Medical ethics, the Israeli Medical Association, and the state of the World Medical AssociationBMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7423.1107-a (Published 06 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1107
Summerfield misrepresented Blachar in his open letter
EDITOR–Summerfield's open letter to the BMA about the appointment of Yoram Blachar as president of the World Medical Association raises a number of concerns.1
Much of the content of Summerfield's letter falls outside the remit of the British medical establishment and the BMJ in particular. I am sure that Summerfield would agree that if you were to criticise a medical association on the basis of actions undertaken by your own country's defence forces, the World Medical Association would be an empty institution.
One issue that Summerfield raises alarms me in relation to the appointment of Blachar. This is the quote that Summerfield makes from Blachar's response to an editorial in the Lancet last year. Summerfield suggests that Blachar implies that the death of a Palestinian civilian was not morally equivalent to the death of an Israeli civilian.2 I believe that such a statement would be morally unacceptable for the head of a world medical association and would be sufficient grounds for the BMA to strongly protest at this appointment.
I therefore carefully reviewed Blachar's letter in the Lancet. Clearly Summerfield has entirely misquoted and misrepresented Blachar's view on this matter and Blachar does not think that a Palestinian civilian's death is of any less moral concern than that of an Israeli civilian.
Once this misrepresentation is removed, the remaining premises on which Summerfield bases his lengthy correspondence collapse. Nathanson in her response to Summerfield's open letter lauds Summerfield for his commitment to human rights.3 However, given this misrepresentation, Summerfield's motives in writing such a letter and indeed the appropriateness of publishing it in the BMJ are questionable.
Conflict of interest None declared.