A letter by 71 British doctors has called for the Israeli Medical Association to be expelled from the World Medical Association on the grounds that Israeli doctors have engaged in “medical torture” on Palestinians.

The physicians’ plea was revealed last week by Dr. Zeev Feldman, chairman of the IMA, at a meeting of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee in Jerusalem, at which Feldman said the accusations were “lies”.

The British Medical Association said the initiative, spearheaded by Dr Burns Cox, Prof Sir Ian Chalmers, and Dr Derek Summerfield, “is not a representation of the BMA but rather individual doctors’ opinions”.

David Katz, Professor of Immunopathology at University College London and chairman of the Jewish Medical Association, said the authors were “well-known for their long-standing and some might say relentless anti-Israel activities”.

He added: “They are not representative of British medicine. The letter is based on material that has been considered previously by the World Medical Association (WMA), and no grounds for expulsion of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) were found.”

This week, the issue of force-feeding as a form of torture re-emerged, after the Palestinian Authority and Physicians for Human Rights Israel said doctors had forced intravenous nutrition into Palestinian journalist Muhammad Al-Qiq. He is being held without trial or charge under Israel’s ‘administrative detention’ system, and has now been on hunger strike in an Israeli jail for two months.

There is no indication that the WMA will expel Israeli medics from the world body, which would bar them from attending conferences, publishing in journals, joining other professional associations or receiving funding.

However, the letter is growing evidence of an academic boycott. Hundreds of South African educators urged similar action last month, and in November, the American Anthropological Association approved a boycott resolution.