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Let’s have Medical Aid Without the Politics

July 10, 2011 – 6:58 pm36 Comments

By Bernie Tuch

In January this year, an advertisement (see left) appeared in a magazine called Physician Life that is sent to registered physicians like me in Australia.  Sponsored by an organization called Towards Hope Foundation the advertisement was seeking funds to support the treatment in Melbourne of Malak, a young girl visiting from Gaza, who had been born with no ears, and as a consequence, was deaf.

What drew my attention to this unusual advertisement was the statement that the required operation “cannot be done anywhere in the Middle East”.  Having worked in Israel some years ago, and knowing a little of the medical facilities available there, I questioned the veracity of the statement.  First, however, I checked with my medical sources in Jerusalem, and received confirmation that the particular operation and the special hearing aid required were available in the major teaching hospitals of most of the cities in Israel.

I wrote to the editor of the magazine with this information, and advised this was false advertising. This was particularly so, since there is an organization in Israel, the Peres Centre for Peace, that handles humanitarian aid requests of this nature for the children of Gaza.  I am advised the organization has been in operation since 2003 and has had more than 6,500 referrals since, the majority being for complex operations.  Costs of the procedures are apparently borne by the Centre.

I checked the website of the Foundation at that time, and found much anti-Israel vitriol, as well as advertising of a pro-Palestinian political public rally to be held at the University of Technology in Sydney during May.

Subsequently, the editor of the magazine wrote to the person who had submitted the advertisement, and received back a vitriolic letter containing material consistent with what I had seen on the Foundations website.  To resolve the matter, the editor then invited me to write a letter to the magazine for publication.  This appeared in the May-June issue of the magazine.  So far, as of the July-August issue of the magazine, there has been no response to my letter.

This week I rechecked the website of the Foundation, and was surprised.  There is no anti-Israel vitriol anymore, merely details about Malak, and her recent arrival in Melbourne.  At the click of a button, I accessed a two-minute video screened on the ABC in June telling Malak’s story, and showing her, her mother, and those who are trying to assist.  This was a wonderful change to what I had seen previously, and something to be commended.

Moreover, on the website, there was a note warning about possible fraudulent endeavours of two Islamic organizations that are said not to be registered charities in Victoria allegedly collecting funds to support Malak.

What has happened to seemingly turn this matter around, from vitriolically attacking a country whilst supporting a humanitarian endeavour, to showing beneficence without the politics?  Perhaps the Towards Hope Foundation has now taken notice of that entity called the Peres Centre for Peace, and is concentrating its efforts to help Malak and other children in need.  I ask myself if this change has occurred in part because of my objection to what was a misleading advertisement in a physician’s magazine, and my persistence in ensuring the matter was not swept under the carpet – or am I dreaming?

Dr Bernie Tuch is a Sydney based physician.


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36 Comments »

  • AustIsr says:

    Onya Bernard.

  • That’s a great outcome.

    They do still have a link at the bottom of their “How To” page:

    http://towardshope.org/how.html

    that makes a fairly strong political statement:

    http://towardshope.org/form_b/suq_affiliated.html

    Michael.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Well done Bernie

  • Kay Smith says:

    Fantastic to print the truth rather than a pack of lies

  • Tamara Druery says:

    Well done Bernie. It is very inspiring and hopeful when you see action affecting change.

  • Well done Bernie. The ad must’ve been from that new organization médecins sans boussole morale (doctors without a moral compass).

  • ariel says:

    Nice work Bernie.

    Do you have a link to your letter which appeared in the magazine?

  • Grandma C says:

    After having looked at the link which Michael Barnett posted, I think the extremist political ignorance is still there, just not as overt. I shudder to think what their home page must have been like to read before your letter writing and subsequent investigation began. But whether they cleaned up their website because of your well researched response or because they were being looked at (or investigated) by others as well, it is a fantastic thing that you did. Hopefully it may inspire others to challenge similar propaganda when they see something they know to be untrue. It is all too easy to grumble amongst ourselves about unfair media spin. It is much harder to actually challenge the offending article. :)

  • avi baum says:

    Bernie.
    Well done,good work
    Congratulation
    Avi baum

  • Riyad says:

    Dear Dr Tuch:
    I’m the founder of the Towards Hope Foundation and I lived most of my life in Gaza. I’m the person who found Malak and brought her here. I’m aware of the Perez center and we didn’t lie when we said that there’s no one in the Middle East who can help Malak including the Perez center. By that we meant, no medical centers in the Middle East can build Malak’s ears. The Palestinian Authority refers complicated cases to Israeli hospitals and they didn’t refer her to Israel because they knew that she can’t be helped there. So please, check your resources again. The Towards Hope is non political and non affiliate and its sole aim is to provide medical assistance to the deprived Palestinians. Neither you nor anyone in the world can deny the hard life Palestinians live because of the Israeli occupation and actions. I suggest that you keep your opinions for yourself and leave us alone since we’re doing our best to help the needy.

  • Sam says:

    Bernie,
    Maybe there has not been the turnaround in attitude from the organizers of Towards Hope Foundation that you pre-empted in your article. Sounds like vitriol towards Israel counts for more than any major treatments offered without fee by Israeli hospitals to desperate and needy Palestinians. It is a very sad situation and is probably an omen for prospects for future peace as well.
    Bernie, can you clarify again whether proper treatment would have been available in a major Israeli hospital? And is Malak currently in Melbourne awaiting treatment in Australia?

  • Grandma C says:

    Bernie, I hate to say this, but maybe you were dreaming after all. But my original comment still stands.

  • skeptica says:

    Dear Riyad

    You say “The Towards Hope is non political”. When I accessed the link

    http://towardshope.org/form_b/suq_affiliated.html

    which is on your website I found a reading list. Every book on the list is highly critical of Israel or denies the connection between the Jews and Israel. While you of course have the right to recommend any books you like, the choice of reading material could hardly be described as “non political”.

  • Bernie Tuch says:

    Hi Riyad,

    It’s good to see that Malak is receiving or about to receive relavent treatment, and that you are facilitating this.

    You are correct that the Palestinian healthcare system has extremely high demands on its limited resources and that children in particular are innocent victims.

    Now for the facts requested. My medical sources tell me that the Medpor ear reconstruction which you have advised Malak needs, and the bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA) she also requires, are indeed available in Israel. This type of ear reconstruction is being carried out at least in the following two places: the Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, and at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine which is part of Tel-Aviv University.
    At least 7 hospitals in israel provide BAHA. They are Hadassah and Shaare Zedek Hospitals (Jerusalem), Bnei Zion Hospital (Haifa), Sheba and Ichilov Hospitals (Tel Aviv), Soroka Hospital (Beer-Sheva) and Schneider Hospital (Petach Tikvah).

    Sam, The ABC video on the organizations website advises that a Dr Andrew Greensmith is the Melbourne surgeon involved.

    Ariel, I am happy to pass on a copy of my letter to the editor that appeared in the May June issue of “Physician Life”, and will do so through the controllers of this web site.

  • Riyad says:

    Thanks for the info Bernie, my question is if this service is available in Israel then why the girl was not referred there by the Palestinian Authority?. The second bit of info I want to give you is that entry to Israel for Palestinians especially from Gaza is extremely difficult if not impossible due to the Israeli measures. The Israeli government denies the Palestinians as young as one month old entry for what they call “Security purposes”.
    The cost of medical services in Israel is astronomical and even if Malak somehow made it to one of these centers, her family can’t pay for it.
    Finally, the girl is here and hopefully, she’ll have ears and restored hearing here in Melbourne with the help of the Volunteering Fantastic Australian Surgeons and the generous donors and that’s the bottom line. The Palestinian health system,infrastructure, economy, and almost every aspect of life is way behind the world due to the Israeli occupation as you know so let’s not discuss politics and focus on helping the people of Palestine.

  • Michelle says:

    What? You mean there’s a possibility that the Palestinian Authority hasn’t been acting in the best interests of its constituents? Go on – pull the other one!

  • TheSadducee says:

    “Thanks for the info Bernie, my question is if this service is available in Israel then why the girl was not referred there by the Palestinian Authority?.”

    Probably because the Prime Minister of the PA (and his party) doesn’t recognise Israel?

  • Divine Doctor says:

    Integrity is of the essence. While I personally know little about the particulars in the matter of Malak and her treatment, whether by the Palestinian Authority, Israel or Australia, I find that the presentation by Dr. Bernie Tuch seems to the most honest, unbiased. On the face of it, I go with Dr. Tuch, his presentation and his efforts at bringing clarity.
    It is sad that regrettably political bias finds its way into areas where only humanitarian concerns should be of foremost importance. Let us get on with real, human caring.

  • Annette G says:

    Well done Bernie

    Let’s hope that the Towards Hope Foundation continues to keep its website kosher, produces reliable, factual information and stops blaming Israel for everything under the sun.

    Riyad, how about acknowledging the honourable and caring work of the Peres Centre for Peace.

    Good luck to little Malak.

  • Richard says:

    Dear Sir,
    I write as the present President of the Towards Hope Foundation, which has been brought to the attention of the broader Jewish Australian population by the overreaching complaint of Dr. Tuch. It is sad to read that a concise statement of truthful facts can send such a seemingly intelligent person into a flap.

    I can provide you with two documents, a screenshot of the original index page and the letter I sent in response to his vexatious complaint to the editor of the Medical Life magazine. If there is a single statement he can credibly refute, I will be very interested to hear what he says.

    One thing I omitted to mention as I was not aware of it at the time.. Gaza is out of medication to all intents and purposes..
    Teva, the world’s largest producers of generic medications and supplies is based in Jerusalem. How can this be so?

    If, as a medical practitioner Dr. Tuch can sleep knowing he supports a system that allows such a grotesque neglect of others as that then he is a tougher mortal than I and there is clearly a large gulf to be bridged. The sooner the better, for the health and well being of all.

    The changes are nothing to do with Dr.Tuch’s frivolous complaint. It is merely a content matter and the Index page will be restored as the website is updated and reports of Malak’s care continue in their own section.

    Finally, good to know that you are paying attention.. There is a lot more to come in the future.

    Sincerely

    Richard Middleton
    President, Towards Hope Foundation
    Medical Aid for Palestine.

  • Sam says:

    Richard

    You said:
    “One thing I omitted to mention as I was not aware of it at the time.. Gaza is out of medication to all intents and purposes..
    Teva, the world’s largest producers of generic medications and supplies is based in Jerusalem. How can this be so?”

    While not disputing this claim at all, I also find it disturbing if the situation as as straight forward as it seems from how it appears. Please inform us of any formal requests that were made of Israel to supply critical care medications and the responses made back to the Towards Hope Foundation or the administration in Gaza.

  • Richard says:

    I am not going to enter into a dialog about what the Israeli Military is or is not doing. That is self evident to all. That is why we exist.

    Suffice to say that all individuals and NGOs of repute know there is no justification for the situation, however you try and explain it.
    It is not for us to ask the Israeli Military to do the right thing…
    They would just laugh at us and think about it over the paper work!

    It is up to all decent people of all faith, ALL faiths, to call the current situation what it is..
    Why do you think so many in Israel are standing up against the situation and risking the latest draconian laws to support the Human Rights of their Palestinian brothers and sisters?
    Why do you think it is so hard to have the sort of discussion that occur daily in Israel, here in Melbourne?

  • Michelle says:

    “What has happened to seemingly turn this matter around, from vitriolically attacking a country whilst supporting a humanitarian endeavour, to showing beneficence without the politics?”

    Occam’s Razor principle states that the simpler the explanation to a problem, the more likely it is to be correct.

    And aha, the problem is solved! Thank you Richard Middleton, the index page is being updated.

    A much more likely cause than deeply entrenched mindsets changing as a result of discovering facts they may not have been aware of before.

    Richard, can you please post here a copy of your letter that you sent to Medical Life magazine. I cannot verify from your above response that – amidst all the condescending and emotive drivel you have used against Dr Tuch and presumably Israel – you have actually successfully refuted Dr Tuch’s claims.

    Thanks!

  • Sam says:

    Richard

    You said:
    “It is up to all decent people of all faith, ALL faiths, to call the current situation what it is..”

    I consider myself a decent person so I will call the current situation for what it is, as you have recommended.

    To push the Palestinian hasbara is a much higher priority than individual human life, as I asked a legitimate question about humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza residents and you reply about the IDF laughing at you while wasting time considering the paper work. You have avoided answering the question quite deliberately and thus have devalued your credibility as the head of an “honest” organization doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to improve the welfare of those whom you purport are depending upon you.
    As far as having the dialogue in Melbourne that you desire I don’t see a problem as there as probably as many Jews in Australia as in Israel (as a percentage) that see things through Palestinian eyes.

  • Richard says:

    Please indicate exactly what I have said that is incorrect.

  • Lani says:

    I think the comments are getting off track…

    The point of the blog was saying that the comment in the advertisement said “cannot be done anywhere in the Middle East” – when in fact – the procedure could be done in Israel – however for whatever reason (each side will have their view) – this girl could not access the Israeli services – so perhaps the advertisement was clumsy at best and misleading at worst.

    Reading the media articles – it looks like Dr Middleton had easier access to Australian facilities and contacts – being a medico in Melbourne – than trying to negotiate and make something happen in Israel – so now that this case if over – I guess it is back to Dr Middleton to look the foundations next case of assistance.

    Now that he is aware of the services in Israel and Dr Tuch’s contacts – perhaps he can have a crack at making something work in Israel and saving the $10k or the likes in airfares and travel expenses.

    These sorts of activities are about building bridges – rather than destroying them.

  • zack says:

    To all,

    I’m with you Lani.

    While Dr Tuch may have have thought that he had credible cause in raising this issue, i think he went on raising his concerns on the wrong way. Why?, instead of raising his concerns directly with the TWH foundation and perhaps try to meet with them directly, did he go about it the way he did. Perhaps his intent has deeper meaning?. It seems like the good Dr could have shared his contacts in Israel and potentially worked with the TWH on an achieving their objectives. Sorry for being to practical and logical, but wouldn’t that have been a more fruitfull excersise than waisting his time and others dishing up things which are not worth while?

    Regards

  • Lani says:

    Hi Zac,

    Thanks for the support – you have raised another topic on how to raise grievances – which Galus may want to do another Blog article on.

    My take on the initial concern was that the Foundation may not have been Bon e fide because they appeared to be collecting money under false pretences from medicos – ie that the procedure could not be completed “anywhere in the middle east”.

    You can read the reply from the foundation to the letter from the medical journal – which seems to be quite defensive and emotive – which seems to have inflamed the situation and spurred on both sides (much like the conflict in the region at the moment).

    I think both sides can reflect on this case – and see some parallels with the conflict – and they can decide for themselves if they want to work towards a constructive solution.

  • Almost Dr Bruce says:

    Thank you Bernie, Richard and others for an interesting and important discussion.

    I am a final year medical student and during the course of my studies, I have tried to get involved with medical organizations that reflect my own humanitarian ideals, but these efforts have been impeded by the often overt, highly critical and one-sided position taken on the conflict in the Middle East by many of these organizations. At one point, I joined “Medical Associated for the Prevention of War”, which in theory, was aligned with my own views, to then be bombarded with emails filled with little else but impassioned yet under-researched perspectives on the situation for Palestinians, and I had cease my subscription as I began to find the emails offensive (which is significant given that I am often quite critical of measures taken by the Israeli government).

    The following comment is taken from Richard’s profile and reflects an attitude to the Middle East conflict that is honourable in intention, but questionable in 2 ways

    “It is hard to find a similar situation anywhere in the world today and as I became more aware of the facts, I found it more and more difficult to understand why so few people did the bare minimum to give the most basic of aid.”

    My criticism of this position is that
    1. there ARE people attempting to provide aid and rectify the situation in Israel, and as listed above, they are Israeli’s and Palestinians working in grass-roots organizations to help resolve the conflict and provide aid to Palestinians. I was fortunate to witness this in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where I observed the medical care of Israelis, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians (aswell as other minority groups and refugees). These initiatives should be supported, as opposed to being avoided or ignored in order to boost the political agenda of anti-israel humanitarian organizations
    2. there are many places in the world where people are suffering, several in which there are even worse conditions at the hands of their own governments, such as in Libya and Zimbabwe, yet there seems to be this almost anti-semitic pre-occupation with Israel. The result of having such radical views expounded by otherwise well meaning and important medical and humanitarian organizations is the alienation of future medical professional such as myself, who would otherwise readily support the cause.

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    Dear Richard
    I am an Oncologust and Palliative Medicine Specialist working at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. I maintain a strong working relationship with collaegues in the West Bank.

    My collaboraton with my friends and collaues in Gaza is hampered by there justifiable request that I not cal the, fax them or email them for fear that the disclosure of any such correspondenc may endanger them as “collaborators”

    My department treats a constant trckle of Patients from the PA. The prices that the hopsital system charge for patients from the West Bank and Gaza are the same subsidized charges as are charged to the Israel HMOs. These fees are substantialy lowere that medical tourist rates.

    Given the awfui financia situation of many persons in the West Bank and Gaza, I offer a private consultation clinic for the nominal fee of NIS 50, approximately $15 AUD.

    We assist, lobby and, sometimes, fight to help patients gain the necessary entry permits.

    We hold a stock of returned medications to use for charitable situations and , if special medications are meeded we lobby local distributers to provide medications at either a reduced tarrif or for free. (sometme we are sucessful at other times not)

    I have great appreciation of the bravery of some of the health care professionals who join the meetings of the Middle east Cancer Consotium (which sre usally held in “neutral” countries)sometimes clandestinally and with not insignifcant personal risk.

    You work is VER important, but I in this case I thnk that it was somehat misleading to say the treatment “cannot be done anywhere in the Middle East”.

    If resouces could be saved to facilitate the provision of care in Israel, I for one and the hopsital in which I work wll always stand at your service.

    Nathan Cherny
    Norman Levan Chair of Humanistic Medicine
    Assoc Professor of Medicine (BGU)
    Director, Cancer Pain and Palliative Medicine Service
    Dept Medical Oncology
    Shaare Zedek Medical Center
    Jerusalem, ISRAEL 91031
    Tel: 0508685780
    Fax: +972 2 6666731
    E mail: chernyn@netvision.net.il

  • Dr B. says:

    Malaks treatement here was based on lies.She was in fact
    used to highlight their political agenda.
    This not surprising from people who strap suicide bomb belts on children and boast about using them as human shields.:-
    Hamas admits it uses human shields
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTu-AUE9ycs&NR=1
    NEW !!! Hamas using kids as human shields حماس تستعمل الاطفال كدروع بشرية

  • Nathan Cherny says:

    Dr B
    Having communicated directly with Dr Richard Middleton I have no doubt about the integrity of the effort to help Malak.

    I think the work of Dr Middleton and others who work to help the well being of children and other vulnerable persons caught up in a situation of conflict is laudable and important. Many people in Israel try to do the same work.

    I hope that, in future he will also feel free to use his contact with me at Shaare Zedek and with other Israeli institutions that very much want to be of help.

    Der Middleton’s concern that the military authorities make it too difficult for genuinely ill persons to get treatment in Israel is sadly justifiable and valid and there are plenty of people here doing their utmost to alleviate this problem.

    Prof Nathan Cherny
    Shaare Zedek Medical center
    Jerusalem

  • Michelle says:

    Nathan Cherny and Richard Middleton: Blessings to you both, and those you are trying to assist. It sounds like something potentially productive and worthwhile has been achieved as a result of all this, praise the Lord!!

  • Dr B says:

    Sending a suicide bomber to a cancer clinic in Israel is sure to make Israelis suspicious of patients coming from Gaza.
    As does a suicide bomber who asks not to be scanned because she claims she has a metal plate in her leg,then blows herself up amongst the Israelis at the crossing.
    While we are talikng about children lets not forget the laser guided anti tank missile used withh fatal accuracy on an Israeli school bus and the very high incidence of traumatic shock in Israeli children subject to thousands of Qassams fired into Israel.

  • Eigthman says:

    [Eds: Consider this your first and final warning. Comparing other commenters / people to Nazis is considered holocaust trivialisation and is not permitted on this website.]

  • Acknowledge And Validate says:

    All the commenters here want the same thing — to see people like Malak receiving proper medical attention. But though we share this common aim, it seems to me that a spirit of good will in our discussion is in short supply.

    Let’s try to have a conversation, not a point-scoring session.

    Pro-Palestinian commenters: how about giving credit where it’s due? Beyond the Israeli government’s real and perceived transgressions, there are and have been many generous Israeli actions that you could acknowledge.

    Pro-Israeli commenters: please try to control your anger. Aggressively detailing the suffering that Palestinian extremists have caused Israelis really doesn’t make a useful contribution to this discussion.

    Richard, Sam has asked you: “Please inform us of any formal requests that were made of Israel to supply critical care medications and the responses made back to the Towards Hope Foundation or the administration in Gaza.” If you would care to respond to this, it would improve everyone’s understanding.

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