UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Brunel removes anti-Israel article from occupational therapy course

The Dean of Brunel University’s College of Health has assured students that an anti-Israel article recommended as reading material in an occupational therapy course will not be used again.

This follows a complaint by first year occupational therapy students at Brunel University, assisted by UKLFI,  who were upset and insulted by anti-Israel reading material recommended to them by their lecturer.

UKLFI wrote to the lecturer on behalf of the concerned students in December 2021. The lecturer had recommended that the students read an article which featured an interview with Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

As well as emphasising suffering of Palestinians without any reference to suffering of Israelis who are also traumatised by the conflict, the article included misleading and irrelevant allegations against Israel. For example, the article referred to house demolitions in East Jerusalem in a way which implied that they are frequent, when they are extremely rare, and falsely claimed that nearly every Palestinian building is deemed illegal by Israeli authorities.

UKLFI warned that the article was liable to promote hostility towards Jewish students and commented that it was undesirable to mix the objective study of occupational therapy with political propaganda.

When the lecturer failed to respond, UKLFI wrote to Professor Hellewell, Dean of Brunel University’s Health College.  In February Prof Hellewell said that Brunel would welcome the opportunity “to explore the issues raised in an open forum”.  After a follow up email from the students, Prof Hellewell has now said that the Head of Occupational Therapy will organise a discussion session for OT students on cultural perspectives of medical diagnoses, which was the topic being taught when the article was shared.

Prof Hellewell said in his email to the students: “I’m sorry you and others felt the article used was insulting to Jewish students. That was certainly not the intention and please be reassured that the article will not be used again.”

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, commented: “We are pleased that this article, which included irrelevant political propaganda liable to promote hostility towards Jewish students, has been withdrawn from the course.  Academic freedom is important but should not be abused.”