Education And Debate

My six day experience in the Middle East

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7489.474 (Published 24 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:474
  1. Deborah Cohen, student editor1
  1. 1studentBMJ

    The studentBMJ editor travels to Israel and the occupied territories, trying to make sense of an impenetrable situation. This is her diary

    Introduction

    I'd always meant to go to Israel but somehow had never got round to it. So I jumped at the chance when I was offered the opportunity to go on a press trip to Israel and the Palestine territories occupied by Israel with Médecins du Monde (MDM), a French medical organisation that has several projects dotted around the area. Admittedly I was nervous about going but convinced myself that if it were all that dangerous MDM wouldn't risk the lives of its staff—after all, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have withdrawn from Iraq. But what bothered me more was how I'd report what I see, and if people disagreed—and they're bound to—that I'd be dismissed as pro-Israeli and a Zionist or pro-Palestinian and a self hating Jew.

    Saturday

    The team

    Accompanying me is Andy Aitchison, a freelance photojournalist, and Michelle Hawkins from MDM UK. We've communicated daily on the phone, trying to arrange the complex logistics, but only manage to meet for the first time at the airport.

    Before leaving I received a brief warning that I'd probably be in for harsh scrutiny on arrival at Ben Gurion airport. So I was relieved to be welcomed only with a glower, a few quickfire questions, and the request for evidence that I was from the press.

    Jean Sebastién Dy, the [now former] general administrator of MDM in Jerusalem, and Sebastién Laplanche, general coordinator, meet us at the airport and take us to our accommodation in an MDM marked car with flags flying from the back. Our base is the newly refurbished MDM staff house in East Jerusalem, the predominantly Palestinian part of Jerusalem. Most of the other NGOs and UN buildings are located …

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