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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Israeli Doctors Give British Boycotters A Smackdown!!

(Reprinted from email):
May 9, 2007

In a letter published in The Guardian in April, a group of British doctors called for a boycott of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) and its expulsion from the World Medical Association (WMA) for allegedly failing to uphold international medical ethical standards in the Palestinian territories.

We, the representatives of medicine in Israel, categorically deny these accusations and wish to take a stand in support of the IMA and humane medical treatment for all in Israel.

It is all too clear that Dr. Derek Summerfield is once again feeding his own personal, systematic dislike of Israel and will persist in doing so regardless of the truth.

As for Dr. David Halpin, if the best he can do is quote Amira Hass: Life Under Israeli Occupation – published August 26, 2001 in The Independent, at the height of the Intifida, we suggest he undertakes a more up-to-date and thorough study of the situation, as described below.

Unfortunately, the other signatories were presumably unaware of the reality of the situation. We would therefore like to clarify some facts and provide an incomplete sampling of health activity aimed at helping the Palestinian population:
2,346 Palestinian children with birth defects were treated last year in Israeli hospitals (up from 1,604 in 2005), 29,919 Palestinian patients were granted permits to undergo medical treatments in hospitals in Israel (up from 24,076 in 2005), and 1,600 Palestinian emergency patients were transferred by ambulance from the PA to hospitals in Israel (up from 800 in 2005).

We would also like to reiterate what was expressed in a recent IMA letter: The IMA is not, and has never been, the 'executive arm of the Israeli establishment.' It is an apolitical organization that, like every other national medical organization, concerns itself with medical and health issues and not the establishment or support of any sort of political policy.

The IMA has continuously called for funds to be transferred [to the PA] not in kind but in the form of food and medicine so that help could be given where it is truly needed.

In addition to the above, hundreds or thousands of Palestinian patients receive medical care in Israel each year, usually at a cost absorbed by the Israeli government. As an example, in 2004, NIS 36,645,507 (approximately 8,143,446 USD at the time) of PA debts to Israeli hospitals were offset. The IMA has intervened on occasions where a patient was about to be evicted from an Israeli hospital for lack of funds. The IMA has also intervened on many occasions of Palestinian patients, physicians, and medical students who encountered difficulties at Israeli checkpoints, including petitions to the High Court of Justice on certain matters. Israeli doctors learn and work side by side with their Arab colleagues, treating both Jewish and Arab patients, Israeli and Palestinian. Sometimes these very same dedicated physicians meet their death at the hands of terrorists, leaving their Palestinian patients to wonder who will care for them.

The organization has, at several points in the past, attempted to meet with its Palestinian counterparts in an effort to foster mutual cooperation and better understanding, including the release of a joint statement. Almost none of these meetings have taken place, because of refusal on the Palestinian side.

In addition to the above, there are numerous collaborative health care initiatives taking place at any time. The First International Congress on Chronic Disorders in Children was attended in April by 300 Israeli and 100 Palestinian doctors and the First Middle East Symposium on Dental Medicine represented a further expression of the relationship launched between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Al-Quds University.

Under the Israeli program "Save a Child's Heart", doctors at Wolfson Hospital repair congenital heart defects for children from the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Jordan and Africa; more than 1,000 children, about half from Gaza and the occupied West Bank, have been helped so far by the program.

Teams at Bethlehem University and at Tel-Aviv University have worked together to investigate the genetic causes of deafness. A new graduate program will enable Palestinian students to pursue post-graduate research in this field at Tel-Aviv University .

Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital has trained Palestinian physicians and nurses in cancer treatments, and staff from this hospital and Palestinian hospitals exchange ideas and information on an ongoing basis.

It saddens us greatly to see and hear of Palestinian civilians receiving inadequate health care, including in Gaza, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2006. It saddens us that funds transferred to the Palestinian leadership are often used for guns and bombs instead of for hospitals and medicines. It saddens us that terrorists kill or maim our civilians, kidnap our soldiers, rain missiles on Israeli cities, and then hide among civilians and civilian structures such as hospitals. And it pains us that terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians (including terrorists posing as ill people in need of medical care) result in security measures that sometimes cause hardship to innocent Palestinians. We do our best to help whenever possible, despite these constraints, and have often called for a separation of political and humane issues, so that no one suffers from the current conflict.

The "facts" expressed in the letter of the Palestinian organizations calling for a boycott of the IMA, are a far cry from reality. It is our hope that your readers will form unbiased opinions and recognize the steps that Israeli doctors are taking to improve the health and treatment of all peoples, regardless of race or religion. Those who have preconceived opinions will undoubtedly stick with them. But for those who want the truth, we have attempted to present it.


Dr. Yoram Blachar, President, IMA

Prof. Shai Ashkenazi, Chairman, Scientific Council, IMA & Director Pediatrics A, Schneider Children's Medical Center, Israel

Professor Shmuel C. Shapira MD MPH, Hadassah Deputy Director General
Director Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health

Dr. Jacob Yahav , Director, Kaplan Medical Center
Prof. Zvi Zemishlany, Director - Geha Mental Health Center

Meir Oren M.D., M.Sc., M.P.H Director – General, The Hillel - Yaffe Medical Center

Zvi Stern m.d.Director Hadassah Medical Center- Mt. Scopus
Prof. Jacob Hart, Director (CEO), Loewenstein Hospital Rehabilitation Center, Raanana, Israel

Dr. Orna Blondheim, Director, Haemak Medical Center, Afula

Dr. Raphi Pollack, Medical Director, Bikur Cholim Hospital, Jerusalem

SCHARF SHIMON M.D.,M.P.H., Director of the Barzilai Med. Ctr.Ashkelon

Yehuda Baruch MD MHA, Director General, Abarbanel Mental Health Center, Israel

Amos Etzioni MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Immunology
Director - Meyer Children's Hospital, Bat- Galim, Haifa

Nicky Liebermann M.D., Head – Community Medical Division, "Clalit" Health Services, Israel

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