The long-festering issue of deeply ingrained antisemitism targeting a Jewish surgeon at the Karolinska University Hospital near Stockholm resulted in two stinging legal defeats for the management of the medical center, The Jerusalem Post can exclusively report.
The Post obtained a six-page letter dated October 11, which was sent by the Lawfare Project, a New York City-based NGO, that outlined “pervasive antisemitism that appears to have become normalized and systematized at the Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet.”
The letter noted that “We are particularly concerned with the appalling treatment of one of your Jewish physicians.” The Lawfare Project uses legal action to “vindicate the civil and human rights of Jewish people worldwide.”
With respect to the Jewish physician who allegedly endured antisemitism, the Lawfare letter addressed to the Karolinska’s hospital and institute, said that “In January 2020, the DO [Discrimination Ombudsman] completed its inspection process, concluding that the Karolinska had failed to meet its legal requirements to investigate complaints of harassment. The Karolinska should have investigated Dr. X’s complaints as early as June 2017 but failed to do so. This failure means that the Karolinska has not fulfilled its obligations in accordance with Sweden’s Discrimination Act.
“The Karolinska failed to address the complaint and act appropriately to prevent the ongoing harm, it said. "Moreover, the Karolinska’s purported internal investigations were tainted by numerous improprieties that were identified by the Swedish government’s Discrimination Ombudsman.”
According to the letter, “In 2017, Dr. [X] reported that he and other Jewish staff members in the Department of Neurosurgery were being targeted with antisemitic harassment and discrimination by their supervisor, the chairman of neurosurgery… The campaign of harassment included posting antisemitic statements and images on Facebook and using classical antisemitic tropes to refer to Jewish doctors – for example, remarking, ‘there goes the Jewish Ghetto’, about Jewish doctors. Dr. [X] was told that he has a ‘Jewish nose,’ is stingy, and ‘whines like a Jew.”’
The Lawfare Project cited parallels between the hospital’s treatment of the surgeon, who wishes not to disclose his name, and Nazi Germany’s antisemitism.
THE SECOND legal victory centered on the hospital’s bogus retaliatory complaint against the surgeon, the project said.
“In retaliation for complaining about antisemitism, the Karolinska submitted an unfounded complaint against Dr. [X] to the Swedish Health and Care Inspectorate, claiming that he was a risk for patient safety. In a shocking display of the Karolinska’s institutionalized Jew-hatred, the complaint identified Dr. X’s Jewish identity as ‘relevant information with regard to the risk he allegedly posed for patient safety.
"Apparently, Karolinska believes that being Jewish compromises patient safety," wrote the Lawfare Project. "This directly mirrors the Nazi-era racist ideology that regarded Jews as ‘parasitic vermin’ worthy only of eradication. Reporting Jewish identity as “relevant information” for patient safety is not only morally despicable but also appears to be illegal under Swedish law,”
The letter continued that “The second of the Karolinska’s purported investigations were stalled when, in a clear violation of Swedish law, [it] demanded that employees register on a list of Jews in order to participate in the investigation. Creating lists of Jews is a particularly appalling reminder of Sweden’s horrific treatment of Jews in the 1930s, when the Swedish government asked Nazi Germany to stamp the passports of Jews with a ‘J’ so that Jewish refugees could be refused admission to Sweden.
"These so-called ‘investigations’ by the Karolinska highlight the systemic, institutional nature of antisemitism: Supervisors are given free rein to engage in open Jew-hatred, which is minimized and trivialized (if not outright covered up) by their colleagues and other bad actors within the Karolinska.”
GERALD FILITTI, Senior Counsel for The Lawfare Project, told the Post that “ It is appalling to see a doctor targeted with Jew-hatred and reprisals by an unenlightened Karolinska that has seemingly ignored and covered up systemic antisemitism for over four years. In light of the Swedish government’s pledge at the Malmö Forum to combat antisemitism, it should take immediate action to end the Karolinska’s persecution of Jews.”
"We expect that the Karolinska will immediately and fully restore Dr. [X] to his prior positions, with the salary and benefits to which he is entitled," The Lawfare Project wrote. “We also expect that Dr. [X] will be compensated in terms of the diminished salary and additional costs he has had to bear as a result of Karolinska’s retaliation against him. The Karolinska must stop targeting him for being Jewish and for speaking out against the antisemitism he experienced. The reprisals he has been experiencing must end immediately, and the Karolinska must agree to a corrective program to educate all of its staff and employees on the legal and social prohibitions against antisemitism.”
When asked about the Lawfare Project letter and its demands, Karolinska University Hospital CEO Björn Zoëga said that the hospital "practices zero-tolerance against antisemitism. The hospital guidelines in this area are very clear and any violations are taken extremely seriously.
"Antisemitic views do unfortunately exist in society. Combating antisemitism and the expression of such views is thus a high priority for Karolinska," he said. "The hospital runs a portfolio of actions and initiatives to prevent and address the expression of antisemitic views, including educational efforts and structured dialogue, as well as annual employee satisfaction surveys. Based on this, we can further improve our preventive actions.”
Zoëga added that “the matter to which you refer is being actively handled and pertains to the situation for an individual employee, and I am thus not at liberty to comment on the specific circumstances that you refer to. I can, however, assure you that the hospital is actively handling the matter to reach the best possible resolution.”
THE SIMON Wiesenthal Center human rights organization included Karolinska Hospital in its list of the top ten worst outbreaks of antisemitism in 2018. The hospital was designated number nine on the list for its systematic discrimination against three Jewish doctors. The head of the medical center’s neurosurgery department blocked Jewish doctors from helping their patients and hindered their research, according to Wiesenthal, posting “blatant antisemitism” on his Facebook page, it said at the time.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said in 2018 that “We are shocked by the lethargic response of Karolinska to the cancer of antisemitism. So far, powerful bigots have been protected and life-saving Jewish physicians are left twisting in the winds of hate.”
The Lawfare Center letter was also addressed to Karolinska Institute, which is affiliated with the hospital.
Dr. Ole Petter Ottersen, president of the institute, told the Post that “You need to contact Karolinska University Hospital concerning this. The person you refer to has not been employed at Karolinska Institutet. The hospital is managed by the Stockholm Region [Stockholm County] and Karolinska Institutet is a governmental-managed medical university.”
A spokesperson for Karolinska Institute said that, “first of all, we would like to state that Karolinska Institutet does not accept antisemitism and every form of discrimination is taken seriously. There are also legal obligations for an employer to take actions against discrimination according to the Discrimination Act. Karolinska Institutet has no part in the alleged discrimination [and] has not taken any actions or in any other way limited his research or work. The investigation carried out by the Equality Ombudsman included only events at Karolinska University Hospital.”
The Lawfare Project letter noted that, as part of the alleged anti-Jewish bias at the hospital, “A third Jewish physician – an Israeli national – apparently worked for ten months without receiving any salary.”
The NGO cited a list of anti-Jewish actions in its letter. “It speaks volumes that the former acting CEO of the Karolinska University Hospital, Dr. Annika Tibell, proclaimed that doctors were free to engage in antisemitism on social media, so long as they did so during their free time. Jewish employees are forced to endure antisemitic harassment and discrimination (such as lower pay) without any hope of the Karolinska doing anything to stop it.
"The Karolinska’s actions in the face of Dr. [X]’s complaint suggest that [it] is more interested in preserving the status quo and normalizing Jew-hatred than redeeming its reputation.”