|Israel's medical support for Palestinian society
London - published on 2 November
Beyond Images Ref: 110
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
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
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
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
Related Beyond Images resource
Israel: How It Makes The World A Better