NYU Langone Doctor Sues Over Firing for Posts Backing Israel

November 20, 2023 by

A doctor who ran a cancer center at NYU Langone Health filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired for social media posts relating to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

Dr. Benjamin Neel, the director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, claimed he was fired Nov. 10 for reposting social media content that “criticized people who supported the violence toward and death of Israelis,” according to the complaint filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court.

The lawsuit comes amid intense social media conflict about the war in the Middle East, triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that left 1,200 Israelis dead and another 240 taken hostage. In response, Israel attacked the Gaza Strip, killing more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

On Oct. 31, Neel was suspended and told he would be fired as director of the cancer center “in response to social media reactions and some patient complaints” about the reposts, according to the lawsuit, which also names New York University as a defendant. A resident at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island, Zaki Masoud, was suspended on the same day as Neel after social media posts criticizing Israel.

Neel “became a casualty of NYULH’s ill-considered plan to feign the appearance of even-handedness — as though calling for revolution and the murder of innocents is the same as criticizing those who celebrate terrorism,” according to the complaint. “In truth, Dr. Neel’s re-posts were far more temperate than much of the social media content and little different than the official views espoused by NYULH.”

NYU Langone “stands by our decision and looks forward to defending” it in court, spokesman Steve Ritea said in a statement. The institution is committed to a “safe and inclusive environment free of discrimination,” and has reminded employees of its code of conduct and social media policy several times in the past month, he said.

“Nonetheless, Dr. Ben Neel, as a leader at our institution, disregarded these standards in a series of public social media posts and later locked his Twitter/X account,” Ritea said.

A current contact number for Masoud couldn’t be immediately located.

Neel, 67, said he’s a researcher who hasn’t treated patients in 35 years. By announcing his suspension, NYULH left his reputation “in tatters,” causing him to lose one consulting arrangement and leaving several others in “imminent peril,” according to the complaint.