Humanitarian dilemmas are a recurring issue in the Judea and Samaria region. A terrorist fires at IDF soldiers, is shot and gets wounded. Is an IDF medic to be called to treat him? A building is about to collapse in the heart of Ramallah. Does the IDF enter? Does it jeopardize its soldiers’ lives, or does it call the International Red Cross and risk losing precious time?180,000 works out to 15,000 Arabs admitted for treatment per month, which is just short of 500 Arabs per day--not bad for an evil apartheid empire.
To Israel, the answer to these questions is clear. According to Division Medical Officer, Lt. Col. Michael Kassirer, “The treatment of the Palestinian population is first and foremost a moral and professional obligation for every one of us.” Do we treat them? There is no question about it. But what happens in the long run and how? Where do international organizations fit in? How will an independent Palestinian medical body be established and how does coordination between bodies happen in life? These are the real questions.
In order to start answering these questions, a special conference on the topic of humanitarian medicine was held on Monday (Nov. 22), at Hadassah Medical Center at Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. Commanders and medics attended in order to speak and learn, from the most senior, IDF Chief Medical Officer and the Commander of Judea and Samaria Division, to the 19-year-old paramedics serving with the battalions in the region.
“Up until September 2000, a Ramallah resident could have taken his car and driven to Ichilov Hospital [in Israel],” began Commander of Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon. “But from September 2000 we’ve been in a state of terror. Hundreds were killed, Jews and Palestinians alike. The battles took place in the heart of the cities, in places where enemies stood side by side with civilians, with difficult conditions and limited ability to evacuate. We could not practice medicine beyond the minimum. In those days, we were on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.”
But today, he says, the situation is different. Thanks to many efforts on both sides, stability has been restored. “The political leadership is able to make decisions not in the context of buses exploding. And now, along with direct military activity – patrolling, arrests, crossings – we are starting a new kind of routine. Medicine is an integral part of it. In today’s reality, we are obligated to do a lot more than the minimum. Our addressing of the situation should be as wide ranging as possible,” said Brig. Gen. Alon.
...And, unbelievable though it may sound, because of desire and will, it is working. Last year [this past year], 180,000 Palestinian citizens entered Israel to receive treatment. 3,000 emergency patients were transferred from Israeli to Palestinian ambulances using the “back to back” method, without warning. “Ultimately, this is a rewarding experience. There is frustration, of course there is. But on the other hand, there are people who see me on the street or in hospitals, hear my name and say ‘You saved my son’s life’. When you get home in the end of the day and examine your life, you know that you saved lives. You know you did a lot of good.”
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