Saturday, February 14, 2009

Coach Youngworth Referees the Elections in Israel

February 10, 2009
It is rainy, the best excuse to procrastinate. I am sure partisan friends and neighbors in my village will comb their computerized voter registry and come to take me to the ballot box before it closes. They probably will accept my excuse of avoiding exposure to the elements on a wet and cold day better than any political analysis I can offer. I don’t have the patience to argue and try to refute their claims of the value of every last vote in proving our collective steadfastness in the face of the racist Zionist mob bent on driving us out of our homes. But I need to clarify to my self my deeply-felt revulsion at participating in this symbolic act of Israeli democracy in its current form.

[A daydream keeps blurring my conscious attempt at focusing: Some folks from Yankton College in South Dakota, my first steppingstone towards a medical degree, have just re-contacted me after some forty years. Now Mr. Youngworth, my Yankton College PE coach, keeps urging me to take Lieberman on in a round of Sumo Wrestling, something that we never did at Yankton.]

Dov, a Jewish family friend, was visiting the other day and raised a relevant point. He lives in the center of the country where the Jewishness of his residential space is less likely to be disturbed by the presence of Arabs. He wondered about the interracial relations in our half-and-half Galilee in light of the violence visited by Israel on Gaza. He felt uncomfortable raising the issue and prefaced his inquiry with the statement that what happened in Gaza left him with the feeling of having received a punch in the face. I commiserated with him by admitting to a persistent feeling of having received a kick in the stomach. I then informed him of the near total absence of current contacts between the two demographic halves of Galilee. I didn’t need to go into the lopsided distribution of rights and resources between the two groups, for that is always a given, and we both know it.

Dov then asked a personal question: “Aren’t you still in touch with so-and-so in the next-door settlement whom you mentioned to me before?”
“No! We parted ways after he became the head of the board of a University of Haifa public forum with academic pretensions and highfalutin coexistence claims.”
“Why? Didn’t he invite you to join?”
“Well, that was exactly the problem. He invited me to join the board and I accepted. Till I found out that Prof. Arnon Sofer sits on the same board. I wrote him asking formally for my name, or that of the professor, to be dropped from the roster. He dragged his feet forcing me to circulate my letter of resignation and the explanation for it to all the other board members. A few tried to dissuade me from this step sighting the presumed pluralistic and democratic nature of Israel and its academic institutions. But I kept to my decision not to sit on the same board with an avowed racist, a long-standing military adviser, and the father of the Palestinian demographic ticking bomb theory.”
“I am surprised at you, Hatim! What is wrong with debating the issues with opponents?”
“Nothing, believe me! But that misses the point. In fact one time I saw the man in a cafe and I walked over to him, introduced myself and initiated a brief discussion with him. I have no problem with debating an opponent. What I will not accept is any form of partnership with him. Partnership means sharing responsibility. Being on the same board with him means we share responsibility for each other’s views and acts. And that I will not permit.”

[“Size is not the only factor in Sumo Wrestling,” Mr. Youngworth urges. “Brains and agility are more important than sheer size and muscle mass. Go down and challenge him. You will beat him, I know. And if you don’t at least no one can blame you for not trying.”
“But I am an itinerant coward; I never rely on physical force; I am a pacifist, you know! And the lack of circulation here is suffocating. It is stifling hot here in the gym!”]

Last night, and for no apparent reason, I made a call to a physician in Lebanon, the granddaughter of my late aunt whose family was driven out of their coastal village of Dannoun north of Acre in 1948. I had never seen or spoken to her before. Still she knew I was from Arrabeh from the way I said ‘hello’ on the phone and proceeded to guess who I was, getting it right on the second try. I praised her intelligence in figuring out who I was after hearing only my greeting and she returned the complement: “Thiltheen elwalad lakhalou—two thirds of the child belong to the maternal uncle! And you are my maternal uncle.”
We proceeded to exchange information, emails, and reassurances about our families and situations and we promised to meet somewhere sometime. Suha’s last request was a passionate “Please stay in Galilee, in Palestine, uncle!”

[Mr. Youngworth is still pushing: “Take him on!” I respect the coach but this is too much. I step outdoor into the central court yard. The rain has stopped. There is a refreshing cool breeze.
“It is against my principle to engage in a physical fight. And this guy is a brute. Let him claim victory, but it won’t be my defeat.”]

Now to going out in the cold to elect Bibi Natanyahu for prime minister and Avigdor Lieberman for his deputy: Voting means accepting the premises of Israel’s democracy, one that allows a party to run on slogans of transferring me out of my home and to hold rallies at which calls of “Death to Arabs!” are standard. I am not afraid of such people’s intellectual clout and would welcome the opportunity to debate them before any audience. But my casual participation in the process of voting means I share in the responsibility for the inevitable outcome of fascist rule in Israel.

[“What about your home?” Mr. Youngworth now steps into my present. “What about your yard, your garden, your trees? Don’t you want to defend them?”
I survey my garden: my citrus orchard with all the luscious ready-for-the-pick fruits at one end, my half dozen bare fig trees with the promise of summer fruits at the other, and, in between, my almonds in full bloom interspersed amongst the apples, the peaches, the pears, the guavas, the pomegranates, the grapevines, the carob, the hawthorn, the quince the passiflora, and more. I walk to my millennia-old olive tree and caress its renewed canopy.
“Coach, I will take the SOB on. He will have to kill me before he can push me out of that circle!”]

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Novelty: Settler Violence in Hebron

In early December 2008, before Gaza monopolized all our thoughts here in Israel, our media bandied a big story about the settlers in Hebron ‘turning’ violent. The following were my thoughts on the subject when I first read the headlines:

“La-di-frickin’-da!” to quote from Saturday Night Live! What news we have here? Settlers riot in Hebron! Settlers suddenly turn violent!
As if the settlement enterprise ever meant anything other than violence.
As if unmitigated crude violence wasn’t a foundational element of the settler movement in the Palestinian Occupied Territories since its establishment in the nineteen-seventies with the full theological, political, and emotional blessing of every Israeli politician who participated in government ever since. And as if crude violence by settlers wasn’t actively promoted and aided with free access to arms by the Israeli state system and bankrolled by its Zionist sponsors and their ever-ready American taxpayer base.
As if raping the pristine hills around my village was anything but violence by the settlers in Galilee.
As if the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 was anything other than violence.
As if military rule under which we lived for eighteen years was something other than violence.
As if the daily discrimination against me and my people is not violent.
As if the starving of 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza is not violent.
As if the carpet bombing, from the air, sea and land of entire neighborhoods for housing those who think otherwise, whether in Beirut or Gaza, could have any name other than willful violence.
Believe you me, the only new element that makes this newsworthy is the fact that the settlers’ violence was directed this time, in part, against the Israeli armed forces that are there in the first place to protect, aid and abet them. Much harsher and unprovoked settler violence often amounting to veritable pogroms against the local Palestinians in Hebron, al-Khalil to us Palestinians, is part of their daily life, as any independent observer, such as any member of Christian Peacemakers Teams (CPT) will testify.
I often marvel at the power of words and how their use is so pregnant with preconceived ideas and internalized value systems. Take my use of the term ’pogrom’ as a case in point. It is a concept that has been historically associated with racist violence against Jewish communities in ghettos in Eastern Europe. The mere mention of the word evokes sympathy for the classic Jewish underdog in the minds and hearts of Western audiences. Even I, a Western educated Palestinian, find it difficult to cleanse the term of a twinge of guilt and a measure of sympathy for the poor Ashkenazi Jews unjustly attacked, abused or killed in their Shtetles. So, even when I am trying to showcase the plight of the Palestinians in al-Khalil and the savagery and violence of their Jewish tormentors, I end up promoting sympathy for the Zionist cause. There is always that subconscious dividend for Zionism when one uses their standard terminology, the brainwashing, including mine, is so thorough.
And here is another case in point: the name ‘Hebron’. I don’t even know its exact derivation. But it is a biblical name and in the Christian West one automatically associates it with the Old Testament and the history and heritage of the Jewish people in ‘their rightful homeland’. Very few in the West know the Arabic name for the city or appreciate its less conflict-imbued meaning. Al-Khalil refers to Abraham, the common ancestor of Arabs and Jews who is buried in the city. The name derives from his very revered position in Islamic tradition as Khalil-u-Allah, the friend of God. With the one democratic state for Jews and Arabs in all of historic Palestine becoming the default option, we have to look for such quaint nuggets to promote real coexistence.
Yet, falling back on three-millennium old myths, fanatic Jewish fundamentalists picked and chose from the constituent elements of their tribal legends to dehumanize ‘the other’, native Palestinians who arguably have a much more convincing claim to Jewish origins than all the kippa-wearing gun-toting young immigrants from Brooklyn. Their narrowly focused theological scholars dug deep and came up with ‘Amalik’ the best identity to frame this other in, expressing in the process their own vilest and most revolting inhumane sentiments and transferring them to the other as the deserving victim who brings Jehovah’s wrath upon himself to such a degree that the lord demands not only the destruction of his home, his orchards and the crops in his fields and the killing of his cattle, but also the bashing of his children’s heads on rocks. Fanatic Rabbis that publicly preach this wild menu of violence against me and my people and politicians that build their popularity on calls for our expulsion from our homes go unchallenged by Israel’s guardians of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. At the same time, those who advocate equality under the law of a state for all its citizens are hounded out of the country, witness the case of ex-parliament member Azmi Bshara.
True, the settlers can be looked at as, and often are made out to be, the extremist fringe of the long-oppressed Jewish minority in the West, and hence Western society owes it a level of understanding and forgiveness when it turns to the use of its own standard genocidal tactics, no worse, let us admit, than the violence committed by ‘pilgrims’ against native Americans for example. And there too, God’s inspirational favors were sought and apparently granted in pursuit of the liberation and settling of the ‘Promised Land’, the lives and property of the ‘heathen natives’ trampled and pillaged at well in the process.
It was only last week that this phenomenal jumble-mumble of myth, tradition and fertile imagination pricked at my innermost sense of self-worth and humanity to a degree that I felt uncomfortable in the midst of a crowd of presumed supporters of my cause. I attended a well-organized and well publicized benefit for Adalah NY, an organization that seeks justice for the Palestinians. The evening of music by Simon Shaheen, a fellow Galilee native who has made the impossible climb to international prominence without abandoning the Palestinian flavor of his music, was held at a church belonging to a well-intended liberal activist Protestant congregation in New York. In the intermission the middle-aged woman next to me occupied herself with leafing through the hymnal book in front of her. Out of curiosity I did the same. My conscience was jarred to discomfort by the title of the first hymn I glanced at; Its name was ‘Marching to Zion.’
Back in 1960, when I first arrived in the USA, at Yankton College in South Dakota I had to listen to those hymns every Sunday. Much as I lacked a full understanding of their meaning, given my new familiarity with the English language, I still sensed a certain alienation from the general flavor of quite a few of them. Back then I roomed with two newly-acquired friends, Djon Lim, now a respected cardiologist by the same name on the Island of Hawaii, and Gabor Zappanos, now Gabor Boritt, a well-respected Abraham Lincoln historian at Gettysburg University. Both were exempted from Sunday chapel hour. When I sought the same privileged treatment as my two fellow foreign students, I was told by our foreign student advisor that the regulations acknowledged the prerogative for both Catholics and Jews but made no mention of Moslems. So I had to suffer on instead of sleeping late each Sunday morning.
At the time I didn’t fully appreciate this clue to America’s general lack of familiarity with, if not rejection of, Islam and Muslims. Then I was still in my seeking mode; I hadn’t shut my mind to all religions, except perhaps for Gandhi’s passive resistance, if one can call that a religion. Don’t be quick to judge me, please! I am a non-practicing Muslim who has shared long and happy years of marriage to a non-practicing Christian and raised two beautiful children, both now married and raising families in the same non-denominational secular, if not agnostic or atheistic, tradition. But we all are proud to be the heirs, to varying degrees and admixed with Christian, Jewish and Buddhist influences, of the rich and humane tradition of Islam that reached its peak of intellectual and artistic expression in Andalusia.
And there, perhaps, is another seed of my and the West’s discomfort with each other’s heritage. After all, Andalusia was a colonial and settler project of the Moslem Moors. The flip side of this long and bloody history of conflict goes back to ‘our’ repealing by the sword ‘your’ Byzantine hegemony over the Middle East, followed centuries later by four consecutive Crusades, still axiomatically sacred to you, witness George W Bush’s recent usage of the term in justifying his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Then came the Napoleonic campaigns and, in modern times, ‘your’ colonization of ‘our’ Middle East, and your casting away of your deeply seated guilt for visiting the Holocaust upon the Jews by rewarding them with ‘my’ piece of land, etc. etc. … ad infinitum.
Yet all of this is a tangential issue, believe me! What I had in mind when I started writing was to focus my and your attention on the commonality of violence, physical, mental and moral, in the daily lives of those settlers that the Israeli media has suddenly shone its lights upon for the obvious reason that they have openly threatened the Israeli armed forces who still are their protectors and mentors. Yet nothing that the vile and violent settlers do and preach is unique to them. Again, they are there in the first place due to formal decisions of Israel’s successive governments with specific generous budgets. Their outrageous incursions on Palestinian private lands are done with open support and knowing collusion of government officials, IDF heads of staff and Israeli heads of state. As if this were not enough, the apartheid wall was constructed with the famous philosophy of “we are here and they are there” leading in the process to the loss of massive tracts of Palestinian farmland.
Even when not openly approving or financing the Settlers’ violence, one Israeli leader after the other have consistently shown their less than hidden violent thoughts towards us, the Palestinians. The famous statement of Golda Meir, repeated more recently by Elyakim Rubenstein in his capacity as the head negotiator with the Palestinians comes to mind: “We will never forgive the Palestinians for forcing us to kill their children.”
What clearer message of the mental and moral messianic zeal of such leaders can one come up with to justify the Settlers’ violence? How much cleaner can one wipe his or her hands of the blood of a victim? How better can one free his or her mind of guilt for killing children? What convoluted logic!

Gaza Obsession

Friends and close associates, whether relatives or DNA-aliens, are an extension of one’s own being. At least that is how I seem to relate to the segment of humanity that I mingle with by choice. With that in mind and with my humanity severely tested by the atrocities committed in part in my name as a citizen of Israel and with my tax money , my mind and my senses have been acutely attuned to relevant signals coming from members of my immediate human circle of contacts.

At the airport, Ali, my nephew who drove my car over to meet us, couldn’t start it on the first try and cussed Israel’s leaders loudly; he needed to get a certain part from Karmiel but didn’t feel like venturing there. No specific incident or source of fear; just a general feeling of discomfort when in the midst of the inimical environment of a Jewish town. He, his son and his brother have not put a single day’s work since the Gaza invasion started. Mahmoud, his construction contractor friend, has stripped down his crew from a daily fleet of thre e car-fulls to just one with five workers. It is a combination, he thinks, of the war and the world economic slump.

Back in Arrabeh, my home town in Galilee, in shops while picking up milk and eggs, at the homes of relatives over meals, and in the yards of friends over coffee in the warm winter sun, people ask politely about my trip abroad and about the health and wellbeing of my children and grandchildren there. As I try to respond with specific information about my kin in America and our three-week trip to exotic Morocco, the conversation keeps reverting back to Gaza . Every statement leads directly to the one and only topic worthy of discussing: “Yes, nice to know they are doing well! But how do Americans feel about the massacres? Do they watch Al-Jazeera there or does their media censor what they see like Israel ’s media does?” Or: “Morocco ! Oh yes; they had the largest demonstration anywhere in the whole world. It is a shame their government doesn’t lift a finger. I wonder how long they and Mubarak’s band of criminals can hold on to their chairs.”

I shift gears: “My Dutch colleague, a big-time psychiatrist specializing in mental trauma came especially to New York to spend the weekend with us. You may remember him; he came to Arrabeh to visit me a couple of times. He tells me that one third to one half of the soldiers who take part in such awful wars, even when they are the victors in the specific battle, wind up with severe mental disturbances needing psychiatric intervention,” I inform my circle of friends. An astute housewife opines: “That is true in America ; they have a conscience there, even if Bush is the biggest criminal of all.”
I spin her pronouncement a little and give it scientific veneer: “My Dutch colleague shares your opinion. He says that in Israel , because of the solid stand of the Jewish population with war and the near total support it gives its armed forces, the fighters are likely to suffer less; only about a third of them may wind up going crazy.”
“How about the victims? What happened to the Vietnamese civilians who survived the
massacre in that village? You know the one!” She meant My Lai of course.

I didn’t know the answer, so I changed the subject: “In Morocco we were in the desert near the Algerian borders. You know I am always looking for fossils and the place is full of them. You pick any rock and look closely at it and there are fossils in it. I brought a few large ones with me.”
“What is important is how heavy are the rocks and how sharp are the edges; are they good for throwing at soldiers?” a friend with a sense of humor responds.
“Those were the good old days of the first Intifada. Now Mahmoud Abbas and his boys are in charge and they are totally pacified. They didn’t even permit a peaceful demonstration in Ramallah to go on. Their day will come, that is for sure!” that is from another woman.

For some reason the women seem to be at greater liberty to speak out. The men only
nod. Except for one young man who surprises everyone with his assertions: "The days of throwing stones are gone. Don't you guys hear the shooting between gangs in the village at night? Youth have free access to all sorts of weapons on the black market, from handguns to hand grenades to automatic weapons. And the police know all about it."
"Not only do they know about it but they seem to encourage it. It is their boys that trade in it and in drugs. They intentionally corrupt our youth," the young man's mother, a woman who never finished her studies in criminology, adds.
"It is worse than you think. The police keep a blind eye as long as it is within our communities. What is scary is what will happen if violence breaks out between Arabs and Jews in our area and young people use firearms. That is when we will learn the real plan behind all of this. What happened in Gaza is child's play compared to what they will do to us. It will be our final solution," a female educator responds.

A nursing student from the neighborhood, home for the weekend from her studies in Tel-Aviv, drops in for a chat. She usually comes to seek my advice when something is troubling her. I ask her about her studies.
“The usual” she says, “a little disturbing in the last few weeks, what with Gaza and all.”
“What exactly is disturbing you now?”
“Nothing at the personal level; it is the general atmosphere. The racial slurs are more open and more often. I am now in the obstetrics department. I am in the delivery room for Arab women.”
“What! They have separate delivery rooms for Arab women?”
“Yes, of course! You didn’t know that? The administration explains it with a worse case scenario of two multi-para (medical term for many deliveries) women, one a religious Jewish settler from the West Bank and the other a religious Moslem woman from the Triangle, being in labor at the same time and having their dozens of relatives drop in to visit. A clash would be unavoidable.”
“To me it sounds like they should get along well; both are religious!” I feign ignorance of the violence underpinnings of all fundamentalists.
“You know they would clash in no time; or at least that is what the administration expects. And one side is always with loaded automatic weapons on the ready.”
“Settlers are allowed into hospitals with their weapons?”
“You have forgotten uncle! You yourself told us that your Jewish nurses went out to immunize Arab children with handguns in their handbags.”
“Yes, but that was a long time ago.”
“What do you expect now with the national war mood? The venom boils over. When a new woman arrived in the department for delivery, the standard question whispered by the receiving staff used to be: ‘is she Arabic speaker?’ Now the head nurse barks out loudly with a pained grimace on her face: ‘Another Arab?’ usually with an expletive that sounds like it is aimed at me. And since the blitz on Gaza started I feel isolated by classmates; I get reprimanded by teachers for the slightest error.”
“Take a sick leave” was the only inane advice I could offer.

Two days later, over dinner with mixed company including a Jewish professor and two
expatriate Americans, the same Gaza-centered discourse persists, albeit in Ramallah and with intellectual overtones. “The soldier at the checkpoint took one look at me and waved me on despite the big sign banning Israeli citizens from entering the West Bank . He must have figured I was an Arab and hence not likely to be in danger of being attacked. Or perhaps he thinks Arabs are dispensable.”
“Well, where do we go otherwise? The sense of estrangement among members of the Palestinian minority in Israel is quite pervasive. Even in the best of times the Jewish majority rejects us and we have little access to other Arab societies in the Middle East ,” says a social scientist in the group.
“That is a recipe for disaster. It is even worse among the Jewish majority; we have ghettoized ourselves by choice. With one aggression after another against our neighbors we are actualizing the self-fulfilling prophecy of us against the whole world.”
These are dangerous grounds for non-Jews to tread. To break the silence the Jewish professor continues: “We have shifted far to the right in recent years. The massacre in Gaza is greater than that of Sabra and Shatilla. And this one is solely ours; no Maronite alibis. But where are the protesting crowds in Tel Aviv?”
“What next then?”
“More of the same, I am afraid! There will be international warrants of arrest for Israeli leaders, another confirmation that the whole world is against us. We will withdraw into our shell. Our intellectuals and their liberal supporters abroad will keep chewing and regurgitating the cud of the lack of precision and the inapplicability of human rights instruments to the heirs of the holocaust till the whole issue gets vulgarized and enveloped in a haze of a delegitimizing discourse and accusations of anti-Semitism. In the meanwhile Gaza and the West Bank would be fully pacified and colonized.”
“That is when our own turn comes,” I find the courage to opine. “We continue to sully
the rightists’ dream of a pure Jewish state. Logically, if one accepts their premises we have to be transferred out. Israel ’s leaders seem to agree. A small war with Syria or Lebanon and we can be massacred and driven across the border and the dream becomes
“And I thought only us, the Jews, have a persecution complex!”

Friday, February 6, 2009

War Crimes in Gaza: My Correspondence with the Head of the Israel Medical Association on the Matter

Here is my unrewarding experience in attempting to get the head of the IMA to distance the organization from War crimes during the Israeli 22 day-long massive violence against the Palestinians in Gaza:

From: Hatim Kanaaneh
To: Dr. Yoram Blachar
Cc: ""Dunchin Milca" please circulate to my Public health colleagues" ; Physicians for Human Rights
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 1:13:46 PM
Subject: A Call to Distance IMA from War Crimes

Dear Dr Blachar,

I am writing as a member of IMA, to clear my conscience and do my moral duty as a human being and a caring professional.

If you happen to have read my book of memoirs, (A Doctor in Galilee, Pluto Press, 2008) you would know by now that I object to many practices of the health care system in Israel and have attempted to change them for the better by all legal means available.

I am now writing to call on you and on all conscientious members of the IMA to take a step, collectively and individually, that would improve the image of the organization to which I still formally belong. I am sure many of my colleagues, both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, sympathize with my point of view and would welcome such a step.

As calls from the international and Human Rights community objecting to the bloodshed in Gaza and calling for an investigation of actions by the IDF that so many neutral parties consider war crimes under international law, including the targeting of civilians and of medical staff and the preventing of emergency aid workers from reaching the injured, It behooves the IMA to take a public stand against such illegal practices, to call for halting the war, and to call for an international investigation of such practices by the IDF.

Therefore, I hereby formally call on you as the head of the IMA to take this courageous step immediately and to rid the organization of the image it is fast acquiring of condoning and collaborating in war crimes.

With utmost concern,

Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH
Author of 'A Doctor in Galilee: the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel', Pluto Press, 2008
Active Blog:

PS: Please acknowledge the receipt of this message. HK

From: Hatim Kanaaneh
To: Dr. Yoram Blachar
Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2009 6:18:27 AM
Subject: A Call to Distance IMA from War Crimes


You have not responded to my message below. Since I wrote it to you the number of civilian dead and injured in Gaza has nearly doubled. Furthermore suspicions that the IDF has committed war crimes in this war have gained wider acceptance within Israel and abroad. Groups of technical experts, human rights activists and practitioners of ethics including groups of Rabbinical students and of physicians and other caring professions have called for investigating the conduct of the IDF in Gaza.

In light of the above, I call on you again as my representative to comply with my request in my letter below and to bring it to the attention of my colleagues, members of IMA. In three days it will be the Holocaust Memorial Day, an appropriate deadline to respond to my request from you by return email, whether positively or in the negative. If I do not receive your answer by then I will feel at liberty to publicize this call as an open letter in local and international circles.

With concern,

Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH
Author of 'A Doctor in Galilee: the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel', Pluto Press, 2008
Active Blog:

PS: The correspondence is shared with Dr. Milka Dunchin with my kind request to share it with my Public Health colleagues.


RESPONSE FROM THE HEAD OF IMA(Translated from Hebrew):
Israel Medical Association
January 26, 2009

To: Dr. Kanaaneh, Esq.

In accordance with your book ‘A Doctor in Galilee’ that you mention, I presume that, having worked in the Galilee, you know Hebrew well and I will answer you in Hebrew.

The IMA, in which according to your statement you are still a member, is not a political body.

The members of IMA, almost certainly, represent the entire range of the political spectrum in Israel and hence we are not involved in politics.

True, the IMA is responsible for the ethical stand of its members; the IMA is a signatory of the international conventions regarding the ethical standards that obligates doctors everywhere.

The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strep is an extremely severe reality and the fact that Hamas itself is the cause for this reality doesn’t help the Palestinian suffering.

As a result of an idea that we initiated and brought to the Ministry of Health, the clinic for Palestinians was established at the Erez crossing. In addition we called several times on the military authorities, and our calls were even answered, regarding the need to allow the passage of the sick and injured to Israel and to refrain from targeting medical staff.

There are two sides to each coin, Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh.

Your voice was not heard when hundreds of Israeli citizens, sometimes including Arabs, innocent of any crime, were torn to shreds when suicidal terrorists blew themselves on buses, in banquets and in shopping malls with the intent of injuring the highest possible number of citizens. Your voice was not heard against the phenomenon of Palestinian mothers sending their sons and daughters to be martyrs – in itself a sick phenomenon that has no match in other cultures.

You did not scream out while for eight years over 12000 missiles, Kassams and projectiles, with the sole purpose of sow fear and panic, destruction and killing of citizens, children, women and elders. Eight full years Dr. Hatim!!! And you kept quiet.

We did not hear your voice in objection to the cynical and terrible use of Hamas terrorists of the Palestinian population, their own flesh, their brothers an sisters and the children that elected them to office.

Your voice was not heard when Hamas terrorists intentionally launched missiles from inside civilian population, from schools, from mosques, and from within innocent population concentrations. Your criticism was not heard against the fact that Hamas itself was the one that prevented the movement of Palestinian sick and wounded from the strep to border passages till few days ago.

The unbearable unilateralism of your calls undercuts their moral and value basis!! Your being Arab, Israeli or Palestinian, whatever you define yourself, does not add or detract in this connection; independent of this, as I said at the start of my letter, in light of the difficult humanitarian condition, we did and will do all we can for aiding. You can get an update on few of our activities on the IMA website

I answer your words since you are an IMA member.

You can do whatever you wish with the correspondence between us.

With Regards,

Dr. Yoram Blacher ,
Head of IMA

Cc: Dr. Milka Dunchin


To: Dr. Yoram Blacher, Head of IMA,
January 30, 2009


1. Thank you for responding to my email, though it was only after a reminder in which I threatened to go public with my request.
2. Of course, I do speak Hebrew fluently. I communicate on the internet in English for technical reasons.
3. Below is my English translation of your response. Unless you send me your corrected version, I shall use this translation as the official response from you in your capacity as the head of the IMA should I find myself in a position where I have to explain my membership in the organization to an international audience.
4. The first part of your response, up to the statement “There are two sides to each coin,….” would have sufficed for the purpose stated in the above paragraph, regardless whether I agree or disagree with it. It clarifies the official stand of the IMA and provides me with the fig leaf that I needed.
5. In the rest of your letter, the larger part of it in fact, and after you have stated that the IMA “is not a political body” and explained why that is so, you proceed to attack me personally with language and allegations drawn from Israeli street politics. You seem to forget that you are speaking for a nonpolitical body.
6. I consider it less than dignified for presumed professional colleagues to engage in this level of discourse and hence I will not reply to your specific statements, or to the accusatory ones I have received from 7 other IMA members so far, except to clarify two points:
a) As you well know, I called on you to take a stand regarding accusations of war crimes because of your official position. As the head of IMA you owe a member in the organization a clear answer on a relevant issue that he raises. At least that was my understanding. I am at a loss as to my capacity under which you consider yourself entitled to hear my voice regarding violence visited by one party in a conflict against the other, regardless of where my sympathies may lie. I don’t recall ever meeting you in person and there has never been a discussion between us on this matter before. Explain to me, please, who are you to me to make such personal demands on me?
b) Those who know me, whether through working with me or through reading my book of memoirs, realize that I am a committed pacifist, though not the activist type that preaches it to others. I reject violence wherever and whenever it is committed, by NATO, the IDF, Taliban, Hamas, or whoever.

On this peaceful note I wish you well and a clear conscience,
With much concern,

Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH
Author of 'A Doctor in Galilee: the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel', Pluto Press, 2008
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