When it comes to Israel, Médecins Sans Frontières seems to have fallen on its head.
23 July '10
As far as international humanitarian organizations go, few can compete with either the reach or the reputation of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders. Active in nearly 60 countries, the group has been providing much-needed medical relief and assistance to victims of epidemics, malnutrition, armed conflicts and natural disasters for close to 40 years.
With a Nobel Peace Prize under its belt, this group of philanthropic physicians have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and deployed tens of thousands of aid workers and volunteers on missions of mercy worldwide.
Countless lives have been saved, and much suffering alleviated, thanks to their intrepid presence in many of the world’s hot-spots.
And yet, when it comes to Israel, MSF seems to have fallen on its head.
For despite its virtuous profile, and its professed impartiality free of a political agenda, the group has a decidedly dubious track-record vis-à-vis the Jewish state.
The latest example of this was on display in recent weeks in a remote part of Africa, when a team of five Israeli specialists flew to the Congolese city of Uvira to treat 50 villagers who had been severely burned in a devastating fire that claimed more than 230 lives. Working around the clock, they treated the wounded, trained Congolese doctors in performing skin grafts and donated a ton of medical equipment to local medical facilities.
And yet, incredibly enough, these angels of compassion received a distinctly cold reception from MSF volunteers working in the area, who seemed to go out of their way to demonstrate their displeasure at having to work in the vicinity of Israelis.
As Haaretz reported (July 18), the Israeli medical staff “got the distinct impression that the volunteers did not wish to be around them.”
The treatment meted out to the Israelis was such that it left Dr. Eyal Winkler, deputy director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Sheba Medical Center, in a state of disbelief. “This is the reality today,” he said. “Doctors from international aid organizations treat a delegation of volunteer Israeli doctors to Congo as though we were occupiers.”
Camaraderie among a staff is, of course, critical to ensuring success. So it is simply mind-boggling that MSF volunteers on a humanitarian relief mission would allow their personal political agendas to get in the way of caring for the injured.
Somehow, I doubt that the ethnic identity or political beliefs of the doctors attending to them mattered very much to the Congolese patients waiting to be healed. So why would MSF personnel allow it to interfere? Indeed, every physician takes a solemn vow that, “I will not be ashamed to say ‘I know not,’ nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.”
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