Middle East and Terrorism
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Fatah activists in Ramallah denounced the visit by Israeli physicians as a form of “normalization” with Israel.
The fact that thousands of Palestinian patients receive medical treatment in Israeli hospitals each year did not stop Palestinians from voicing opposition to a visit by Israeli physicians to Ramallah last week.
The Israeli physicians arrived in Ramallah as part of a tour that was organized by the Palestinian Authority.
The physicians visited the Palestine Medical Compound and another clinic to learn about the Palestinians’ medical services in the West Bank.
The presence of the physicians in Ramallah drew furious reactions from the workers at the medical compound and many Palestinians, including the Western-backed Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Some doctors and nurses claimed that the physicians were in fact Israeli army officers. Palestinian media outlets quoted “eyewitnesses” as saying that the army vehicles and soldiers accompanied the Israeli doctors during the tour. Attempts by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to explain that the visitors were not army officers have thus far fall fallen on deaf ears.
Fatah activists in Ramallah denounced the tour as a form of “normalization” with Israel. They reminded the Palestinian Authority that its leaders had repeatedly urged Palestinians to resist all forms of “normalization” with Israel.
The Palestinian fury over the visit of the Israeli medical team to Ramallah is a sign of increased radicalization among Palestinians. It is also a severe blow to those Israelis and Palestinians who continue to talk about coexistence and peace between the two sides.
If anyone stands to lose from boycotting Israeli physicians it is the Palestinians themselves.
Because the Palestinian Authority has not invested enough in improving medical services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past two decades, many Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for proper medical treatment.
Some of the Palestinian’s top leaders, including ministers and the former mufti of Jerusalem, were among tens of thousands of Palestinians who underwent life-saving surgery in Israeli hospitals over the past two decades.
Scores of Palestinian physicians receive training in Israeli hospitals every year and many even seek the assistance of their Israeli colleagues in treating patients who are admitted to Palestinian hospitals. Some Palestinians sold their homes and lands to be able to cover the expenses of being admitted to an Israeli hospital.
But instead of welcoming Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in the medical field, some Palestinians are calling for boycotting those who are trying to save the lives of their own patients.
The Palestinian Minister of Health, Fathi Abu Mughli, is now facing sharp criticism for permitting the Israelis to visit the medical center. Some Palestinians have gone as far as calling on the Palestinian government to bring him to trial for his “crime.”
But to his credit, Abu Mughli has come out in defense of the visit, arguing that he did not advocate a boycott of Israeli physicians and medical services. The minister explained that it would be foolish of Palestinians to boycott Israeli doctors and hospitals at a time when many Palestinian patients are being treated in Israel.
Palestinians who are opposed to “normalization” with Israeli physicians are the victims of years of indoctrination and messages of hate emanating from their leaders and media. And some Palestinians have become so enriched by hatred that it it would not pay for them to stop.
Khaled Abu Toameh