An Open Letter to Dr. Bernard Kouchner,
French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs.
Dear Dr. Kouchner,
The news that you have preemptively spoken against any official objection to the expected appointment of Avigdor Lieberman to the post of Foreign Minister of Israel distresses me. By making this diplomatic move in the service of Israel’s international image you have encroached on my rights and on my community’s aspirations to ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’.
But first let me introduce myself: I am a Palestinian citizen of Israel, a Public Health physician who, for nearly four decades, has served humanity through serving his own people by promoting their better health and community development. For engaging in these efforts, your late president Francois Mitterrand awarded me the medal of “Ordre National du Merite”. In connection with that recognition I visited France as the guest of the Ministry of the Interior. You were gracious enough to receive me in your office while serving as the Minister of Health, though my special enchantment with your personage was, and still is, as the founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres.
As a fellow physician, I want to ask you, Dr Kouchner, to put yourself momentarily in my position and consider how I should react to the step you have taken: Here is another presumably equal co-citizen of Israel who calls openly for my disqualification from our shared citizenship because I want to be equal to him under the laws of our common country. He insists on having me step down from our presumed common stand of equality and kowtow openly to his privileged status as the son of a certain race and religion. Would you do that, Dr. Kouchner, were it to be demanded from you by a fellow French citizen who is an immigrant from Algeria?
Barring that, Mr. Lieberman wants me transferred out of the country though I have lived on land I inherited legally from forefathers who may have better claim to descent from the ancient Jews than his do. And mind you, Dr. Kouchner, my residence in the home he wants me evacuated from predates the establishment of the state he wants to appropriate as his, and his alone, while he is a recent immigrant from Moldova. Would you, Dr Kouchner, take a loyalty oath confirming your second class status?
Mr. Lieberman’s best-case scenario for tolerating my existence in his vicinity is to have the homes of the likes of me re-zoned into one of the Bantustans he envisions creating and running by remote control from behind an ethnic separation wall. Would you succumb peacefully to such a scheme, Dr. Kouchner?
Sir, you have to understand that I am speaking of existential issues for me and my family. Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, head of “Israel is Our Home” party and Israeli Foreign Minister designate attained this impressive status through an openly racist election campaign that featured mass gatherings at which calls of “Death to Arabs” were standard. Would you trust such a man with your future in the international arena, Dr. Kouchner, especially knowing that the man earned a living in the past through reliance on his muscle power?
These are matters of record, Dr. Kouchner. When you call on your fellow diplomats to accept this man as an equal and to forget about his announced plans for my further subjugation and for the infringement of my human rights, if not for my physical elimination, you are aiding and abetting him in his evil scheme.
As a colleague and a former acquaintance, I call on you to openly commit to protecting me before it is too late. I ask you to act on the basis of our shared professional dictum of “primum non nocere - first, to not harm!” and to withdraw your call to accept Mr. Lieberman to the diplomatic fold for that is sure to do me harm. As the founder of a humanitarian organization that recognizes no borders in seeking to alleviate suffering, you owe me and my community, as per your organizations humanitarian standards, a pledge to defend us against this man’s evil designs.
If you are unable to stand up to the degradation and injustice the man promises to reek against me and my family, then please, step aside, withdraw your diplomatic initiative on his behalf, and allow the many courageous and impartial souls to act on the basis of their conscience.
As to the license the chauvinistic far rightist government he joins takes in dealing with me and my community, I intend to fall back on my equally tenuous claim to camaraderie with President Obama.
With Highest Regards,
Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH