation of Dr Farham’s academic freedom and position as editor.

It’s not just the SAJBD who is displeased by Dr Farham’s forced resignation. Reggy Moalusi, Executive Director of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), described the situations as:

“An unfortunate development that the Sama board had to interfere with Dr Farham’s editorial. We’re always of the view that editors should be allowed to take independent editorial decisions and be allowed to do their work. It’s clear from the editorial that she was taking no sides.”

Dr Soni claims her article that was rejected by Dr Farham was “unemotive” and contained 20 citations. The linked article, which may be an incorrect hyperlink, contained only 6 citations, and contained language meant to evoke quite a bit of emotion, including referring to scenes emotively as “scenes of horror” and incorrectly stating the death count at the Al-Alhi Hospital (which she places at 500, but which many corroborated sources put at between 200 and 300). She also neglects to mention that Al-Alhi Hospital was likely hit by a misfired rocket launched by Hamas’ ally, Islamic Jihad and were not “instantly murdered” by Israel.

Dr Soni is not just a medical doctor commenting about a topic outside her field of study. She is associated with the Media Review Network (MRN), with Middle East Monitor claiming that she is vice-chairperson of the organisation.

While innocuously named, the MRN is in fact a blatant anti-Israel hate group, dedicated to attacking Israel and the Jewish community in the media. Its logo even contains a scimitar, a symbol associated with violence and support for terrorism.

The MRN spreads misinformation, ahistorical information, and pushes conspiracy theories with the purpose of promoting hate against Jews and Israel. Dr Soni’s association with such an organisation should bring her reputation as an academic and a doctor into question.

Dr Farham requested that Dr Soni provide context surrounding October 7th for her submission on the Israel-Hamas war. Dr Soni refused. Editors are allowed to refuse pieces that they do not feel pass the stringent standards of a journal. Farham’s right as an editor were violated when political pressure was placed on her after making an editorial decision.

Dr Soni is also wrong about Israel. To accuse Israel of genocide amounts to extreme ignorance and dishonesty.

Israel and the IDF has gone through every effort to evacuate civilian areas, provide access to healthcare, and minimise the deaths of innocents. When Shifa Hospital was liberated by the IDF from Hamas control, Israeli soldiers brought in incubators, medical supplies, and baby food. Does this sound like a genocidal force?

October 7th had to be responded to in force. Any country that does not retaliate to avenge its fallen and save its hostages is, frankly, pathetic.

Hamas has been using hospitals and other civilian facilities to wage its war, firing rockets, storing ammo and imprisoning hostages within these medical and civilian structures.

How can the IDF fight a war without collateral damage when it is Hamas stopping civilians from evacuating, keeping them inside military bases so they can be martyred, and using them as human shields?

At the end of the day, Hamas crossed over Israel’s border, and committed mass murder and rape. That is why Dr Farham required October 7th to be mentioned as context.

And for demanding such academic balance, Dr Farham was accused of “moral cowardice”. Yet, as Dr Farham put it herself:

“The same person who accused me of moral cowardice for not publishing her submission on the weaponisation of health system destruction also said that she, and many others, feel that the events of October 7 2023 can be justified by 75 years of Israeli oppression. This is where I cannot agree. Nothing justifies the horror that was meted out to families on the southern Gaza border that day.”

Nothing justifies rape. Nothing justifies the events of October 7th. Especially not an ahistorical idea of Israeli oppression.

This conflict was caused by Hamas, and while we must hold truly reprehensible acts by the IDF accountable, it is Hamas who started this war, continues to put civilians in harms way, and refuses to surrender. This war could end today if Hamas lays down its weapons, releases the hostages, and surrenders. And like the criminals they are, they need to hand themselves in.

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*Nicholas Woode-Smith is a political analyst, historian, and author. He has written extensively on the Israel-Hamas Conflict.

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