The following story is being updated on a regular basis as new information comes to light about what led to the Chief Medical Officer of St. Boniface Hospital being fired on January 20.
Posted Jan. 22 (updated Jan. 24, 25, 26 & 27) By BERNIE BELLAN Dr. Hussam Azzam, who was appointed to the position of Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director Clinical Programs at St. Boniface Hospital has been removed from his position only two months into his hiring.
The only information available as to the reason for Dr. Azzam's dismissal, as at the moment of writing, is on his Twitter feed. In a post that was written earlier today Dr. Azzam wrote: "Removed as St. Boniface Hospital Chief Medical Officer due to criticizing Israeli government actiions vis-a-vis Palestine & its people".
We will continue to investigate this story and provide updates if we are able to obtain any further information.
Updated Jan. 24: We were able to contact Dr. Azzam to try and find out more about what led to his firing. Here is part of what he wrote back: "I can assure you that I am neither a racist nor an anti-Semite. At this point, however, I am following the advice of my legal counsel and not speaking publicly with regard to this issue. If that changes I will definitely be in contact with you."
We have also been in contact with St. Boniface Hospital and are awaiting a response to questions we posed about Dr. Azzam's dismissal. In the meantime, after further probing of Dr. Azzam's Twitter account, we found quite a few photos containing images that are highly critical of Israel and of American support for Israel. We posted five of those photos on our Facebook page (The Jewish Post & News).
We are also posting here one of those photos.
Updated Jan. 25: Dr. Azzam has now removed his Twitter account.
Also yesterday, after sending an email to St. B.'s media department on Jan. 23, I was told to contact someone by the name of Hélène Vrignon, Director Corporate Affairs and Communications.
I sent her the following email:
I was able to find numerous photos on Dr. Azzam's Twitter account that show why he was fired. Oy vey!
I suppose the question now is: Did St. B. not vet Dr. Azzam before he was hired to see whether there was something in his background that might prove embarrassing to the hospital?
You don't have to answer that because the answer is obvious - you didn't.
Hoo boy - you can only hope that this story doesn't get picked up by the CBC or the Free Press, but I know that many of their reporters follow my Twitter posts - some of them are also subscribers.
You had better prepare yourselves for some pretty tough questions from those media outlets.
I also realize that Dr. Azzam has either launched a lawsuit or is preparing to launch one (from what he wrote me in response to a query), so you might not be able to respond to any media queries.
Good luck with this one! You're going to need it.
The Jewish Post & News
I received the following response:
Good afternoon Mr. Bellan,
Thank you for your letter and your questions.
We can confirm Dr. Azzam has left St. Boniface Hospital.
As you can appreciate, this is an HR matter and our policy is to respect and protect the privacy of current and former employees.
Later in the day I was contacted by someone at the CBC saying they wanted to do a story about Dr. Azzam's firing. I told the reporter that I had some damning cartoons on my Facebook page that could provide context for Dr. Azzam's firing.
I was afraid that the CBC would turn this into a freedom of speech story - which they did. I wish they would post the same cartoons from Dr. Azzam's Twitter account that I had posted to our Facebook page. Frankly, until I saw those cartoons - and I stopped scrolling through his Twitter account after I had seen those five, I was wondering myself just what it was that landed the doctor in trouble.
One more thing: I was contacted by someone else yesterday who said he had screenshots of Dr. Azzam's verbal postings on his Twitter account (which evidently had been expunged prior to Sunday, Jan. 23 when I first took a look at Dr. Azzam's Twitter account). If so, those could provide even more substantiation for Dr. Azzam's firing. As of the time of writing the individual who phoned me has not delivered those screenshots. If he's reading this, please follow through.
Updated Jan. 25: The envelope containing hundreds of Dr. Azzam's expunged tweets was delivered to me tonight. Here are some of those tweets:
"If you donate money to Israel you are NOT Jewish..you are a ZIONIST"
"For Israel the burning of a Palestinian baby is more a public relations crisis and expressions of outrage are spin"
"If Islamic state terror is not Islam, why is Israeli war Judaism?"
Superimposed over a picture of the U.S. and Israel flags: "We don't negotiate with terrorists...we just give them 3 billion dollars of funding a year to commit genocide, enforce apartheid, steal homes, torture" (the rest is cut off)
"Israel is still stealing the children"
"War crimes! #terroristIsrael"
"@justinTrudeau instead of celebrating you should be showing outrage for the genocide being committed in Gaza"
"Self defense!!! #Gaza #terroristIsrael #freePalestine"
"The horror of Israel's bloody savagery in #Gaza stuns world"
"Israel is run by maniacal mass-murdering Zio-Nazis...Exactly like the ones destroying Ukraine for the #US..."
"If this is true then it describes exactly what "Israel" is all about, racism, apartheid and genocide"
"Zionists are the terrorists of the Middle East Just ask any MIddle East intel expert. NYT is..."
"Red Card for Racism: Activists demand FIFA kick out Israel"
"The racist-Zionist troll is getting desperatenow..."
Updated Jan. 26:
Dr. Hussam Azzam was fired from his positions as Chief Medical Officer and Vice-president Medical Services at the Northern Regional Health Authority, headquartered in Thompson, Manitoba, on May 14, 2016. On Oct. 18, 2016 Dr. Azzam filed a statement of claim against the NRHA for severance pay. Two questions come to mind immediately: Why was he fired and did St. Boniface Hospital know about his having been fired when they hired him as their new Chief Medical Officer?
We have been given some background information as to the reasons for his having been fired in Thompson, but unless we can verify that information we will not go forward with any speculation as to the reason or reasons for his dismissal.
I have offered to share the screenshots of Dr. Azzam's Twitter posts that were given to me by an anonymous source with both the CBC and the Free Press. The CBC has accepted my offer. The Free Press has not responded. I guess it doesn't fit with the angle the Free Press has taken on this story that Dr. Azzam's firing is nothing more than an infringement of freedom of speech.
Updated Jan. 27:
Dr. Hussam Azzam's name was removed from the physician profile section of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba yesterday. (We received an anonymous call from someone saying Dr. Nazzam's name had been there as recently as Wednesday, but was no longer there.) In response to a query we posed to the college, we were told that "The CPSM was notified yesterday by Dr. Azzam that he is not practicing at this time. The physician profile was updated to reflect that." If anyone has information as to why Dr. Nazzam was fired from the Northern Regional Health Authority in May, please contact me. Also, if anyone knows whether what happened in Thompson is the real reason Dr. Nazzam was fired from St. B, please contact me.