Doctors Organize Against Racism and Anti-Semitism

Published: February 4th 2010

Dr. Robert Zadik and Dr. Michael Bloom
DARA members at a recent conference
DARA members at a recent conference


A new, unprecedented organization, comprised of health professionals, is determined to be proactive in the escalating proliferation of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that invading their profession.


The catalyst for Doctors Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (DARA) was an article published last May in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). Written by two doctors from Doctors Without Borders, it appeared to be about the poor state of healthcare in Gaza. Under the guise of a medical article, it was in fact a political diatribe blaming Israel entirely for the lack of proper healthcare. 


“They didn’t even try for any sort of balance,” said DARA spokesman, Dr. Jeff Fialkov, a plastic surgeon. “There was no mention of the fact, for instance, that Hamas prefers to divert money to buy weapons rather than medicine.”


Drs. Michael Bloom and Robert Zadik, both anaesthesiologists, sent out emails to all of their medical connections addressing the allegations in the article. In the end, more than 200 people wrote letters of complaint to the magazine. Among them was one letter jointly signed by 50 doctors.


The Lancet and The British Medical Journal have been overtly anti-Israel for some time, but this was the first glimpse of it in a Canadian academic medical journal. 


“It should be bias free and about medicine, not taking a political side,” Fialkov said.


The editor of the CMAJ spent an hour on the phone discussing concerns about the articles and DARA believes they are now more aware and sensitive to bias and politicization.


Encouraged by the grassroots response, Bloom and Zadik sent out another letter to hundreds of doctors, of all denominations, inviting them to discuss future activities and DARA was born.


Today there is a membership of 300 from a variety of medical disciplines, of all religions, although the majority are Jewish. The chair of DARA is Israeli born Dr. Steven Samuel. Amongst the Executive are psychiatrist Frank Sommers (one of the founders of Nobel Peace Prize winning Doctors Against Nuclear Disarmament), Bloom, Zadik, Fialkov and two medical students.


DARA’s mandate: to combat political bias and intolerance – racial and religious – in the medical and academic realms. 


“We have a number of academic doctors, including myself,” said Fialkov,44, an assistant professor of surgery at the U of T. 


The group’s first organized activity took place in April when about 30 people braved a “hostile” environment at the U of T, to attend a lecture by Jewish and Arab doctors on health issues in Gaza. “It was an anti-Israel propaganda fest under the guise of medicine,” Zadik said. 


“During the question period, we challenged the propaganda and showed them they were not able to talk with impunity, they’d be challenged,” said Bloom.


They brought up the use by Hamas of human shields, that ambulances were used to shuttle weapons, that Hamas attacked Israel from the vicinity of hospitals and that Hamas operatives hid from Israeli forces in hospitals.


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