|ISRAELI DOCTORS RISK EXPULSION FROM
WORLD MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
by Judy Siegel, JPost, April 25, 2002
|The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) is in danger of being ousted from the World Medical Associaton (WMA), whose members include national medical associations, because of the ongoing political campaign against Israel. The WMA due to meet in Geneva next week, will discuss charges made against Israel. The WMA's second-highest official is IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar.
The IMA delegation to Geneva is taking a large amount of written and audiovisual material to defend Israel. "We think the chances of being ousted from the WMA is small, but we do expect verbal attacks and anti-Israeli resolutions," said Blachar, who has close personal ties with many WMA officials. The WMA's member organization represent millions of physicians around the world - including those in Egypt, Syria, and other Muslim countries such as Indonesia and former Soviet Republics.
The antagonism towards Israel was clear at last week's meeting in Vienna of the European Forum of the European Medical Associations, part of the World Health Organization, which Blachar attended. Critical resolutions were introduced by the Swedish and British delegations, but they did not pass because they required unanimity, said Blachar, "Weeks ago we received calls from IMA members and affiliated specialists' societies such as the Israel Pediatrics Society and the Israel Cardiology Society, who had fielded criticism from counterparts abroad," said Blachar.
The IMA, a non-political professional organization, has been publicly silent about the controversy until now. It has some 20,000 members, including hundreds of Arab Israeli doctors. It decided to set up a committee to investigate charges made against the
IDF as a result of Operation Defensive Shield, and complaints against Israeli security forces by the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The special committee of the 16 formalized the IMA's position on medical services in times of armed conflict, and offered to
serve as liaison between the medical profession and security forces. The committee included Professor Rafi Walden, a vascular surgeon at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer, a leader of Physicians for Human Rights and a son-in-law of Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres; Dr. Darwasha Aziz, an Arab who heads the emergency department at Ha'emek Hospital in Afula; Professor
Moshe Revah, director of Rambam Hospital in Haifa; Professor Carmel Shaley, head of the Unit for Ethics and Human Rights at the Gertner Institute in Tel Hashomer; Professor Avinoam Reches, a senior neurologist and chairman of the IMA's ethics
bureau; law Professor Francis Radai of the Hebrew University; and Tel Aviv University Sackler Medical school dean Professor Menachem Fainaru.
The position paper denounces terrorism and the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, and attacked the misuse of ambulances, such as when explosives were hidden in a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance near Ramallah.
The IMA committee drafted a declaration affirming their allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath that posits life as a supreme value.
It decalred "that our obligation as doctors and as human beings to the people of both nations [Israelis and Palestinians] takes precedence over any dispute or confrontation. The declaration condemned "any restriction, constraint, or professional duties
which is not necessitated by the realities of the situation." Blachar asked Dr. Ron Pundak, an architect of the Oslo Agreement
who now works at the Peres Peace Center, to find a Palestinian counterpart to sign the declaration. But Pundak, said Blachar,
did not get back with a name.
Blachar and Reches sent letters to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, asking them to investigate charges Israeli security forces have unnecessarily harmed the provision of health services to the Palestinians. The doctors noted IMA members have all served in the IDF and know it acts according to international agreements requiring ethical behavior during combat. "From past experience, we know that even in times of armed conflict, the IDF considers itself obligated to attend to the basic needs of the civilian population under its control.
"Nevertheless, it is possible that security forces and the IDF, in the course of their difficult task of dealing with the wave of murderous terror attacks, have deviated from these norms," they wrote.
Three weeks after the letters were sent, and after calls to their offices this week, the IMA has not received any response from Sharon or Ben-Eliezer, Blachar said.