UK medical confab goers heckle doctor who identified as a ‘practicing Jew’

Head of Jewish physicians’ group had warned event could become ‘vehicle’ of antisemitism amid numerous anti-Israel resolutions, with attacks on British Jews spiking since Oct. 7

Illustrative: Protesters wave Israeli and UK flags as a pro-Palestinian rally marches past, in central London, May 18, 2024. (Benjamin Cremel / AFP)
Illustrative: Protesters wave Israeli and UK flags as a pro-Palestinian rally marches past, in central London, May 18, 2024. (Benjamin Cremel / AFP)

A doctor speaking at the British Medical Association’s annual conference on Monday was disrupted by shouts of “shame” after she said she was Jewish, British media reported.

The BMA was holding deliberations on numerous motions about the Gaza war when Dr. Joanna Klein-Sutton, an accidents and emergency expert, said she was a “practicing Jew,” and was heckled by one or two conference attendees, according to the Telegraph.

The incident underlined a warning the UK’s Jewish Medical Association had issued hours beforehand that the conference could become a “vehicle for discrimination and Jew hatred,” at which Jewish doctors could expect “a mix of overt anti-Semitism, bullying, harassment and flag-waving activism.”

Prof. David Katz, the head of the JMA, was quoted as saying that just a “small number [of Jewish doctors is] still engaged actively within the BMA itself.”

Anti-Israel motions deliberated at the BMA conference, which was taking place on Monday and Tuesday, included four identical calls by the BMA’s London regional council to boycott Israeli medical journals, conferences, and exchanges due to the country’s “systematic apartheid.” The motions added that Israel’s “acts in Gaza could amount to genocide,” according to the Telegraph.

Debate was blocked on some 30 motions that “risked being perceived as discriminatory — more specifically, antisemitic,” the newspaper said.

Dr. Klein-Sutton was reportedly criticizing the decision to block the debate when she called herself a “practicing Jew,” drawing the calls of “Shame.”

Illustrative: Protesters wave Israeli flags and hold placards at a rally against antisemitism in front of Big Ben at the UK Houses of Parliament in central London, November 26, 2023. (Justin Tallis / AFP)

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

According to The Telegraph, the cries against Sutton-Klein were not immediately condemned; instead, she was given another 15 seconds to finish her comments. However, BMA leaders later said they were investigating the “unacceptable” incident.

“The BMA takes extremely seriously behavior which is discriminatory, racist or offensive in any way,” a spokesperson for the association said. “In this instance, one or two members chose to disrupt the speech by a Jewish doctor who was speaking out in defense of the Palestinian community.”

“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,” the spokesperson added.

Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian protesters at the ‘National March for Gaza’ gather in front of Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament, in London, June 8, 2024. (Justin Tallis / AFP)

The Telegraph noted a couple of instances in which the association had shown a degree of leniency toward explicit antisemitism in the UK medical community since October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages, sparking the war in Gaza.

In one case, Dr. Dimitrios Psaroudakis was suspended for just three months after saying London would be better if it were “Jew-free.” The BMA said that the comment made Psaroudakis “not a racist but someone quite comfortable with using discriminatory language.”

In another case, the association failed to revoke the membership of Dr. Wahid Shaida, a leader of the fundamentalist Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir until the UK declared it a terrorist organization in January. Shaida had reportedly led protests calling for “jihad” against Israel.

The Community Security Trust, an antisemitism watchdog that serves the UK’s roughly 280,000 Jews, said in a February report that antisemitic attacks in the country had surged since October 7, making 2023 the worst year on record for antisemitism, with an average of 31 incidents per day.

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