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Extraordinary development in the Israeli Medical Assocation saga

haaretzFirst and foremost a doctor

By Neri Livneh, Ha’aretz 14 August 2009

The doctors of the Israel Medical Association have now been enlisted into the ranks of mouth-shutting patriots. The IMA announced this week that it is severing ties with Physicians for Human Rights. The announcement was preceded by a letter from the IMA chairman, Dr. Yoram Blachar, who also serves as president of the World Medical Association. In it, he states that “the outrageous situation is that PHR’s activity serves as fertile ground for anti-Semitism, anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism.”

PHR was founded in 1998 by Dr. Ruchama Marton. The organization counts today 1,500 members, half of whom are medical professionals, most of them also members of the IMA. It fights on behalf of human rights, the most basic of which is the right to health. The organization is of the belief that the state of Israel has a duty to grant this right equally to all sectors of the population under its control, including Palestinians in the occupied territories, Bedouin living in unrecognized villages, prisoners and inmates, migrant workers and refugees.
PHR does not make do with establishing free clinics, but rather also lends its hand to campaigns for human rights, including the struggle against torture. Some witnesses say Israeli doctors have either cooperated with the practice or failed to report instances of torture. PHR also published a list of 13 doctors suspected of cooperating. Blachar is on the list as one who failed to report.
Rather than holding a thorough investigation on such a complex issue, the IMA handed the list over to one man, Prof.Avinoam Reches. Reches refuted these claims after speaking with the doctors named in the list. The superficial probe only served to strengthen the claim that Blachar, as head of IMA, does not take a stand against torture in Israel. It also became the basis of a petition circulated by Derek Summerfield, a British doctor, calling for Blachar’s ouster from the presidency of the World Medical Association.

Blachar viewed the petition as proof of the damage that PHR is causing to the state of Israel, damage which, in his words, “reached new heights when a petition was circulated a month ago that gathered the signatures of 725 doctors calling for my dismissal from my post as president of the World Medical Association. Dr. Ruchama Marton, the president of PHR, is also a signatory to the petition!!”

Marton is indeed the only PHR member to sign the petition. She emphasized the fact that she signed as a private citizen, and that the petition only concerned Blachar. But Blachar views the IMA, the state of Israel and the entire Jewish people as the embodiment of one man – himself – just as PHR is embodied solely by Marton. In his eyes, whoever harms his position is anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, much like Marton, or, in other words, PHR. In short, PHR is just another bleeding-heart, whistle-blowing organization that is in need of a beating, like “Breaking the Silence,” which is perhaps what they would say on Army Radio.

Except that Blachar cannot afford to make such statements. Instead, he suggests that the medical activities of PHR volunteers be disrupted. He has no right to do such a thing. His job title does not grant him such a right. It is inconceivable that the childish ego trip he is on against Marton will prevent medical treatment from reaching those who struggle to receive it under normal circumstances.

Blachar is forbidden from doing so because he is first and foremost a doctor and, more important, the head of an organization whose membership, himself included, practices a profession that is in essence humanitarian. The idea that such an organization would target PHR’s doctors rather than the medical treatment they are trying to correct is liable to serve as fertile ground for anti-Semitism, anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism.

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