Doctors claim BMA conference is a ‘vehicle for Jew hatred’

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British Medical Association badge - Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Doctors fear the British Medical Association’s annual meeting is becoming “a vehicle for Jew hatred” as union factions called for action against Israel.

Leaders from the Jewish medical community raised concerns about the “hostile” atmosphere at the union’s conference hours before a woman was heckled on stage for saying she was a “practising Jew”.

Around 30, or one in 10 motions, which are policy proposals that doctors vote on and the union adopts if passed, had to be removed from debates on legal grounds because they related to the Israel and Palestine conflict, and “risked being perceived as discriminatory, more specifically, anti-Semitic”.

The words “Israel” or “Israeli” appeared 75 times in motions put forward by factions across the country to be debated at the meeting, which is hosted to discuss union policy and doctor and patient rights.

The union’s London regional council submitted four identical calls for the BMA to boycott Israeli medical journals, conferences, and academic and commercial exchanges, claiming Israel is breaching human rights.

It proposed the BMA lobby the Government to stop supplying weapons to Israel and repeated accusations of the country committing “systematic apartheid”.

It said that “Israel’s acts in Gaza could amount to genocide” and Israel “continues to occupy and oppress the Palestinian people and to use disproportionate and indiscriminate force against civilians”.

Other regional divisions proposed funding and supplying medical supplies, humanitarian aid, training for doctors on both sides of the conflict, and an end to military aid to Israel.

The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan vision asked the BMA to “lobby the UK Government to recognise that there is no military solution to the conflicts in Palestine and call for the undoing of all illegal settler occupations in Palestine”.

Prof David Katz, chairman of the Jewish Medical Association (JMA), said Jewish doctors attending the conference could “expect to encounter a mix of overt anti-Semitism, bullying, harassment and flag-waving activism”.

In a letter seen by The Telegraph he said: “JMA members – including the small number still engaged actively within the BMA itself – are deeply concerned that the meeting environment could become itself a vehicle for discrimination and Jew hatred.”

Dr Joanna Sutton-Klein, a Jewish A&E consultant, was heckled with repeated shouts of “shame” after she said she was Jewish. She criticised the decision to block debates on Israel and Palestine.

“The debates and arguments that we have as part of the BMA are essential,” she said. “In Judaism we have a value – Machloket l’Shem Shamayim – it means valuing disagreements for the sake of a bigger cause.”

The BMA said it was “unacceptable” and “investigating” the issue, and it had given Dr Sutton-Klein “15 seconds” of extra time as a result of the interruption.

One motion that was passed sought to “safeguard the rights of healthcare workers engaged in activism” including pro-Palestine and climate change protests, which have previously seen “punitive action” taken against doctors.

One student said she “like many of the doctors, healthcare workers, medical students over the past few months have stood up and protested against the ongoing genocide, which is happening in Gaza”.

“We cannot stay silent when so many innocent men, women and children have been murdered in a genocide which is a part of being funded by our governments and universities,” she said.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, has called on the doctors’ regulator, the General Medical Council, to take a tougher stance on racism and extremism, after it failed to strike Dr Wahid Shaida, who ran the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, off the register.

It also only suspended Dr Dimitrios Psaroudakis for three months after anti-Semitic comments such as London being better if it were “Jew free”, which it deemed made him “not a racist but someone quite comfortable with using discriminatory language”.

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which is a charity that fights anti-Semitism, said the “rise of anti-Jewish hate incidents in the medical profession has been particularly disturbing” since the Oct 7 Hamas massacre.

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.

He added: “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.”