Jewish patients and a staffer have been targeted in multiple antisemitic incidents at two London hospitals.
In one incident on Tuesday morning of this week, a staff member allegedly made a cutthroat death-threat gesture towards a Jewish patient, who was attending the Royal Free Hospital for a blood test. The patient reportedly noticed that the practitioner was wearing a Palestinian Authority flag on her jacket and a badge that read “Stop killing our children”.
The patient asked for a different practitioner to administer the test, but as she walked away the staffer “swiped her finger across her throat.” Campaign Against Antisemitism has been in contact with a witness and officials from the hospital.
The hospital is investigating the incident, and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: “We do not tolerate racist or antisemitic behaviour of any kind, from anybody on our premises. The Royal Free London is proud of the rich diversity of the patients that we serve and we are taking these allegations extremely seriously. Although we have not received a formal complaint, we will investigate this matter thoroughly.
“We would urge anybody who experiences racist or antisemitic abuse in any of our hospitals to report it immediately to a member of our security team or to the patient advice and liaison service.”
However, this incident, which was highly publicised on social media, came barely a fortnight after a much less prominent incident at the same department in the same hospital. In that incident, another Jewish patient was also present for a blood test. The tests were being administered by a practitioner of reportedly Pakistani origin. When the Jewish patient came into the room, the practitioner left the room. The patient was reportedly told to wait to be tested, and in the meantime other patients were all being tested before him, including some who arrived later than he had.
Eventually, the patient asked a female attendant whether he would be seen, and she assured him that he would be seen imminently, and he then asked if he had not yet been seen because of prejudice, a question that the attendant, apparently now blushing, refused to address. The patient was deeply upset and immediately left the hospital, without being tested, despite the urgency of the test.
Eventually, after intervention by a senior staffer at the hospital, the patient returned to the hospital some days later and was seen immediately, but the case is reportedly being investigated.
Elsewhere, a Jewish staffer was the target of antisemitic abuse at the Royal London Hospital in East London. Hadasa Mayerfeld, 27, a Jewish neonatal intensive care nurse, reports that she was left “shaken” after being told by a man, “I want to kill all your people”.
The incident took place in on Tuesday in a hospital lift as a man noticed her Magen David necklace and shouted: “So you don’t support a free Palestine? How can someone who comes from people who kill all our innocent children get a job working here? I want to kill all your people, we need to kill all you people.”
A second man in the lift, apparently dressed in a religious Muslim garment, stood by and laughed.
The men are not believed to be employees of the hospital, but it is understood that Ms Mayerfeld will be submitting a formal complaint in the coming days. She said: “I spend hours on end caring for babies from all walks of life. Every race, every religion, every ethnicity. I care for each of them with so much love and devotion to give them all the care they need. Even at work I need to be scared to stand up for my religion and my beliefs.”
A spokesperson for Barts Health NHS Trust reportedly said: “We are investigating a distressing report of verbal abuse by visitors to The Royal London Hospital, and supporting the wellbeing of the nurse involved. We do not tolerate antisemitism, racism or abusive behaviour in our hospitals and are committed to making them safe places for all our communities.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Notwithstanding the ceasefire in Israel, we are continuing to see antisemitic incidents not only on the streets and online, but even in schools and hospitals. These cowardly perpetrators are targeting young people, vulnerable patients and heroic medical staff and teachers, which is utterly shameful. The Jewish community must continue to remain vigilant, and we call on the hospital trusts to conduct thorough investigations and ensure that racist abusers are appropriately sanctioned.”
Earlier this week, Campaign Against Antisemitism welcomed the statement by the British Medical Association (BMA) condemning antisemitism and racism.