One of the things most noticable during an extended stay at an Israeli hospital like the one I spent most of the last week at is the number of Arab and Muslim patients. I made many related observations on Twitter, including my father-in-law seeing a Muslim man placing his feet in the bathroom sink and then chanting, the Arab woman in the elevator with a Palestine T-shirt including the whole map of Israel dripping with blood, as well as my wife’s roommate kneeling on the floor and praying. Their presence in the hospital is proof of the medical care and religious freedom they are afforded, rendering claims of apartheid utterly ridiculous.
This phenomenom led me to do a little web surfing, leading me to the following article, written 10 years ago by Professor Nathan Cherny of Shaare Zedek hospital, which is mandatory reading.
That I care for the wellbeing of tens of Palestinian cancer patients and their families is irrelevant. As a Jew living in Israel, and, more specifically, Jerusalem, I am a potential target worthy of maiming or assassination. That is the miserable nature of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
That I am here to recount these thoughts is by sheer virtue of timing. Minutes after I passed through the Patt intersection en route to the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, bus 32 was exploded by a young suicide bomber. Almost everyone on the bus was killed. Shrapnel killed and maimed pedestrians and the drivers and passengers of adjacent vehicles.
Besides caring for Israeli and Palestinian cancer patients, I teach medical students a course in palliative medicine; the care of patients with incurable illnesses. At any one time, I usually have 10-15 students; Jews and Palestinians together. Among my group is a wonderfully bright, sensitive and caring 24-year-old woman: Shelly Nahari. Wednesday’s tutorial was cancelled. Instead my students were learning the harsh realities of acute grief as they attended the funeral of Shelly’s 22-year-old sister Shiri, who was killed in the carnage that I had barely escaped.
Jerusalem is small and the circle of my patients, colleagues and their families is wide. In this week alone, I have shared one degree of separation from four miserable tragedies.
Dr Eisenman is a young opthalmologist at Shaare Zedek. His wife, mother-in-law and five-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son were waiting at the bus stop in northern Jerusalem under brilliant blue skies when a man jumped from a passing vehicle and ran toward them. As his belt exploded he showered all those in proximity with gore and a malicious salad of bolts and nails. The storm of shrapnel did its intended job. In a sweep, Dr Eisenman’s young daughter and mother-in-law were killed. His infant son is in intensive care. This afternoon, his injured wife by his side, he buried his young, golden-haired daughter next to her beloved grandmother.
Devora Margalit is a community nurse who helps cancer patients, and others, cope with stoma. Helping people cope with the whole new world of bags to collect their wastes is unromantic but vital work. In her former days she was a hospice nurse caring for the terminally ill. In the past days she has needed all her skills in pain control to help nurse her 15-year-old son, who received burns to 50 per cent of his body. His school had a project tending a cherry orchard and, along with three other 15-year-olds, he set off a booby-trapped gas canister at the exit to the orchard. For now, the pain is the challenge. It is controlled with a portable morphine pump. The future holds years of work managing skin grafts and scars.
In the eyes of the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Fatah, all of this is a justifiable expression of national self-determination. In their eyes, the path to statehood is, quite legitimately, strewn with the bodies of children, pensioners and bus drivers. If they had their way, it would be strewn with my body as well.
Mr Arafat’s denunciations ring hollow. The paper trail uncovered by the Israeli forces show, beyond reasonable doubt, that he is directly and intimately involved with the provision of funding to the militias responsible for this civilian carnage. You can’t call for a million martyrs to liberate Palestine and still call yourself a peacemaker.
Zero tolerance is what is called for. If there is a responsible Palestinian leadership, let them join forces with the Israel Defence Forces in eradicating this sick and pernicious element in their society. In becoming the symbols of the battle for Palestinian independence, these elements undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause; for they present the Palestinians as a fundamentally uncivil, lawless, cruel and undeserving society.
Suicide bombings, murder and vilification serve only to delegitimise the cause and distance the prospect of an independent Palestinian state. A community and a nation that tolerates and condones such behaviour is fundamentally unworthy.
As long as I, my friends, colleagues, patients and their children are targets, the Palestinians cannot be entrusted with all the responsibilities of statehood.
I know that things can be different. I work with Palestinians; as patients and as colleagues. Our relationships are warm and mutually supportive. Indeed, in the awful darkness of the past 18 months these relationships have been a vital part of my coping. I know, from my experience, that there is the real potential for love and respect. Though we may have political differences, we appreciate the potential for mutual benefit through cooperation. This is the human thread that sustains my hope.
Ultimately then, I support the emergence of a Palestinian state; but my support is conditional. It is conditional upon the prospect of living, in security and trust, side by side with a civil and humane Palestinian society, in respect and cooperation.
The ball is in their court.
About the AuthorAn Australian immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave has been blogging since early 2003.
Filed Under: Aussie Dave