Marin doctor fights to keep Israel in World Medical Association

Dr. Michael Franzblau isn’t afraid of an uphill battle.

The semi-retired San Rafael dermatologist and U.C. San Francisco clinical professor has fought for decades to have former S.S. officer Dr. Hans-Joachim Sewering indicted for murder for his role in expediting the deaths of handicapped German children.

“Now he’s 90 and I’m 80 and he’ll outlive me,” said Franzblau with a rueful chuckle.

Thanks to the efforts of Franzblau and the American Medical Association, however, Sewering was booted from his post atop the World Medical Association, to which he was improbably elected in the 1990s.

Now Franzblau is hoping the AMA will come through for him again. He’s been writing, lecturing and talking to everyone he can about an ongoing attempt by the British Medical Association to have its Israeli counterpart expelled from the WMA for allegedly aiding and abetting human rights abuses against Palestinians. Legislation to that effect may be introduced at the General Assembly of the World Medical Association in Copenhagen in October.

It’s a move that rankles the Jewish community activist Franzblau, an AMA member since 1958. He’s long pushed for Germany and Japan’s medical associations to apologize for the actions of their medical predecessors during World War II — to no avail. Even South Africa, though sanctioned after the 1977 death of activist Steven Biko, was never expelled from the WMA. In fact, no national medical association has ever been dropped by the world body.

Franzblau has written to AMA president Dr. William Plesteb III urging the U.S. contingent once again to apply pressure — the AMA is a considerable financial backer of the world body — to keep Israel in the mix. The American Jewish Congress recently sent a letter urging the same, and Hadassah has lobbied as well.

Franzblau, incidentally, will be in Copenhagen in an attempt to personally speak up for Israel. He travels to the WMA’s General Assembly every year to introduce his German and Japanese resolutions, which are always blown off by the higher-ups. But he’s far from discouraged.

His resolutions “are routinely tabled so their content is never discussed. But at social events, individual delegates come up to me and say, ‘Keep fighting! I think [the WMA] is frightened to death!'”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.