NYU Langone Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Firing of Cancer Center Director for Pro-Israel Tweets
Edited by: Fern Sidman
Renowned Manhattan cancer doctor Benjamin Neel has filed a lawsuit against NYU Langone, claiming he was unjustly terminated from his prestigious position as the director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, as was reported in the New York Post. Neel, a Jewish doctor, alleges that his firing came as a result of expressing support for Israel on social media in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.
Neel was initially suspended on October 31st and subsequently fired on November 10th, shortly after posting five tweets about the conflict in Israel, the Post reported. Despite being a tenured professor at the university, he no longer sees patients. The 67-year-old oncologist contends that his termination breached his contract, which was supposed to run through the end of 2024, with verbal assurances of extension through 2025, according to the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.
The lawsuit also asserts that Neel’s dismissal constitutes religious discrimination, as expressing support for Israel is viewed as an integral aspect of his Jewish identity.
The sacking was religious discrimination, since “Jews who speak out in support of their ancestral connection to Israel and care about the survival of the Jewish people are expressing a religious and ethnic component of their Jewish identity,” the suit alleges, according to the Post report.
Seeking at least $500,000 in damages, Neel claims that his once “immaculate reputation” is now in “tatters,” resulting in the loss of consulting positions, a board seat, and potential harm to his future job prospects.
One of the key concerns outlined in the court documents is the potential immediate repayment of a zero-interest $1 million loan that NYU Langone provided to Neel for housing if he parts ways with the institution, as was noted in the Post report. The suit argues that Neel’s posts on social media, particularly retweets on his personal and private account, were relatively mild compared to the broader discourse on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Post also reported that among the retweets highlighted in the lawsuit are satiric cartoons, including one targeting Greta Thunberg for her opinion on the war in Israel, a cartoon depicting negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a Hamas member with a demand for “DEATH TO ALL JEWS,” and a repost listing names of people who died in Gaza with a skeptical caption.
His posts on X were “objectively tepid and muted” compared to the vitriol that has been circulating over the conflict, the suit claims.
Also among the retweets were three satiric cartoons, including one that took aim at Greta Thunberg for giving her opinion on the war in Israel, as was reported in the Post. Another showed a group of protesters holding signs including one that says “BEHEADING IS RESISTANCE” and “I HEART HAMAS.”
The lawsuit argues that the termination was an attempt by the hospital to justify the firing of another physician, Dr. Zaki Masoud, who was also let go for making anti-Semitic statements. The Post also reported that Neel’s lawyer, Milt Williams, described the firing as a “travesty” and asserted that Neel became a “sacrificial lamb” to justify Masoud’s termination.
“Dr. Neel became a political casualty of NYULH’s effort to terminate Dr. Masoud and other physicians: Dr. Neel was offered up as sacrificial lamb so that NYULH could feign impartiality in its effort to curb political and religious expression,” the filing claims, according to the Post.
“We believe Dr. Neel is the first person to lose their job and have their reputation besmirched for re-posting content on his private social media account that challenged those individuals who are seemingly celebrating the death of innocent people in Israel,” Williams said in a statement.
“Moreover, a careful review of Dr. Neel’s social media account would reveal that he has taken balanced positions on Israel-related issues.”
In the court documents, Neel claims that his social media posts were “far more temperate” than messages from hospital executives, including an email from Kenneth Langone and Dr. Robert Grossman condemning Hamas for an alleged attack on Oct. 7 that resulted in the death of 1,200 Israelis, the Post report said.
Williams emphasized that Neel’s social media content challenged individuals seemingly celebrating the death of innocent people in Israel, as was reported by the Post. He argued that a careful review of Neel’s social media account would reveal balanced positions on Israel-related issues.
However, Steve Ritea, a spokesman for NYU Langone, defended the hospital’s decision, stating that Neel disregarded the institution’s standards in a series of public social media posts. According to the Post report, Ritea reiterated the hospital’s commitment to maintaining high standards, a Code of Conduct, and a Social Media Policy. According to Ritea, Neel is making emails among colleagues public “in an effort to pressure” the hospital.