Doctors aim to save and improve lives without prejudice. The day-to-day ramifications of this humanitarian crisis have inevitably shaken many in our profession to the core. The UK medical workforce is incredibly and proudly diverse, and many doctors and medical students working and studying in the UK have close ties to people directly impacted by the conflict.
We empathise with the negative impact these events are having on many of our members. In times of conflict, issues of discrimination or harassment of individuals or groups based on race, religion, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, nationality, or any other identity can be exacerbated. We know that recently there has been a significant increase in antisemitism and Islamophobia. Examples include but are not limited to; conflating the actions of foreign governments/organisations with the views of British religious and ethnic groups, conflation of humanitarian sentiment with support for terrorism, communications that devalue the lives of people who have been attacked, kidnapped or killed because they are Jewish or Palestinian, physical and verbal attacks on Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim and Jewish people, schools and property. Incidents like these are Islamophobic, antisemitic and racially discriminatory, causing fear, division and harm in our UK communities.
The increasing public debate about the legality of doctors expressing views about the conflict is contributing to an atmosphere where some people are under additional scrutiny. The BMA is often asked to comment or take a position on whether doctors should be expressing views on the conflict. Freedom of expression is enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights as a qualified right, which means it must be balanced within context and the limits of the law, for example promotion of terrorism and hate speech are not acceptable freedom of expression. Doctors should be free to hold their views and beliefs, and express them fairly (this includes social media, academic articles).
It is important to recognise that for our members, identity and professionalism extends beyond the workplace and into wider society, and we have seen the impact of this conflict in all parts of a doctor’s life, including the workplace, personal interactions and the presence on social media.
There is a genuine fear of attack within Jewish and Muslim communities in the UK, as well as accounts of UK institutions curtailing the voice of doctors, with doctors facing discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace. We ask everyone to be cognisant and culturally aware at this especially difficult time. We recognise that many doctors don’t currently feel psychologically safe in the workplace, and we support doctors to be able to express their identity and fears in relation to their identity in the workplace. We must create space for empathy with consideration for different views and experiences, while consistently condemning hate in all its forms as being intolerable and having no place in our society.
Resources for doctors and medical students in the UK
We aim to listen and engage with members who raise concerns with us. If you face discrimination or harassment at work, the BMA can provide support in the workplace.
The BMA has a free 24-hour wellbeing service, available to all doctors and medical students and their dependants in the UK. You do not have to be a member of the BMA to access this service.
If members would like to donate towards aid in the region, they can do so via the British Red Cross.
For more information read the BMA position: Israel-Gaza conflict 2023 [published 26 October 2023]