Where were you on Friday, July 15?
United States President Joe Biden was putting down a heavy carbon imprint and moved his entourage from one side of the unified city of Jerusalem to the other. He went to visit to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in the city and to sprinkle $100 million (NIS 343 million) US taxpayer dollars to Palestinian hospitals in the area. He claimed that six east Jerusalem hospitals serve as the backbone of health care for Palestinians, ignoring Jerusalem’s Hadassah or Shaare Zedek, etc.
What is a Palestinian hospital? Well, the president chose Augusta Victoria Hospital, which was named after Augusta Victoria, the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II and originally designed as a guest house for German pilgrims in the 1910s, to make his presentation. By 1914, the building, located on the Mount of Olives, became Turkish military headquarters and in 1917, it was taken as the headquarters for the British army.
In 1920, the British high commissioner moved in and for nearly a decade, the building served as the Government House for the British Mandate of Palestine and other functions through the 40s. When did it even become a hospital? In 1950, the Lutheran World Federation and UN Relief and Works Agency used it as such, after Israel’s War of Independence and as part of territory ruled by Jordan, not Palestine. The Six Day War ended with an Israeli victory and the compound became part of unified Jerusalem.
Let me tell you where I was on July 15 – while the president was sprinkling millions a few blocks away. I was at Shaare Zedek Medical Center – a sprawling, multi-disciplinary medical center in Jerusalem. Imagine what this facility could do with cash to improve the 1,000-bed facility: improve its 30 departments and 70 out-patient clinics, etc. It is a respected Jerusalem facility that serves all fairly and equally: Arab, Jew, Christian, Muslim and atheist – whatever.
It is under Orthodox Jewish auspices and offers a comfortable environment for the religiously observant. I shared a room with a young man and his extended family who spoke Arabic, minimal Hebrew, and luckily, some English. This very young man was riding his motorcycle (his brother assured me it was a little motorcycle) and he was hit by a car. Emergency services brought him to Shaare Zedek for quality care.
ON THE other hand, there is the hospital chosen by the Biden administration for a visit and sprinkling of funds. A Lutheran Hospital that had gone through German and British hands, and finally declared a hospital in 1950 in Jordanian territory. Augusta has 120 inpatient beds.
The backbone hospitals that the president mentioned are not the backbone of healthcare in Jerusalem. The history of the institution is not part of Jerusalem history, except as to be where fighting had taken place. Augusta Victoria Hospital is part of the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network (EJHN) – a network of six hospitals in so-called east Jerusalem. The network was founded in 1997 with the support of Palestinian politician Faisal Al-Husseini, who was born in Baghdad (not Palestine), the son of the commander of local Arab forces during the siege of 1948. He later became active in the PLO.
The US has sprinkled a good deal of cash to the Palestinian Authority in this manner under previous presidents. Authority leaders have beautiful homes and lead luxurious lives. The people they represent in Judea and Samaria have been impacted with textbooks that urge violence towards Israelis and pay-for-slay to those who commit acts of murder, while their life situation has not been improved as it has for those who are Israeli citizens. That is what a presidential visit could shine light on. Instead, another $100 million (NIS 343 million) was dropped on an already corrupt system.
In The Return of the Pink Panther, the erstwhile Inspector Clouseau engages with a blind musician. The musician is a lookout for bank robbers who are robbing the bank behind him. This does not concern Clouseau (played by the brilliant Peter Sellers) who is obsessed with only a proper license. Not only does he not do anything about the robbery, he hands a dropped money bag to the robbers. He then knocks out the officer who is about to shoot the robbers. This mirrors the erstwhile Biden Administration.
They disregard theft and corruption by various politicians and gang leaders. Reprimands are saved for Israel, while Biden focused on trying to create a new rift in the unified capital city, where any artificial separation had been paid for in blood long ago.
$100 million (NIS 343 million) could do much good in the right hands. It could heal wounds and save lives. However, Biden, as he has always done, doles out American taxpayer money for reasons of politics and personal agenda.
The author has served in several capacities in building Israel-US trade relations, including that of trade commissioner/director of trade for the government of Israel to the US. He currently lives in Jerusalem and writes about things that make him angry.