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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 October 27; 335(7625): 842.
PMCID: PMC2043423
Academic Boycotts

Royal Society of Medicine under attack by pro-Israel doctors

Derek A Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, London

In relation to the debate about academic boycott and freedom,1 2 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. As a reflection of my research interests and publications on medical ethics since 1992, my main case study was on Israel and Palestine. Once the conference was publicised, the RSM became subject to pressure from pro-Israel doctors to remove me from the conference programme. They went so far as to threaten a challenge to the RSM constitution as a charity if a “political” (and biased) person were permitted to speak.

After weeks of this, to save the conference the RSM asked me to withdraw. But, in the end the RSM steeled itself and decided to go ahead, and the conference was held on 9 October.

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


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Baum M. Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? No. BMJ 2007;335:125 (21 July.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Hickey T. Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? Yes. BMJ 2007;335:124 (21 July.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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