Jewish doctors in Quebec denounce open letter on Gaza

The Association des médecins juifs du Québec maintains that the letter misinformed Quebecers about the war between Israel and Hamas and stigmatized Israel.

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A group of Jewish doctors and medical students are speaking out against a recent open letter in which Quebec doctors demanded their medical associations denounce the crisis in Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire.

Since being signed by more than 550 doctors, the initial open letter was first published on March 21.

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But in a response published Monday, the Association des médecins juifs du Québec argued that the letter misinformed Quebecers about the war between Israel and Hamas and further stigmatized Israel.

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Founded in November, the association has about 400 members throughout Quebec. In an interview on Monday, its vice president, Dr. Lior Bibas, said he felt obligated to respond to the letter from the day it was published.

“We all agree that there is a war and a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. I think ignoring that would be unfair and disingenuous,” Bibas said. “There is tremendous suffering on both sides, but for there to be reconciliation and peace, the facts must be put on the table.”

In his own open letter, published in La Presse on Mondaythe association denounces the petition as a “militant pamphlet” that conveyed “misleading rhetoric and (preferred) to indulge in ambiguous ideology rather than expound proven facts.”

Among other points of contention, he criticizes the letter for not mentioning Hamas’s role in the conflict, stating that Israel was left with no choice but to defend itself after the October 7 attack.

“We attach the utmost importance to the Hippocratic Oath,” the association’s charter states, “and we believe that honoring this oath would rather be a matter of adopting a balanced discourse, expressing equal compassion for both sides concerned about safeguarding Palestinian lives, certainly , but Israelis live too.”

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The association’s response goes on to criticize the initial letter for citing a United Nations report claiming that 70 percent of those killed by Israel to date have been women and children, which it claims is unfounded. He is also offended by the letter calling for the release of hostages “on both sides,” arguing that Israel has not taken any hostages.

Finally, he states that the petition misinformed Quebecers by presenting a unilateral version of the conflict.

“That is why the (association) wants to take a position today in the debate that is agitating our medical community,” he says, “and make things clear by proposing a balanced and humanistic discourse.”

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas fighters killed at least 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 250 hostages on October 7. Israel’s military response has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians since then, according to figures from the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

In addition to calling for a ceasefire, the initial open letter also called on provincial medical associations to issue a statement demanding an end to blockades preventing the entry of medical supplies.

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The letter focused primarily on attacks on Gaza’s healthcare sector, citing World Health Organization statistics that the United Nations had identified 804 attacks on healthcare facilities as of March 13.

“Remaining silent in the face of suffering of this magnitude is contrary to our role as physicians and an abandonment of our shared humanity,” the letter said.

On Monday, Bibas said it was important to respond to the letter in part because of the repercussions of the war being felt locally in Quebec. The response was intended to be more of a rejoinder than a rebuttal, he added, but the association felt the need to address the omissions with which he took issue.

“We wanted to present a strong message and position, but also a very broad view of what is happening,” he said. “And recognize that there is a lot of suffering and that it is important not to discredit any of the parties.”

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