The Israel Midwives Association decided to not take part in the International Confederation of Midwives' (ICM) Congress in Bali, Indonesia after the confederation informed the association that they would not be permitted to display the Israeli flag.
The Congress began with the Opening Ceremony on Sunday, during which the various midwives associations' displayed their national flags, including Iran.
Gila Zarbiv, the head of the Israel Midwives Association media committee, was set to deliver a lecture at the Congress and was going to be joined by Yifat Hadar Rubanenko, the chairwoman of the Association, to speak about the activities of midwives in Israel.
A week before the conference, the director-general and president of the International Confederation of Midwives emailed the Israeli association to inform them that, in order not to anger the governor of Bali, the Israeli flag would not be displayed and the name of the Israeli association would not be mentioned in the flag parade at the beginning of the Congress. Instead, the Israeli association would march with the Confederation's flag.
The director-general wrote that "there is sensitivity in Indonesia regarding the raising of the Israeli flag and the remembrance of the State of Israel," adding that they heard that "should it be decided to include the Israeli flag and mention Israel in connection with the identity of the Israeli organization, there is a risk that the Congress will be closed and the Israeli delegation will be required to leave Indonesia."
The director-general added that she was "sure that the Israeli delegation understands that the union will not be able to take this risk and therefore, despite the difficulty involved, the Israeli flag will not be part of the flag parade and the Israeli organization will not be mentioned during the ceremony."
Israeli midwives shocked by flag ban
"This laconic email struck us with amazement. Our position from the first moment was clear and unequivocal: we will not take part in a conference that erases our identity as Israelis," wrote the association in a statement this week. "We demand that ICM implement the value of 'equality for all,' without differences of religion, race and nationality. We will not accept in any way a surrender to antisemitism and/or racism and anti-Israelism."
The Association contacted the Foreign and Health Ministries and conducted an intensive campaign to be allowed to display the flag, but the efforts did not succeed and the Association decided not to take part in the Congress.
In an email to the Confederation in May, the Association wrote that "the Israel Midwives Association understands from your letter that we, as a full paying member association, with highly active members (nominees for the ICM Regional Board, and members of the Regional Professional Committee), as midwives, and above all, as women are not welcome at this conference."
"This is not the first time that Israel has faced antisemitism and hate and we will prevail, but the precedent that the ICM is about to set for itself, in staying silent and capitulating, suggests that they prefer to succumb to politics and antisemitic governments, as opposed to standing by its member associations. It is a dangerous precedent and one that Israel cannot support."
The Association expressed sorrow at how the situation ended, stating on Monday: "That's it, the conference has started. The flag parade looks exciting on Instagram, such 'love and joy and fellowship' between midwives all over the world. We are thinking a lot about this week, a shocking encounter with the ugly side of politics and hypocrisy, a roller coaster of sadness and excitement, faith that we will succeed and also great disappointment from the whole chain of decisions made regarding the conference."