Israeli Hospital Cancels Ceremony After Top Physician Objects to Amos Oz Attending

Assaf Harofeh denies conference nixed as a result of doctor's threat to disrupt due Oz had sent a copy of his book 'A Tale Of Love and Darkness' to Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti.

A senior doctor threatened to disrupt a ceremony for outstanding doctors scheduled to be held at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center because prominent author and Israel Prize laureate Amos Oz had been invited to address the gathering.

The hospital administration postponed the conference but said Wednesday the decision was not in response to the doctor's threat.

The doctor told hospital administration officials that if Oz appeared at the conference, he would climb onto the stage and disperse the participants.

The doctor said he was outraged that Oz had sent a copy of his book "A Tale Of Love and Darkness" to Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences and 40 years in jail for his involvement in murdering Israelis in a terror attack.

Oz, who said he wanted to meet Barghouti soon, wrote in a dedication in the book: "This story is our story, and I hope you read it and understand us better."

The conference had been organized to pay tribute to outstanding doctor-teachers chosen by Tel Aviv University medical students who had undergone training at the hospital.

A senior hospital official said it was the first conference of its kind to be held at Assaf Harofeh. Conference organizers were planning to distribute prizes to outstanding staff members at the ceremony.

Oz's decision to reach out to Barghouti has already raised the ire of rightist Knesset members. MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) demanded the Prison Service commissioner stop the "stream of presents" flowing to Barghouti from leftist figures. MK Danny Danon (Likud ) called on Oz to return the Israel Prize and demanded an urgent Knesset hearing on the criteria for receiving the prize.

Still, doctors who had planned on attending the conference seemed perplexed.

"It is hard to believe that because of one doctor who has certain political opinions they revoked Oz's invitation to the conference," said a senior doctor at Assaf Harofeh. "That's political interference in hospital matters."

"All I know is that the conference was put off," said Oz, who refrained from commenting on the incident.

About three months ago, Oz was invited to speak to medical students at Tel Aviv University about the world of medicine in his books. It was part of a course on literature and medicine consisting of lectures by A.B. Yehoshua, Haim Beer and Eli Amir.

Dr. Benjamin Davidson, the director of Assaf Harofeh, denied any connection between postponing the conference and the doctor's threat.

"The medical center decided to hold a ceremony to pay tribute to the outstanding teachers," he said. "Oz was invited to speak as part of the ceremony. Some of the staff objected to this, following something the author has done recently. Before we had a chance to discuss the situation, a technical problem arose regarding the presence of some administration members in the ceremony, so to avoid offending the teachers, we decided to put off the ceremony to another date that would suit everyone."