Doctor’s conference becoming a ‘vehicle for Jew-hatred’

Jewish medical professionals have warned against rising antisemitism in the health service


Jewish doctors warned the BMA was obliged to 'call out antisemitism whenever it emerges' (Photo: Getty Images)

Jewish doctors have expressed their fear that the British Medical Association’s annual conference is becoming “a vehicle for discrimination and Jew-hatred".

In an open letter written before the conference, which is taking place in Belfast, Jewish Medical Association leaders Professor David Katz and Dr Fiona Sim said that when examining the motions due to be debated, “it is clear that there is only one international event that merits medical political activism” – Israel’s war against Hamas.

"The spillover from this conflict into healthcare in the UK has been huge,” they wrote.

"Whilst there have always been occasional antisemitic incidents involving doctors and other healthcare professionals, the scale, extent and virulence of these in the past eight months has been extraordinary.

"Social media has been used to enable dissemination of rampantly antisemitic tropes, conspiracy theories and denial.

"The NHS Staff Survey has identified high levels of self-reported anti-Jewish prejudice for many years; our colleagues on the NHS Jewish Staff Network report running online support sessions regularly for those affected during the current period.”

Around 30 motions were removed from debates on legal grounds because they related to the Israel Palestine conflict and "risked being perceived as discriminatory, more specifically, antisemitic,” The Telegraph reported.

The words “Israel” or “Israeli” appeared 75 times in motions tabelled at the conference.

Some submitted by the London Regional Council demand that the BMA boycott Israeli conferences, academic exchanges, and medical journals.

Professor Katz and Dr Sim said: "Many Jewish health professionals, like the population at large, have grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and believe that the government of Israel can be criticised for its handling of the conflict.

"However, the BMA is absolved of none of its obligations: not to discriminate against Jewish members and to call out antisemitism whenever it emerges.

"The upshot is that Jewish doctors planning to attend the 2024 BMA ARM, as individuals but also – inevitably – as representatives of responsible Jewish (and non-Jewish) peers throughout medicine, can expect to encounter a mix of overt antisemitism, bullying, harassment and flag-waving activism. This fills them with trepidation.

"They have to hope that sufficient allies will be active rather than passive bystanders.”

The BMA has since launched an investigation after one audience member shouted “shame” at a doctor when she announced that she is “a practising Jew”.

Dr Joanna Sutton-Klein, a researcher and doctor in A&E, gave a speech at the conference arguing that a wider range of motions should be debated on the Israel Palestine conflict.

"In Judaism we have a value: Machloket l’shem shamayim. It means valuing disagreements for the sake of a bigger cause,” she told attendees. 

"Our Jewish scriptures are full of disagreements amoung rabbis.”

Dr Sutton-Klein continued: “That’s not the only reason I bring up Jewish teaching. In the initial letter from the agenda committee one of the justifications for the silencing of these motions was that they might be perceived as antisemitic. So I want to stand up here today as a practising Jew to say there is nothing–”

At that point, a member of the audience shouted "shame," medical news website GPOnline reported.

The JC understand that the heckler was Jewish themselves.

Dr Sutton-Klein continued: “I want to stand up here today as a practising Jew to say there is nothing Jewish about the attempt to remove motions that you disagree with and the idea that undemocratically removing motions from the agenda helps Jews is staggeringly offensive, as is shouting ‘shame’ at a Jewish person talking about their practise at a conference”

A BMA spokesman said: “The BMA takes extremely seriously behaviour which is discriminatory, racist or offensive in any way.

"In this instance, one or two members chose to disrupt the speech by a Jewish doctor who was speaking out in defence of the Palestinian community in Gaza.

“The BMA stands firmly against all forms of discrimination and prejudice and we believe in dignity and respect for all individuals, regardless of their personal characteristics.”

Following the October 7 terror attack antisemitism has spiked in the NHS.

While in 2021 four doctors were reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) for antisemitism, since the IDF launched their campaign in Gaza, 66 doctors have been flagged.

In March, nurses at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital wearing pro-Palestine insignia were accused of forcing a Jewish child to sit on the floor.

His mother, already coping with the stress of her son’s serious illness, was left “distraught”, Manchester Jewish Representative Council chief executive Marc Levy told the JC at the time.

“When you go into a hospital you expect to be treated the same as anyone else. It is completely inappropriate for political badges to be worn,” he said.

“They may give a patient anxiety around their care.”

British doctors working at trusts around the country have meanwhile defended Hamas, claimed Britain is an “Israeli colony” and denied the Shoah.

Dr Najmiah Khaiessa Ahmad, who works at the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey, shared a video that claimed the Jewish Rothschild family made up the “so-called ‘Holocaust’ to serve as a mind kontrol trigger to thwart and resist any criticism of their Zionist ways [sic]” and that they want to trick “dumb American goyim” into fighting for Israel.

“For my own watching,” Dr Ahmad wrote as she shared the clip. “Learning each day.”

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are aware of concerns raised in relation to social media posts by a member of our staff and we are handling the matter internally.”

Dr Ali Al-Rikabi, a consultant surgeon at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, has attacked Israelis as “Zio-Neo-Nazis” and claimed that Israel controls the British government. On LinkedIn, he wrote: “It is clear that the US and the UK are in fact Israeli colonies.”

A spokesman for Somerset NHS Foundation Trust said: “We do not tolerate views and language that is discriminatory or intolerant of others.”

Another NHS consultant, was arrested for selling a pamphlet that features a Star of David blended with a swastika and conspiracy theories about Jews.

Data collected following October 7 has also exposed growing prejudice in the NHS.

Following Hamas’s massacre of 1,200 Israelis last year, 95 per cent of Jewish healthcare workers in Britain said they had seen a rise in antisemitism in their daily lives, one poll revealed.

Three-quarters said that they had personally suffered at least one Jew-hate incident over the same period.

The survey, led by Dr Joseph Greenwall-Cohen and the Jewish Dental Association, found that 70 per cent of antisemitic incidents reported by healthcare workers involved actions or statements by colleagues, with half of those surveyed saying that they did not feel safe in clinical settings.

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