Swedish hospital's chief surgeon on gardening leave over ‘Jewish ghetto’ remark

The individual at Karolinska University Hospital also reportedly shared antisemitic tropes on social media


A chief surgeon at a renowned Stockholm hospital is on paid gardening leave after being accused of bullying Jewish colleagues and posting antisemitic pictures on social media.

The images, which included caricatures frequently seen in Nazi Germany and in the former Soviet Union, were “without a doubt antisemitic”, according to organisations including the Swedish Committee Against Antisemtism and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Among the accusations, which stretch back at least 18 months, is a claim that the surgeon referred to Jewish colleagues as “a ghetto”.

The surgeon’s name and gender have not been revealed because Swedish media do not identify persons who are only suspected of committing an offence. The individual concerned agreed to take time away from work last week.

The incidents at Karolinska University Hospital’s neurology department were first reported by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

It quoted a Jewish doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as saying the chief surgeon had discriminated against Jewish staff members by hindering them from working on the same terms as other colleagues and by making insulting comments.

Jewish staff members were denied the chance to accept invitations to international conferences and to carry out certain surgery procedures, the doctor alleged, adding that they were offered lower wages than their colleagues despite being highly qualified.

The chief surgeon was also heard to remark “there goes the Jewish ghetto” while walking past the doctor and another Jewish colleague in the hospital.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote to Karolinska University Hospital in a letter that the accusations against the chief had been “systematically ignored” by the hospital management.

The Jewish doctor who spoke to Aftonbladet first filed a complaint against the chief surgeon in June 2017. The surgeon was subsequently removed as a department head, but it was not until a further complaint was made in February this year that the hospital launched an internal investigation. It was headed by a close friend of the accused surgeon and did not lead to any concrete changes, according to Swedish media reports.

Sebastian Sheiman, a lawyer representing the Jewish doctor, said the investigation had been deeply flawed because, for instance, the hospital insisted on drawing up a list of names of whistleblowers and of Jewish members of staff — something that the Simon Wiesenthal Center likened to establishing a “register of Jews”.

That is “unacceptable and a flagrant violation of the law,” Rabbi Cooper wrote in his letter to the hospital last month.

Mr Sheiman has also accused the hospital’s lawyer of trying to disqualify him from representing the Jewish doctor since he is Jewish himself and therefore “partial” — a claim denied by the hospital.

Annika Tibell, the hospital’s acting director, said Karolinska operates a “zero-tolerance policy” towards all forms of harassment and has established a new whistleblower service for members of staff.

Ms Tibell agreed to meet representatives from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism on Monday and was due to hold a similar meeting with representatives from the Simon Wiestenthal Center this week.

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