Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saving Lives

Often enough we read that Palestinian children are treated for life-threatening conditions in Israeli hospitals. It is not only children, but other members of Palestinian society as well. When medical assistance that is available in the West Bank and Gaza is not capable of providing the kind of expert professional attention that is available in Israel there are sometimes occasions when additional help is sought and given.

Medical professionals, after all, do not ideally recognize ethnicity, religion, age, ideology, the colour of one's skin, or whether those seeking and needing treatment represent a combatant-enemy or one of one's own. Physicians and others in the medical community are tasked by their profession to be patient-neutral and to administer to the best of their abilities life-enhancing, healing qualities as they have been taught to do, reflective of the oath they take as doctors.

In Israel more advanced medical-surgical techniques and diagnostic equipment reflect a more wealthy and technologically and scientifically advanced society. In comparison with what obtains, for example, in the West Bank, and certainly in the less well-endowed Gaza territory administered by Hamas. The political-ideological-religious enmity between Gaza and Israel is well enough known, since Hamas makes no secret of its aspiration to destroy Israel.

Gazan Palestinians are more up-front about their beliefs than those in the West Bank, a sizeable number of whom have been conditioned to consider the Jewish State an illegal occupier of Palestinian land. And since even schoolchildren are taught to hate and fear Jews, and to cleave to the idea of one day fortune bringing the land back to their possession, there is a general obligation taught of the acceptance of martyrdom.

As a good-will and humanitarian overture it is not rare for children suffering dread injuries or diseases or birth defects to be treated at hospitals in Israel. A documentary film, Precious Life, has highlighted the difficulties inherent in providing treatment for Palestinians and the consequent attitudes of those who have benefited from such treatment.

The mother of an infant, for example, born without an immune system was successfully treated by an Israeli pediatrician for his immunodeficiency condition threatening his life. The mother, who had lost two other children to the same genetic condition that had been untreated, was surely grateful for the survival of her infant, but she chose a peculiar way to express her gratitude.

A benefactor who happened to be Jewish provided funding to ensure a bone marrow transplant for the Palestinian child from Gaza could be provided. The mother, in discussion with the filmmaker, speaking of the status of Jerusalem, stated outright that she would be proud to have her son, assuming him to grow to adulthood in recovery from his condition, become a shahid.

"Absolutely. If it's for the sake of Jerusalem, I would", she asserted. Life is not precious, she said. The child is now healthy, he has reached his third birthday. His name? Mohammed. His mother is now not quite as certain as she was previously that she would have him sacrifice his life as a martyr. At four months and sickly she could view him as a sacrifice for Islam.

Her neighbours had viewed her with suspicion because she had allowed her infant to be treated in an Israeli hospital, with Jewish expertise and an exposure to medical ethics. "Go to the Jews to get help for your son if you think they're better than Arabs", one message was posted to her on the Internet.

We live in a modern era where even in impoverished areas of the world where people are willing prisoners to medieval thoughts of tribalism, revenge, martyrdom, vitriolic hatred, they are able to use modern technology to communicate. Yet a willingness to become informed and accepting of others, to understand that give and take are valuable human assets, that death and destruction are not constructive values still eludes.

Reaching out to one another when each side feels they have something to lose rather than much to gain is a difficult, time-consuming process. If it could be accomplished, the understanding that each side has more in common than they have that separates them as human beings might help to bring peace. War is a speedier process than peace.

People take offence far more readily than they are prepared to offer opportunity to one another, to smile and defuse anger, to speak rather than scream, to trust rather than hate.

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