Here and There: The chosen people

Once again, we the 'chosen people,' are chosen in the most negative sense of the word.

February 11, 2016 16:55
Jews gather to pray at the Western Wall during Succot

Jews gather to pray at the Western Wall during Succot. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

Have you ever wondered as to how the Bible depicts us, the Jewish people, as the “chosen people?” Yes, we are a people and yes, we have our own national homeland – something we achieved after 2,000 years of wandering – an Exile that proved to be the antipathy of what we would have imagined the “chosen people” to mean. An exile that saw the most horrific planned and carried through extermination of six million of our brethren who were chosen to be murdered specifically because they were Jews.

Today we are in charge of our own destiny – we are privileged to be the generation that has witnessed the rebirth of the State of Israel in our time and yet, once again we the “chosen people” are chosen in the most negative sense of the word.

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How else can we describe the consistent virulent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the one Jewish state? Of late we see repeated examples of this – whether throughout the campuses worldwide where to be Jewish and to support Israel, against a barrage of sophisticated, sponsored pro-Palestinian activity, is becoming something most Jewish students steer clear of.

A recent frightening example of the challenges the Jewish student faces is the riot carried out by pro-Palestinians – at the UK’s King’s College – who smashed windows, set off fire alarms during a speech by Israel’s former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Ami Ayalon. This in itself is somewhat strange because Ayalon, together with Yossi Beilin, was the author of the 2003 “Geneva Initiative” – a proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that, at the time, was favored more by the Palestinians than the Israelis.

However, the relevant question today is where were the King’s College administrators that permitted this rioting to take place? On the same day as I read a Jerusalem Post report on Ayalon’s ghastly experience I read an article headed “British doctors seek to expel Israel from int’l body.” It appears that 71 physicians (out of 200,000 members of the British Medical Association) have petitioned “The World Medical Association” accusing “The Israel Medical Association” (in compliance with Israeli doctors) of carrying out torture against Palestinian prisoners. One of the signatories was that of the Liberal Democrats peer Baroness Jenny Tonge, who resigned from the parliamentary party in 2012 after being criticized by its then leader Nick Clegg for saying “Israel is not going to be there forever.”

In a recent letter, addressed to Dr. Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center – Europe, the president of the WMA, Sir Michael Marmot (who is also concurrently the president of the BMA) states, “The main authors of the letter [accusing Israel’s medical association and its doctors of torture] have launched several attacks against the IMA with similar arguments in the past. On each occasion, the WMA has asked the Israeli Medical Association to respond. Investigations have revealed no wrong doing or mishandling of the cases by the Israeli Medical Association.”

The action by the 71 UK doctors continue to target a single nation, they do not seek to pursue other countries where there is clear and internationally recognized evidence of torture. Some of the medical associations in these countries are organs of the state and not independent professional associations like the IMA.

The campaign attacking the IMA not only accuses Israeli doctors of medical torture but, in common with the essence of BDS, accuses the Israeli medical system of operating in an apartheid manner. A lecture given by Prof. David Katz (University College, London and chairman of the UK’s Jewish Medical Association), noted that Israel is equated with the suspension of the Medical Association of South Africa from the WMA during the 1980s. The boycott of South African medicine contributed to the fall of apartheid in South Africa. It can therefore be assumed that a boycott of Israeli medicine might well contribute towards the fall of the “apartheid” State of Israel.

Katz goes on to give a personal example of how he was in Israel during Passover 2002 (at the time of the bomb at the Seder in Netanya and of the “Battle of Jenin”) He and his family made many visits to the Bnai Zion Hospital in Haifa where two elderly relatives had been admitted. Here they shared their wards, room and communal facilities with Israeli Arabs and/or Palestinian patients. The Katz family visited the hospital on both the day before and the day after the suicide bomb that went off in a Haifa restaurant. As a result the hospital became a front line accident and emergency center – there was no difference discernible in patient, visitor and carer relationships all were treated equally.

This phenomenon operates up until today.

We know that the recent spate of stabbings and shootings have brought both victim and terrorists to our Israeli hospitals – each is a patient and given the same level of care. Simultaneously Israeli hospitals continue to receive patients from the Gaza Strip as well as the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s medical system is not only limited to those who live here. It is interesting to note that our hospitals are caring for those caught up in the Syrian Civil War. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have been able to document the deaths of 230,618 Syrians including almost 70,000 civilians of whom more than 7,000 are children. The Ziv Medical Center, in Safed, has taken in well over 2,000 patients of whom 70-80 percent are male combatants. The hospital’s maternity wing has cared for Syrian expectant mothers who have given birth but care is taken not to name the country of birth.

Speaking recently with Katz, he explained the aims of the UK’s Jewish Medical Association is to give support to British-Jewish medical professionals as well as informing about Jewish and Israeli medical approaches and achievements. Last year the association convened a European Medical Forum in London at which Prof. David Stone, a distinguished British epidemiologist spoke.

Stone has monitored and rebutted anti- Israel material that has appeared in the medical press. In his talk he said that the publication represents a case study of the politicization of medicine. He gave examples of articles that appeared in The Lancet.

It is a matter of deep concern that The Lancet (considered the most prestigious medical journal in the UK) has, since 2009, become a purveyor of a distorted narrative of Israeli culpability.

Stone addressed the question: “Has Israel damaged Palestinian health?” He produced data clearly refuting the suggestion that since 1967 Palestinians’ health had deteriorated. The reality is that since 1967 Israel and the Palestinian territories shared high birth rates, decreasing death rates with a rise in life expectancy and net inward migration from other countries. He gave data proving that, contrary to the accusation that Israel had damaged Palestinian health, Israel had substantially improved Palestinian public health. Yet despite the evidence anti-Israel rhetoric continues to obscure reality, obstructs peace efforts and should be recognized as “politicized medicine.”

Katz strongly believes that the most productive way of combating the persistent attempt to drive out the country’s representative medical body from the world association is to bring to Israel eminent members of Britain’s medical leadership to meet with their Israeli peers. This year Katz will be bringing Lord Ara Darzi, who is professor of surgery at Imperial College London, an authority on innovative medical technology and recently listed as one of the 20 most influential people in British medicine.

One can but hope that bringing influential people here will change the increasing negative perception of our country. The battle for truth is becoming more challenging each day. It is high time that our government recognize the significance of counteracting the distorted image of Israel that is projected worldwide. We have won many military battles in the past but there is a real danger that we will lose the battle of the word unless we invest more manpower and funding into advocacy for Israel.

We are ready to return to the biblical concept of being the “chosen people” – one that can be a light unto the nations – rather than be chosen internationally as the world’s “whipping boy.”

The writer is co-chairperson of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli Society. She is also active in public affairs.

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