Israel's medical support for Palestinian society

London - published on 2 November 2004
Beyond Images Ref: 110

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Israel’s achievements in providing healthcare and medical support to Palestinian society over past decades are highlighted in the article below, published in September 2004. The author is Theo Dov Golan, a former Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Health, and formerly Head of the Israeli Army Medical Corps. Golan ends by asking why these Israeli humanitarian accomplishments are unknown and unreported among the general public.

Israel is accused…. but “the opposite is true”

Israel is constantly accused of misconduct and even ‘barbarian’ and ‘racist’ behaviour towards its Palestinian neighbours, 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 I explained that events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulted 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.

Israel’s medical support programmes to Palestinian society

Here are the facts: Israel was responsible for the welfare of the Palestinians during these years, 1967 – 1994, until the Palestinian Authority took over. During that period, Israel has presented annually dramatic documented achievements to the World Health Organisation (WHO) either by myself, as head of the Israeli delegation, or by the 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 immunisation protocols (in coordination with UNICEF) as well as new technologies and new medicines.

These programmes 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.

Training for Palestinian medical staff and surgeons in Israeli hospitals

Israel’s Ministry of Health’s most dramatic and challenging training projects for the Palestinian physicians was to keep secret the specialisation programmes in anaesthesiology, 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 characterised as ‘enemy’. Would the United States train Al-Qaeda physicians or Russia train such professionals of the ‘Chechnyan 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 programmes 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 programmes are continuing in spite of difficulties.

“Sanctifying life, not death”

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 alongside Israeli patients. This approach is deeply rooted in our Jewish tradition that “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.

The big “Why”

Why is it then, that this unprecedented, outreaching and caring behaviour of Israel remains unknown and unreported to the general public, although documented and presented at 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.

Related Beyond Images resource
Israel: How It Makes The World A Better Place