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

Royal Society of Medicine under attack by pro-Israel doctors

In relation to the debate about academic boycott and freedom, it
seems relevant to record another way in which the refusal to address the
voluminous and independent evidence of medical ethical violations in
Israel is being maintained.

The Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) has lately been under attack. Months ago I was invited to
speak at an RSM conference on Religion, Spirituality and Mental Health, to
contribute to a session on the role of health professionals in conflict
situations. Reflecting my research interests and publications on medical
ethics since 1992, my main case study was on Israel/Palestine. Once the
conference was publicised, the RSM became subject to pressure from some pro-Israel doctors to remove me from the conference
programme and went so
far as to threaten a challenge to the RSM constitution as a charity if
they were to permit a "political" (and biased) person to speak.

After weeks of this the RSM decided that if the entire conference was
to be saved I would have to be asked to withdraw, and I was rung up to
this effect. In the end the RSM steeled itself and decided to go ahead,
and the conference was held on 9th October.

The editors of UK medical journals publishing human rights material
on the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been subject to comparable
pressures; in the USA pro-Israel groups are hounding- and effectively-
individual academics, conferences, publishers, and universities. These are
ominous developments, recalling the era of McCarthyism.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

18 October 2007
derek a summerfield
Hon Sen Lect, Institute of Psychiatry, London
Maudsley Hospital, SE5 8BB