Jewish doctors quit union in disgust over ‘one-sided and biased’ ceasefire call

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Jewish doctors quit union in disgust over ‘one-sided and biased’ ceasefire call

British Medical Association condemned for 'lack of neutrality' in its letter which calls for the UK to act over Gaza but makes no mention of the hostages held by Hamas

Kibbutz Nir Oz after Hamas attack
Kibbutz Nir Oz after Hamas attack

“Disgusted” Jewish doctors have quit the British Medical Association (BMA) in protest at a letter sent to the government urging a ceasefire without mentioning the Hamas atrocities of 7 October or hostages held in Gaza.

Sent by Prof Philip Banfield, BMA chair of council, and Dr Latifa Patel, BMA representative body chair and equality lead, the letter accuses Israel of disregarding “international humanitarian law” and “the principles of medical neutrality”.

Expressing “grave concern about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza”, the letter blames the “Israeli blockade of Gaza” for an “inexcusable shortage of basic necessities”. It calls on the UK government to stand up “for human rights and medical neutrality during this crucial period if, for no other reason, than it is the right thing to do”. It makes no mention of Hamas atrocities or the hostages in Gaza.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Jewish News, a London consultant psychiatrist who has cancelled her BMA membership said: “I feel totally devastated and unsafe as a Jewish doctor working in the NHS. The BMA’s statement dated 12/1/24 is entirely unilateral and biased against Israel, and I am disgusted that they couldn’t bring themselves to mention anything about the 7th October Hamas massacre, torture and kidnapping of Israelis, Hamas’s use of Gaza hospitals as military bases, and their continued rocket fire and attacks against Israeli civilians.

“I worry about the BMA’s stance against Israel worsening already existing antisemitism in the UK by giving a huge platform for hate speech against Israel and by association Jews. Furthermore, my understanding was that the money I pay the BMA in membership fees was going to support UK doctors and I think the BMA have no business talking about conflicts in other countries, but should focus on UK health related issues.”

Writing in response to Dr Banfield and Dr Patel issuing a separate call to action for NHS England to “ensure a supportive and inclusive working environment for all doctors”, Liz Lightstone, professor of renal medicine at Imperial College, wrote on Twitter/X for the BMA to “get your own house in order”.

Pic: Twitter/X

Also writing on Twitter/X, consultant anaesthetist Dr Marc Wittenberg called the BMA “shameful”, adding: “Neutrality is a farce when the statement fails to mention the hostages still being held in Gaza and the brutal and inhuman butchery, rape and torture that started on October 7th.”

A concerned NHS British GP told Jewish News: “The BMA letter in its one-sided and biased allegations against Israel demonises the Jewish state and fuels growing antisemitism within healthcare settings, thereby putting the wellbeing and safety of patients and staff at risk.

“By echoing and reinforcing common themes prevalent in hate speech against Jews and Israel, some of which are openly expressed by the NHS GP and leader of Hizb Ut-Tahrir, designated as a terror organisation by the home secretary, the BMA may be seen as giving a rubber stamp to overt displays of hate by doctors, which could present a serious safeguarding danger.

“The BMA must be neutral on this highly charged political area, and instead focus on establishing a zero tolerance approach towards racism in healthcare.”


A petition launched by Global Healthcare Professionals Against Racism in Healthcare, calling on the BMA to remain neutral on the Israel/Hamas conflict has garnered more than 1,000 signatures in two days.

Representing UK doctors, healthcare and allied  professionals and students, patients and members of the public, it fears that “the BMA’s repeated focus on the Israel/ Hamas War and its vilification of Israel, as exemplified by their most recent open letter on the conflict dated 12.1.24, which they have sent to the U.K. Foreign Secretary, risk escalating existing racial hatred against Jews and Israelis in U.K. healthcare settings, thereby jeopardising healthcare staff and patient wellbeing and safety, and that of the public at large.”

Abdul Wahid, Twitter

It goes on to mention north London GP Dr Abdul Wahid, the NHS doctor who is the current chair of the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the now proscribed Islamist group which seeks to implement sharia law in the West.

“It is worrying to note that an NHS GP working in London is the leader of a group which the Home Secretary petitioned government on 15.1.24 to designate as a proscribed terrorist group under the Terrorism Act 2000.”

The petition stresses the “urgent need to maintain neutrality in healthcare settings”, which has been illustrated “by the fact that many Jewish and Israeli UK healthcare and allied professionals, students and patients have experienced incidents of antisemitism from U.K. doctors and other healthcare professionals since the Hamas massacre of 1200 Israelis on 7.10.23, when the current war erupted.”

Signed by professionals and students from “a range of disciplines, patients and members of the public”, it calls on the BMA to take urgent action to “adhere to a neutral stance on politically charged issues in order to help safeguard patients and staff.”

One signatory, a BMA member for 45 years, calls the letter “the most egregious example of bias I have seen. No mention at all of the appalling and despicable terrorist attack which caused the war in the first place.”

Another writes: “There is no place for bias in medicine. You took an oath – there were no exception, opt-out, bias clauses. I defy you to practice medicine without using the inventions of Jews and Israelis in science!”

Professor Ian Goodman, lead GP at Brunel Medical School writes: “This letter highlights the complete bias and anti Israel stance of the BMA. No mention if (sic) Hamas atrocities. No criticism of Hamas breaking every humanitarian and moral ethical code by using civilian population as human shields. No mention of the widespread use by Hamas of medical facilities.

“No mention of the 136 hostages currently in Gaza and no mention of the fact that the Red Cross hasn’t visited them. No mention of all the atrocities and regrettable deaths in other conflicts around the world. Such shamefaced blatant prejudice, shows the BMA to be an anti-Semitic organisation.”

In a statement to Jewish News a BMA spokesperson said: “There is no contradiction in raising grave concerns about a humanitarian and healthcare crisis overseas and protecting doctors in the UK from discrimination and harassment. The BMA stands unequivocally against antisemitism and discrimination of any kind, whether that’s based on religion, race, nationality or political beliefs.

“It is wrong to take a specific letter in isolation, given all that we have said on the conflict so far, including in our comprehensive position statement that is referenced in the letter to Lord Cameron. It is not only incorrect, but irresponsible to suggest that we have not spoken out forcefully on the appalling attack by Hamas and the taking of Israeli hostages.

“The BMA absolutely wants to see the release of all hostages unharmed, and has consistently called for this, including in our position statement and in our initial response to the October attack.

“The letter to Lord Cameron focuses specifically on the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the unique and severe impact this is having on the health of civilians, healthcare services and healthcare staff working there.

“It also clearly calls for an immediate ceasefire and respect for international law, which applies to both parties in the conflict. The taking of hostages is in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions, and therefore we continue to call for their release.

“More broadly, as a professional association, the BMA has a long history of campaigning on human rights issues both in the UK and around the world and has longstanding policy on preserving medical impartiality in conflicts and upholding international law.

“We remain in contact with various representative bodies and seriously consider all concerns raised with us.”

To sign the petition, click here.

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