|Beyond Images - Speeches and Articles
||Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
"I AM A POTENTIAL TARGET WORTHY OF
by Dr. Nathan Cherny, Jerusalem, June 2002
Dr. Nathan Cherny is an Australian-born oncologist and
palliative medicine specialist who works with Israeli
and Palestinian patients.
Source Information from
This article was originally published in the Melbourne
Age newspaper on 23 June 2002, and circulated widely on
That I care for the wellbeing of tens of Palestinian
cancer patients and their families is irrelevant. As a Jew living
in Israel, and, more specifically, Jerusalem, I am a potential
target worthy of maiming or assassination. That is the miserable
nature of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
That I am here to recount these thoughts is by sheer virtue
of timing. Minutes after I passed through the Patt intersection
en route to the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, bus 32 was exploded
by a young suicide bomber. Almost everyone on the bus was killed.
Shrapnel killed and maimed pedestrians and the drivers and passengers
of adjacent vehicles.
Besides caring for Israeli and Palestinian cancer patients,
I teach medical students a course in palliative medicine; the
care of patients with incurable illnesses. At any one time,
I usually have 10-15 students; Jews and Palestinians together.
Among my group is a wonderfully bright, sensitive and caring
24-year-old woman: Shelly Nahari. Wednesday's tutorial was cancelled.
Instead my students were learning the harsh realities of acute
grief as they attended the funeral of Shelly's 22-year-old sister
Shiri, who was killed in the carnage that I had barely escaped.
Jerusalem is small and the circle of my patients, colleagues
and their families is wide. In this week alone, I have shared
one degree of separation from four miserable tragedies.
Dr Eisenman is a young opthalmologist at Shaare Zedek. His wife,
mother-in-law and five-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son
were waiting at the bus stop in northern Jerusalem under brilliant
blue skies when a man jumped from a passing vehicle and ran
toward them. As his belt exploded he showered all those in proximity
with gore and a malicious salad of bolts and nails. The storm
of shrapnel did its intended job. In a sweep, Dr Eisenman's
young daughter and mother-in-law were killed. His infant son
is in intensive care. This afternoon, his injured wife by his
side, he buried his young, golden-haired daughter next to her
Devora Margalit is a community nurse who helps cancer patients,
and others, cope with stoma. Helping people cope with the whole
new world of bags to collect their wastes is unromantic but
vital work. In her former days she was a hospice nurse caring
for the terminally ill. In the past days she has needed all
her skills in pain control to help nurse her 15-year-old son,
who received burns to 50 per cent of his body. His school had
a project tending a cherry orchard and, along with three other
15-year-olds, he set off a booby-trapped gas canister at the
exit to the orchard. For now, the pain is the challenge. It
is controlled with a portable morphine pump. The future holds
years of work managing skin grafts and scars.
In the eyes of the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Fatah,
all of this is a justifiable expression of national self-determination.
In their eyes, the path to statehood is, quite legitimately,
strewn with the bodies of children, pensioners and bus drivers.
If they had their way, it would be strewn with my body as well.
Mr Arafat's denunciations ring hollow. The paper trail uncovered
by the Israeli forces show, beyond reasonable doubt, that he
is directly and intimately involved with the provision of funding
to the militias responsible for this civilian carnage. You can't
call for a million martyrs to liberate Palestine and still call
yourself a peacemaker.
Zero tolerance is what is called for. If there is a responsible
Palestinian leadership, let them join forces with the Israel
Defence Forces in eradicating this sick and pernicious element
in their society. In becoming the symbols of the battle for
Palestinian independence, these elements undermine the legitimacy
of the Palestinian cause; for they present the Palestinians
as a fundamentally uncivil, lawless, cruel and undeserving society.
Suicide bombings, murder and vilification serve only to delegitimise
the cause and distance the prospect of an independent Palestinian
state. A community and a nation that tolerates and condones
such behaviour is fundamentally unworthy.
As long as I, my friends, colleagues, patients and their children
are targets, the Palestinians cannot be entrusted with all the
responsibilities of statehood.
I know that things can be different. I work with Palestinians;
as patients and as colleagues. Our relationships are warm and
mutually supportive. Indeed, in the awful darkness of the past
18 months these relationships have been a vital part of my coping.
I know, from my experience, that there is the real potential
for love and respect. Though we may have political differences,
we appreciate the potential for mutual benefit through cooperation.
This is the human thread that sustains my hope.
Ultimately then, I support the emergence of a Palestinian state;
but my support is conditional. It is conditional upon the prospect
of living, in security and trust, side by side with a civil
and humane Palestinian society, in respect and cooperation.
The ball is in their court.