Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Head to head

Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? No

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 19 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:125

Professor Baum still not answering and handing over to IMA

Yet again (October 4) the Professor has not responded to the facts in
the reports from multiple Human Rights Organisations listed by Derek
Summerfield.For an academic deliberately to ignore the evidence is strange
indeed and suggests an attempt at denial. There is plenty of evidence of
the disgrace of Israelis officially, purposefully and deliberately causing
pain and suffering to Palestinian detainees - amongst others. The Israeli
government has claimed that detainees are 'under constant medical

In 2001 the BMA, a close friend of the IMA, published a handbook 'The
Medical Profession and Human Rights'. It was written by its Human Rights
steering group chaired by Professor Vivienne Nathanson. It includes a
description of prolonged torture of a Palestinian detainee (p64) and
states that the Israeli authorities use 'forms of pressure which might
constitute torture or cruel and degrading treatment'. (Evidence obtained
under torture is legally valid in Israel.) The book (p65) states that
'Israeli doctors examined detainees prior to interrogation to ensure they
were fit enough to withstand the 'moderate physicial pressure'.

I can see it is very difficult for a Zionist and for the IMA to
accept that the Israeli government and Medical Association is involved in
torturing and that denial is one, albeit disgraceful, way of coping but
the facts are thoroughly out in the public domain.

Seek ye the truth where it may be found, Professsor Baum, but I am
not sure the IMA is its sacred repository!

The IMA in its response is still in denial and veers off the point in
an oft repeated fabrication that Palestinian ambulances frequently carry
bombs and suicide bombers. In fact the Jewish American Medical Project has
recently analysed these stories and found only one instance and the truth
of that was debatable. The Jerusalem Post agreed with this report! What is
undoubtedly true and carefully documented is the slaughter of Palestinian
health workers and attacks on ambulances being shot at and many staff
injured and killed.

Appended to the IMA response are two letters. The first is to
Officials including the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Military
Prosecutor of 'the territories'asking for a meeting and reassurance about
the state of health of the Palestinians. This interest might be reassuring
but why was the letter sent as recently as July 12 2007? Is this merely
belated or sent as a tactic in panic?
It is tragic that those Israeli doctors who do chose to practice according
to internationally acceptable ethical standards are led by an organisation
that betrays them so openly.
All the Palestinian health organisations and Physicians for Human Rights
Israel have called for the IMA to be boycotted and a group of UK doctors
agrees. We have waited too long already.
It is in the interests of Israelis, their doctors and of the Palestinians
that the IMA be boycotted to help it come to its senses. It would be a
surprise, but a wonderful one, if the BMA acted according to its official
principles and assisted in this.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 October 2007
Christopher J Burns-Cox
consultant physician
Wotton-under-Edge GLOS GL12 7PB
Southend Farm,