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I would never let these doctors treat my relatives

My fellow med students' denial of Jewish and Israeli pain has implications for Jewish patients. Here's what you can do about it
'Unequipped to see the humanity in Israelis and Zionists' (Graduation and flag images via iStock. Composite image by The Times of Israel)
'Unequipped to see the humanity in Israelis and Zionists' (Graduation and flag images via iStock. Composite image by The Times of Israel)

Ten days after the October 7th massacre, numerous student organizations within my medical school co-authored and disseminated a message in response to the Israel-Hamas War. Disturbingly, their endless diatribe against Israel made no mention of Hamas, hostages or October 7th. As Jewish students, our wounds were still fresh. The sharks knew there was blood in the water and that it was an opportune time to attack. It was clear that the goal of these future physicians was to deny Jewish and Israeli pain. Humanizing Jews only served as a distraction. After all, 2 million Palestinians were about to be “exterminated,” as one student confidently contended. The incident went unchallenged and the administration decided it would be best to stay silent. This was the mob’s green light.

Online student forums quickly devolved while students undermined, even rationalized terrorism. One person said the hostages weren’t “the main character” in the story. Another stated that Israel weaponized the rape of Israeli women by Hamas to justify Palestinian suffering, while another student denied the rape altogether. Students denied Hamas’s use of hospitals as terror bases in the face of obvious and overwhelming evidence. A non-Jewish student lectured a Jewish student on the definition of antisemitism, also stating that consensus Jewish ideology is morally corrupt. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, of all days, a student compared the situation in Gaza to Nazi Germany, violating the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. Watermelon, olive and Palestinian flag emojis flowed freely in solidarity from those who were only slightly more closeted in their hate. Some even protested in front of our hospital with a banner that praised the Al-Aqsa Flood, Hamas’ name for the October 7th massacre. These people will be your physicians.

If students were saying these things about Jews in front of hundreds of other students on medical school-mediated forums, what were they saying on social media? How about their private group chats? What were they saying to themselves in their own heads? There was so much hatred and this was only the tip of the iceberg. Soon after, over 30% of the college of medicine student body signed another letter to the administration. Again, there was no mention of the hostages, Hamas or October 7th. Jewish pain is invisible to them.

There’s a lot to digest within the context of medical ethics education. We’ve come to tolerate macroaggressions in the age of opposing microaggressions. Our curriculum teaches, for example, that implicit physician bias towards black patients has historically led to harm. It stands to reason that explicit physician bias towards an identifiably Jewish or Israeli patient could be far more dangerous. What if the explicit bias becomes overt hate? After all, the days of “I’m only criticizing the Israeli government” have swiftly mutated into “Zionists and Israelis are inherently evil” as had been argued by my classmates. Can they engage in patient-centered care if they are intellectually unequipped to see the humanity in Israelis and Zionists? If students refute the evidence detailing how Hamas operates from hospitals and rapes Israeli women, are they capable of practicing evidence-based medicine? On the patient end, how can Jews safely and reliably seek care from physicians who will deliver compassionate care? I would never let my Israeli family near my medical school’s hospital.

Antisemitism is pervasive in medical school for a few reasons. First, Jewish students are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. The high sunk cost of getting into medical school warrants excessive caution for fear of social alienation and doxing, both of which have happened at my school. Notice the author of this article.

Second, anti-Zionist Jews are heavily overrepresented among younger academics and distort the consensus that exists in actuality. About 10% of American Jews are anti-Zionist by proxy of BDS support polls, though that number is likely much higher within medical schools. Tolerance of Jews in medical school is conditional upon them being anti-Zionist and thus these Jews become the dominant voice. Non-Jewish students tokenize this overrepresented, politically convenient perspective to deflect accusations of antisemitism, thus engaging in sampling bias, a concept medical students are taught in assessing medical literature. For comparison, about 20% of Black Americans lean to the right, though their perspective would never be presented as representative in a medical school forum as it would be written off as tokenization. Double standards abound, Jews are always the exception.

Third, antisemitism dominates medical schools because, as we have seen, administrations cannot be relied upon to act altruistically. They calculate that the costs of upsetting the demonstrably hostile mob are greater than the cost of leaving Jewish students and patients vulnerable. So long as the Zionists are too afraid to voice their concerns, the colleges can remain in a state of quiet, if uneasy, equilibrium. We can change the calculation with public pressure – medical schools care deeply about their reputations.

In light of all of this, I ask you to contact as many medical schools as you can. Ask them what specific enforceable policies are in place to establish a culture free of antisemitism. Ask them if students are being educated on modern antisemitism, the type that infects academia and is not just distant theory. Offer to put them in contact with Jewish advocacy organizations. They will likely deflect, be vague and politely decline any suggestions, unmasking this moral emergency and illuminating the need to take aggressive action on behalf of Jewish patients everywhere.

About the Author
The author is an American medical student who has requested anonymity.
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