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.
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
much to the Congolese patients waiting to be healed. So why would MSF
allow it to interfere? Indeed, every physician takes a solemn vow that,
not be ashamed to say ‘I know not,’ nor will I fail to call in my
when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.”
of MSF’s volunteers seem to have replaced the Hippocratic Oath with a
cynical hypocritical oath, one in which they allow their anti-Israel
get the better of them.
SADLY, THIS is but one of several examples in
recent years of MSF’s disdain and outright hostility toward the Jewish
In 2007, Masab Bashir, a Palestinian doctor employed by MSF for
five years in Gaza, was arrested and charged in a Jerusalem court with
to assassinate prime minister Ehud Olmert and a host of other public
Bashir had been given a VIP pass by MSF, which he used to
travel freely to Jerusalem to gather intelligence for the Popular Front
Liberation of Palestine. He received weapons and combat training, and
Last year, MSF was among the harshest critics of
Israel’s incursion into Gaza, while remaining virtually silent on
rocket-fire against Israeli civilians. A spring 2009 “alert” issued by
entitled “Gaza: A Devastating Disregard for Civilians” reads as if it
published by the propaganda arm of Hamas, accusing Israel of a
attack” that was indifferent to civilian casualties.
One MSF official,
Cecile Barbou, was quoted as saying that Gaza had become “hell,” and
insisted that Israel had fired on people “carrying white
Subsequently, MSF came under heavy criticism for the release and,
to its credit, it later acknowledged that it had been “one-sided.”
the damage, by then, had been done, and Israel’s reputation had been
blackened. Indeed, on January 16 of last year, the organization held
conferences in Paris and Jerusalem to denounce Israel’s actions in Gaza,
vitriol directed against the Jewish state by MSF was both shameless and
A senior MSF official brazenly accused Israel of targeting
ambulances and hospitals, while another demanded that “this bloodshed of
civilians must end.”
But the low point came when Dr. Marie Pierre Allie,
president of the French branch of MSF, asserted that Israel’s
campaign in Gaza was actually worse than the Darfur genocide taking
place in the
“In more than 40 years of work in conflict situations,” Dr. Allie
said, apparently with a straight face, “MSF has rarely faced such levels
violence against civilian populations. Whether in Somalia, the DRC or
Darfur, none of those wars produced so many deaths in so little
Doctors Without Borders? It sounds more like doctors without
scruples to me.
MSF’s strident anti-Israel record, and its inability or
unwillingness to contextualize the Middle Eastern conflict, is a stain
reputation and does a grave disservice to its professed mission. By
slamming Israel, and ignoring the outrages perpetrated against the
the group has played right into the hands of those who seek to destroy
civilization and its values. There is nothing medicinal or therapeutic
In a world rife with evil, there is so much good that needs to be
done. What a shame that groups such as Doctors Without Borders often
seem to have trouble distinguishing between the two.