A petition demanding the dismissal of Dr. Yoram Blachar as head of the World Medical Association asserts that Israeli doctors turn a blind eye to the involvement of physicians in torture.
According to a report published in British newspaper The Guardian, more than 700 doctors from 43 countries have signed the letter in question, which bases the demand on an Amnesty International decision from 1996 which determined that Israeli doctors working with security forces "form part of a system in which detainees are tortured, ill-treated and humiliated in ways that place prison medical practice in conflict with medical ethics."
The signatories further assert that Dr. Blachar, who was appointed head of the WMA in 2008, has failed to respond to the allegation that some Israeli doctors condone or collaborate with a regime that uses torture against detainees.
Blachar has served as the head of the Israeli Medical Association since 1995. The WMA currently has 9 million members from over 80 countries.
Leading the charge is Dr. Alan Meyers, an assistant professor at Boston University's Department of Pediatrics. Meyers, who the Guardian identifies as Jewish, is quoted as saying Blachar's presidency "makes a mockery of the principles on which the WMA was founded in 1947, which was as a response to egregious abuses by German and Japanese doctors (in World War II)."
Citing a statement made by Blachar 12 years ago, in which he commented that the guidelines of interrogation recommend only the use of moderate physical pressure, Meyers said: "Physician collaboration in such maltreatment is unacceptable, and the defense of such physician participation should disqualify Dr. Blachar from any position of leadership within the international physician community."
Meyers added that the 'moderate pressure' Blachar spoke of was also used by the previous US administration at Guantanamo Bay and covert CIA imprisonment sites outside the borders of the United States. This includes, Meyers said, "confining prisoners in stress positions, beatings, isolation, sleep deprivation, extremes of heat and cold, humiliation and other forms of physical and psychological abuse."
Meyers' partner in his efforts, Dr. Derek Summerfield, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said the appointment of the president of the IMA to head the WMA as the body overseeing medical ethics globally, "just seems to make a mockery of the whole idea that there is an ethical framework for what doctors do and what they don't do."
Blachar, however, is preparing to challenge the campaign.
"Doctors in Israel are not involved in torture, do not supervise torture, and do not lend themselves to any acts of this sort. This whole fallacious affair has been led by an English psychiatrist called Derek Summerfield since 1996. For years he has written defamatory things about Israeli doctors in British medical journals," said Blachar.
Meyers said the campaign was born "out of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments blooming in the UK. More than half the signatories are from Arab countries. We're working on a libel suit right now, maybe through that we'll be able to end this."
Modi Kreitman contributed to this report