At Large

Health Care, Israeli-Style

When good deeds don't pay.

By 8.9.12

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On Wednesday one of Israel's largest dailies had a scoop: four months ago a man from Gaza received urgent medical treatment at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel. He had had a serious cardiac episode that no hospital in Gaza was able to treat.

Not such a scoop, one might think? The man was the husband of Suhila Abd el-Salam Ahmed Haniyeh -- sister of Ismail Haniyeh, political leader of Hamas in Gaza and an ideological enemy of Israel, to put it mildly.

Haniyeh's movement, Hamas, says in its charter that "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it"; and quotes the famous hadith: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'"

And Hamas regularly acts in the spirit of such statements, having killed and injured thousands of Israelis in suicide bombings, rocket firings, and other terror. As for Ismail Haniyeh, you can see him here at Hamas's 24th anniversary rally in Gaza last December 14, bellowing decidedly unfriendly things about Israel such as:

the armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the [Israeli] invaders and usurpers from the blessed land of Palestine. The Hamas movement will lead Intifada after Intifada until we liberate Palestine -- all of Palestine, Allah willing…. We won't relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine. 

Words that don't leave much room for a "two-state solution" or any sort of peaceful rapprochement. Most recently Haniyeh has blamed Israel for Sunday night's terror attack at the Israeli-Egyptian border, in which global-jihad terrorists killed 16 Egyptian border guards, commandeered their armored vehicle, and would have rammed it into an Israeli community if not stopped in time by the Israeli army and air force. Egypt, rather than pinning this exploit on Israel, has been retaliating against comrades of the actual culprits.

It was this background, then, that made the lifesaving treatment of Haniyeh's brother-in-law by an Israeli hospital noteworthy -- not the fact that the brother-in-law is a Palestinian. In 2010 over 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza were treated in Israeli hospitals, over 100 Palestinian doctors interned at them, and five organ donations were performed.

In one notorious case, a Palestinian woman patient from Gaza didn't show much appreciation for her treatment. In 2005 Wafa al-Biri was treated at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva for burns sustained over 45 percent of her body in a gas-cooker accident. Her family wrote a thank-you note to the hospital on her behalf. Two months later Al-Biri, on the way to Soroka for follow-up tests, was detained at a checkpoint; hidden in her clothing was a 20-pound bomb with which, she said, she had hoped to kill 30 to 50 Jews once inside the hospital.  

Though admittedly an extreme case, it would be nice to think this large number of Palestinians' benefiting from Israeli medicine would have a conciliatory effect. In the case of Haniyeh's brother-in-law, the above-linked report says that, after his cardiac episode,

the couple filed an urgent entry request with Israeli authorities, a Palestinian ambulance transported the husband to the Erez Crossing, [and] he was moved to [an Israeli ambulance] and taken to the hospital in Petah Tikva along with his wife.

The husband was hospitalized in Israel for about a week, during which his condition was stabilized. Following the treatment, the couple returned to Gaza.

When the chips were down, then, they knew not only that an Israeli hospital could give lifesaving treatment that Gaza hospitals couldn't give, but that there was a chance the Israeli authorities would consent to their request even though Gaza is a hostile entity that instills hate and regularly bombards Israel with rockets and mortars -- in part at the instigation of the distressed man's own brother-in-law.

Ideally, this would induce soul-searching not only about Israel's technological superiority but a value system that sees the humanity even of members of a hostile population. There is, though, no sign of such a reckoning. 

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About the Author

P. David Hornik is a writer and translator in Beersheva, Israel, blogging at PDavidHornik.typepad.com.