Israel repeatedly demonstrates to the world that it sanctifies life and not death.Israel is constantly accused of misconduct and even ‘barbarian’ and ‘racist’ behavior towards its Palestinian neighbors, especially at the United Nations where a disproportionate amount of time and energy of the world body is taken up on passing resolutions against Israel.
At my recent presentation to the United Nations Correspondents Association, one of the journalists addressed the so-called ‘barbaric treatment of the Palestinians by Israel’, which he was convinced was the whole story. When explaining that events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict results from Israel’s being forced to protect its citizens from Palestinian terror, he exclaimed emotionally: “You Israelis, you Jews who have suffered so much in the past, – from you the world expects a more humane response.”
As a physician, I unequivocally can give proof that the opposite is true. Israel has set an example of a level of humanitarian medical aid to others including Palestinians, which no other nation can compete with.
Here are the facts: Israel was responsible for the welfare of the Palestinians during the years, 1967- 1994, until the Palestinian Authority took over. During that period, Israel has presented annually dramatic documented achievements to the World Health Organization (WHO) either by myself, as head of the Israeli delegation, or by other Israeli officials of the Ministry of Health. This included the total eradication in the Palestinian population of poliomyelitis, neonatal-tetanus and measles. Also, Israel dramatically reduced the death rate of Palestinian newborns from over 60/1000 to 19/1000 within those 27 years of Israel’s presence.
These achievements and others were accomplished by the directives of Israel’s Health Authority in planning, training and implementation of modern medicine. This included the introduction of new immunization protocols, (in coordination with UNICEF), as well as new technologies and new medicines.
These programs were performed either on site at Palestinian facilities, or in Israel’s hospitals and medical schools, where doctors, nurses, midwives, medical technicians, etc., were trained. These achievements resulted from the willingness of the local Palestinian population to be helped (almost free of charge) by Israel’s public health care system, and by the collaborative nature of Palestinian medical teams.
Israel’s Ministry of Health most dramatic and challenging training projects for the Palestinian physicians was to keep secret the specialization programs in anesthesiology, open heart- and brain-surgery, conducted in Israeli hospitals.
No other nation on earth has ever voluntarily decided to show such a humane and forthcoming attitude towards people which could be characterized as ‘enemy’. Would the United States train Al-Qaeda physicians or Russia train such professionals of the ‘Chechnians Freedom Fighters’ on their own people?
Moreover, after successful completion of training, fully equipped Intensive Care, Open-Heart and Neuro-Surgery units were opened for the first time in the Palestinian hospitals for the benefit of the Palestinians. Furthermore, the Israeli medical tutors continued to guide the newly established units, and if needed, were available continuously to assist them on site.
Since 1994, in spite of directives issued by the Palestinian Authority to stop the collaborative programs with Israel and in spite of the ongoing hostilities, informal cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian medical teams continues, though of a lesser magnitude. Palestinian patients are referred daily to Israeli hospitals especially in the fields of oncology, organ transplantation and acute, severe complications of trauma and pregnancy (11,000 were treated last year). Similarly, several training programs are continuing in spite of difficulties.
Israel unequivocally demonstrates to the world that it sanctifies life and not death – the lives of Palestinian children, adults and elderly, including those of wounded terrorists, are treated in Israeli hospitals with the same care and along side Israeli patients. This approach is deeply rooted in our Jewish tradition of ‘whoever saves one life (and not necessarily the life of a Jew) has saved the whole world’.
Ahmed Tibi, the outspoken Israeli-Arab Knesset member, recently requested that his wounded Palestinian niece be transferred from a Palestinian hospital to an Israeli one. Tibi, who often accuses Israel of being ‘racist’, knew that his niece would receive the best medical treatment regardless of being a Palestinian, and indeed a full and speedy recovery resulted.
Why is it then, that this unprecedented, outreaching and caring behavior of Israel remains unknown and unreported to the general public, although documented and presented at the official bodies of the International Community?
Is it that ‘good news is no news’, or is there a ‘hidden’ agenda of double standards and hypocrisy towards Israel (as addressed in Alan Dershowitz’s book A Case for Israel)? Or are we the people that the world loves to hate? There is a big and unanswered WHY that needs to be addressed.