Suicide bombing row halts Liverpool medical course

By Jonathan Kalmus, May 6, 2011

Liverpool University has suspended a course at its medical school after a lecturer handed out pamphlets which defended Palestinian suicide bombings.

Two Jewish students complained to heads of the Faculty of Medicine after attending a lecture on Palestinian suffering and being given a pamphlet produced by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The PSC handout argued, in a section entitled "Terrorism or Resistance," that Palestinians who turned themselves into human bombs were tragic and acting in "utter despair", responding to "servitude, expulsion or annihilation". The cover of the pamphlet depicts a menacing Israeli soldier holding weapons over cowering Palestinian

The lecture was part of a four-week elective module on medical inequalities for student doctors, run by the external organisation Healthy Inclusion. It is headed by Dr Joseph O'Neill, an honorary lecturer at the university and an adviser on treating asylum seekers. He had invited Gwen Backwell, former chair of Liverpool Friends of Palestine, to give a lecture about Palestinians in the West Bank.

The PSC pamphlet was handed to university Jewish chaplain Rabbi YY Rubinstein. He said: "I think there should be a serious legal examination of this leaflet and the organisation distributing it.

"The university has told me that it sees no problem with the Palestinian side being heard in lectures because free speech is guaranteed. But it must be balanced with the other side of the argument. To me, it is logical that there therefore needs to be an Israeli medical lecture if this course is to continue."

A university spokesperson said: "The University of Liverpool runs an optional course for medical students on social exclusion issues in health from a global, national and local perspective. It has been suspended following a complaint which is being investigated."

It is understood that executive pro-vice chancellor Professor Ian Greer has suspended the course and has called in Healthy Inclusions today (May 6) to discuss the matter.

Last updated: 11:03am, May 6 2011