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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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