Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Image
On Oct. 7, Hamas unleashed a barbaric terrorist attack against Israel, killing more than 1,200 people, including more than 30 Americans. The event was unprecedented in its scale and cruelty in a country that is no stranger to terrorism. Still, it was not met with universal condemnation. Rather, a nontrivial number of Americans either justified or even celebrated the attacks. Such responses were especially prevalent within the elite universities that popular imagination historically upholds as a bulwark against religious and ethnic bigotry, and mostly occurred with impunity.
Medicine has eagerly adopted the same type of identity politics that have come to define the policies, sensibilities, and ideologies of Ivy League universities, where diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officials have essentially served as a political commissariat, articulating and enforcing identity politics orthodoxy. Indeed, medical training and practice is fertile ground for antisemitism to flourish. Looking at explicit acts of antisemitism from health care providers in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack, we observe that doctors are among those who have engaged in some of the most egregious displays of antisemitism, and that they are not regularly punished for their conduct. Second, we examined the responses of professional medical associations and medical schools to Hamas’ attack against Israel compared to their response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Leading medical institutions treat the world’s only Jewish state differently from other U.S. allies even though Americans overall have warmer feelings toward Israel than Ukraine.
If we want to understand why medical professionals are drawn to acts of antisemitism despite their advanced levels of education, we need to look at what their medical associations and schools are teaching them. Those institutions not only advance an ideology that facilitates Jew hatred, they demonstrate by the example of their public statements that they hold Jews and the Jewish state to a different standard.
Assuredly, the great majority of medical practitioners have made no public statements or made benign remarks that did not warrant news coverage. Still, Stop Antisemitism, an organization that calls attention to public displays of antisemitism, has recorded many medical practitioners whose speech or conduct related to recent events clearly demonstrate untrammeled Jew hatred. The fact that some of those health professionals were subsequently disciplined by their employers is reassuring. But the fact that so many would feel the urge and freedom to engage in overt Jew hatred despite their advanced professional training is alarming.
Several doctors publicly celebrated the savagery that Hamas inflicted upon Israel, which featured barbarism that rivals some of the darkest episodes of human history. Dr. Shiraz Farooq took to social media to post a Palestinian flag with the caption “about time!!!” As of today it appears he is still leading the ColoWell proctology clinic in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Majd Aburabia, the medical director of a cancer center in Dearborn, Michigan, posted on social media: “What a beautiful morning. What a beautiful day,” referencing the musical Oklahoma! to express joy about the Hamas assault. An update posted by Stop Antisemitism claims that her employment at Beaumont Hospital was terminated, but as of today she is still listed as an employee on the hospital’s website.
Dr. Abeer Abou Yabis, a physician at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, similarly took to social media to celebrate Hamas’ attack, writing “They got walls we got gliders glory to all resistance fighters.” She is no longer employed at Emory. Dr. Dana Diab commented on Instagram that “Zionist settlers” got “a taste of their own medicine.” She was subsequently fired from her ER physician job at Lenox Hill. Raeda Saeed, a registered nurse in the Chicago area, sent a direct message expressing her desire that a Chicago-area mother and daughter who were kidnapped be “burned alive and fed to Israel dogs.” It’s unclear if she has faced any professional consequences. Zaki Massoud, a medical resident at NYU Langone Winthrop hospital, commented on Instagram, “Let them call it terrorism. Extremism. Barbarianism. We call it liberation. Decolonization. Resistance. Revolution.” He was relieved of his position.
Other doctors made grotesque remarks in characterizing Israel’s military response to the massacre that Hamas perpetrated. Alaa Ramadan, a Houston-based pediatrician, posted an Instagram image claiming that the “only” difference between children murdered in Israel as part of Hamas’ genocidal campaign and Palestinian children killed during Israel’s war to eradicate Hamas is that “you won’t find Youtube ads for the death of these (Palestinian) children ... Because they have no hidden agenda or propaganda to spread—just raw images.” Her employer, Pediatrix, sheepishly commented that “we find all forms of racism and antisemitism abhorrent. Individuals commenting on their personal social media pages do not represent an official statement on behalf of the company. We will not be commenting further on this matter.”
In other cases, health care providers landed in hot water not for their own speech but for attempting to stifle the speech of others. Zena Al-Adeeb, a Boston-based endodontist, was filmed ripping down posters of Israeli civilians. Her employment was terminated. Dr. Mohammed Alghamdi, a physician and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, also ripped down posters of kidnapped Israelis. As of today he is still listed as an employee of the school.
Many health professionals were eager to endorse hateful messages crafted by others. More than 3,000 health care providers worldwide (including hundreds from the U.S.) signed an open letter making numerous demands of the Israeli government but none of Hamas. Worse, it originally demanded the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza but explicitly stated that this demand was removed after internal deliberation. The doctors who signed the letter apparently do not see the release of hostages as a priority the way that they see an “immediate cease-fire” with Hamas butchers as a moral imperative.
To identify professional medical associations, we began with the American Medical Association (AMA) and the set of “national medical specialty societies” that are affiliated with it. We then narrowed that list to focus on the 42 organizations affiliated with the AMA that are also in the list of medical associations compiled by the continuing education provider, Meditec. We also examined a set of 152 medical schools in the United States as identified by Wikipedia. This list includes all MD granting institutions in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. We searched for all statements or official news items released by these medical associations and colleges that addressed the conflicts involving Ukraine, as well as Israel. The terms for which we searched were “Ukraine,” “Israel,” “Hamas,” “Gaza,” and “Palestine.”
Among the 42 medical associations, 31 (74%) had an official communication regarding Ukraine, but only 11 (26%) had done so with respect to Israel. Medical associations were almost three times more likely to issue statements with respect to the conflict in Ukraine than to the one in Israel. The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), for example, took an unequivocal stand on the situation in Ukraine: “The shock of violence perpetuated [sic] against innocent, peaceful individuals, who have been forced to flee and fight while experiencing the immense terror of having their nation invaded and their homes and cities attacked, has been harrowing to witness. AACOM honors the courage and character of the Ukrainian people, their bravery in the face of such suffering and the spiritual strength they are demonstrating by protecting their land and populace.” The AACOM appears to have nothing to say about the shock of violence perpetrated against innocent and peaceful Israelis. Nor does the AACOM offer similar praise to the Israeli people for their courage, character, and bravery, or the spiritual strength they demonstrate by protecting their land and populace.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) joined with the European Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care (ESAIC) to declare that they were “united in our condemnation of the attacks on the people of Ukraine.” They had no condemnation to offer of the attacks on the Israeli people.
The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) stated: “The resilience of the Ukrainian people and the steadfastness of their leader are remarkable and humbling. To those of you who are of Ukrainian descent with family, history and loved ones in the country or fleeing for their lives, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers.” Apparently, Israeli steadfastness is not remarkable and humbling, and Jews are not in the ACPM’s thoughts and prayers.
Some of the 11 medical associations that had official communications about both Ukraine and Israel treated the two conflicts similarly. For example, the American Academy of Dermatology responded to the conflict in Ukraine by stating, “The American Academy of Dermatology stands in solidarity with our Ukrainian members and their patients during this time of crisis. We condemn the Russian assault on Ukraine’s sovereign territory, and we support freedom in all its forms.” Their response to the conflict in Israel: “The American Academy of Dermatology stands strongly in support of our members and their patients in the state of Israel and in the Israel Dermatology Society. There can be no justification for the torturing, kidnapping, and murdering of innocent civilians. We pray for the swift return of peace and the opportunity for all our members in the region to live in safety and prosperity.” Similarly, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging issued consistent statements concerning both conflicts.
Several of the 11 medical associations that issued statements on both Ukraine and Israel had noticeable differences between how they responded to these two events, though. For example, the American Medical Association issued a statement about the war in Ukraine that includes this quotation from AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD: “The AMA is outraged by the senseless injury and death the Russian army has inflicted on the Ukraine people. For those who survive these unprovoked attacks, the physical, emotional and psychological health of Ukrainians will be felt for years.” The AMA neither expressed outrage over the Hamas slaughter of Israeli civilians nor characterized the attack as unprovoked. Instead, the AMA reported that they had “heard from many of our physician and medical student members expressing heartbreak and outrage about the human toll afflicting Israelis, Palestinians and others.”
The much more problematic pattern, however, is the complete silence of most medical associations on the situation in Israel. Almost three-quarters of medical associations felt the need to speak out on the war in Ukraine but almost three-quarters have nothing to say about the war in Israel. The stark contrast in their response is alarming.
Fewer medical schools generally issue official communications on public issues than do medical associations. Of the 152 medical schools we examined, 69 (45%) have a statement or article with editorial content regarding the conflict in Ukraine on their website. Only four (3%) of those medical schools have posted something with respect to the conflict in Israel.
The University of Maryland’s medical school responded to events in Ukraine by saying, “Throughout the last week as the world has witnessed terrible and unprovoked violence against the people of Ukraine, we are reminded that the mission of the University of Maryland Medical System to support the health and well-being of others extends beyond our state to all of those in need across the globe.” That mission does not appear to extend to Israel or American Jews connected to Israel.
The Medical University of South Carolina expressed sympathy for their affiliates with personal connections to Ukraine: “We recognize that there are members of our MUSC family who are natives of Ukraine and have family and friends there and many others with friends and connections to Ukraine who are now suffering as a result of the invasion. Our hearts and minds are with them as they process these life-changing current events, and we encourage each of you to offer these team members your support and compassion during this difficult time.” The statement then connects Ukraine to democracy and U.S. values. Israel’s democracy and how it has been threatened by an unprovoked attack or how members of the “MUSC family” with connections to Israel who may be suffering are not worthy of their comment.
The University at Buffalo medical school similarly expressed support for those connected to Ukraine: “We are in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, Ukrainian-Americans in Western New York, across our nation, and around the world ... Our Ukrainian families, friends, neighbors, and citizens everywhere need and deserve our support. I know you will join me in providing the aid and comfort they need, to the best of your ability.” That medical school apparently does not stand with Israel or feel the need to support those connected to Israel.
Two of the three medical schools that issued statements on both Ukraine and Israel responded very differently to those events. The dean of Michigan State’s medical school devoted an entire message to the conflict in Ukraine. In it, he noted that he had “received touching and heartfelt notes in support of the people of Ukraine” and emphasized that “this is a very difficult time for our people with connections to Ukraine and the surrounding region.” He also offered details on how people could coordinate “getting supplies to Ukraine.”
The same dean’s response to the war in Israel was confined to a few sentences at the bottom of a message about other matters and did not even mention Israel by name. He then switched the topic to other conflicts that he does list by name: “We have confirmed the safety of faculty (Dr. Hend) and students in Jordan doing crucial work to care for Syrian civil war refugees, whose suffering continues. The war in Ukraine continues. The war in Yemen continues. There was a shooting on the Morgan State University campus last week. There is much to do.”
Yale University’s medical school responded to the war in Ukraine by profiling an organization created by a number of its faculty, called Doctors United for Ukraine. The article describes how that organization has been successful at raising money and delivering medical assistance in Ukraine. As one of the medical professors put it, “The goal is ever-evolving. But the overall mission is to support the people of Ukraine.”
Unlike its response to the war in Ukraine, Yale medical school’s statement on the war in Israel takes no stand about who is particularly deserving of fundraising and support. It noticeably uses the passive voice to describe events: “Two weeks have elapsed since violence erupted in Israel and Gaza, and with each passing day, the mayhem grows.” The statement goes out of its way to provide compassion for all: “Like many of you, I’ve spent hours gazing at pictures of Israeli children, murdered or kidnapped, and pictures of Palestinian children, lying on stretchers or climbing through rubble. Yet, few discuss the conflict out loud. In quiet corners, we whisper our concerns. We ask Jewish and Muslim friends if they have loved ones they’re worried about, and, it turns out, many do. As physicians, we uphold the lives of all people, without exception. In our clinics and hospitals we care for refugees fleeing war zones, torture victims seeking asylum, and veterans who can’t escape their trauma. We don’t call people good or bad, and we don’t label patients deserving or not. We open our doors and hearts to all.”
The most striking thing about the response of medical schools to the wars in Ukraine and Israel is how nearly half have something to say about Ukraine while almost none say anything about Israel. If we combined the 42 medical associations and 152 medical schools, we find that 100 out of 194 of them posted responses to the conflict in Ukraine, while 15 of those 194 issued statements regarding the war in Israel. That is, over half of these medical organizations felt it necessary to speak to the Ukraine crisis while only 8% felt the need to do so with respect to Israel. Because the war in Israel is newer, it is possible that medical associations and schools have simply had more time to formulate responses to the situation in Ukraine. We started our data collection on statements about Israel on Oct. 24, which is 17 days after the Hamas attack. However, even if we limited our analysis to the statements on Ukraine that had been released within 17 days of the Russian invasion, medical organizations would still be more than twice as likely to have spoken on the Ukraine conflict than on the one in Israel.
One potential explanation for the medical community’s vastly different response to Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel compared to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is that they were simply following public opinion. If, for example, Americans were more supportive of Ukraine’s war effort than Israel’s war effort, then differences in how and whether the medical community addressed each issue wouldn’t necessarily be cause for concern. However, by just about any measure, Americans have equal or greater affinity for Israel, more enthusiasm for its war effort, and greater appetite for the U.S. to provide material support. For example, a USA Today survey found that 58% of Americans favor sending additional military aid to Israel compared to 51% who favor additional aid for Ukraine. A Quinnipiac survey meanwhile found that 76% of voters think that supporting Israel is in the national interest of the United States compared to 65% of voters who feel the same way about Ukraine. A CNBC survey found that 74% responded that it’s “important” for the U.S. to fund military aid to Israel, a number that beats out not only military aid for Ukraine (61%) but every other geopolitical position surveyed. Clearly, the responses (or lack thereof) from the medical community to Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel compared to the Russian invasion of Ukraine diverge widely from public opinion.
Many Americans spoke of Hamas’ attack on Israel as being a clarifying moment. The responses of students and faculty of elite universities laid bare the extent to which these institutions have become safe harbors for antisemitism. Medicine is not immune and may even be particularly prone to depraved ideologies. The unbridled adoption of extreme progressive political orthodoxy (and particularly identity politics) raises the specter that a field entrusted with healing is instead becoming a vehicle for hatred.
The open letter, which purposefully neglects to demand the release of Israeli hostages, demonstrates that many health care providers are willing to endorse radical statements with unusually callous disregard for civilian suffering, so long as those civilians are Israelis. Some health care providers have taken to social media or public protests to express their own abhorrent convictions. Disturbingly, they are not regularly punished. Some medical institutions are willing to abide antisemitism and explicit endorsements or celebrations of terrorism committed against Israel.
The degree to which the responses of medical schools and medical associations varied when it comes to the invasion of Ukraine compared to Hamas’ attack on Israel is another foreboding sign. These institutions are under no expectation to say anything about foreign conflicts. That they are less willing to signal support of Israel than Ukraine indicates that the leaders of those institutions have opinions that diverge sharply from American public opinion, or anticipate that members of the organization have unusually chilly feelings about Israel.
Americans of conscience are not powerless to fight back. First, people can and should vote with their feet and wallets. It would certainly be advisable for Jews to avoid hospitals or clinics that don’t act upon expressions of hatred from their own employees. Similarly, it would be advisable for Jews to avoid enrollment in medical schools like Michigan State and Yale that abide or encourage extremism.
The root of the problem that the field of medicine appears to be facing is a worldview spreading through respectable institutions, including medical associations and colleges, that people should be treated differently based on group identities. The traditional American aspiration that all individuals be treated equally under the law is being replaced with the notion that people in what are deemed to be oppressed groups deserve restitution for collective and historic wrongs, while those in groups classified as oppressors deserve to have their advantages stripped away. Once we come to believe that some groups deserve better treatment than others, there is no limit to the bigotry and hatred that could follow. The only controlling principle would be the extent to which we believe some groups have collectively and historically wronged other groups, not any quality of the individual.
It may seem odd that Jews, a group that has historically experienced the enormous suffering of the Holocaust within living memory, not to mention many prior centuries of massacres, social exclusion and trauma, could so readily be cast as oppressors. But since collective success or failure as measured by overrepresentation or underrepresentation adjudicate each group’s victim status, the triumph of Jews over the hardships they have endured is precisely why they can indeed be classified as among the oppressors. Their sin is surviving and thriving.
When this worldview is combined with the particular success of Jews in health professions, it should not be surprising to find serious antisemitism in medical organizations. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Jews have disproportionately held high positions in these organizations. Those seeking to displace them and grab those positions for themselves would be particularly drawn to ideologies that claimed overrepresentation was evidence of wrongdoing.
To combat antisemitism among medical professionals we need to create legal and cultural norms within health professions that forbid treating people differently based on their racial, ethnic, or sexual identities. People need to be treated as individuals, not as members of groups.
To win the fight for equal treatment, it is imperative that we fight to abolish the bureaucracies that have been created within many medical organizations that promote identity politics. Recent events should galvanize legislative efforts toward dismantling DEI in higher education so that identity politics can no longer be enforced and propagated through administrative offices within the university. The stakes and urgency for dismantling the DEI regime and its attendant ideology could not be clearer, so that we can create legal and cultural norms within health professions that forbid treating people differently based on their racial, ethnic, or sexual identities.
Ian Kingsbury is Director of Research at Do No Harm, a health care advocacy group.
Jay P. Greene is a senior fellow at Do No Harm and a senior research fellow in the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation.