Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Feature Head to head

Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? Yes

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 19 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:124

Rapid Response:

Truth of the matter

How many of these story’s reach the world’s media?

a) I suppose I must start with the proud announcement that Dr. Mas'ad Barhoom, the director of the Italian Hospital in Nazareth for the last eight years, has been named the first Arab director of a state-owned hospital - Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya. He will head one of only eight state-owned general hospitals in the country.

The Health Ministry announced the appointment of the 47-year-old Haifa native this week. Barhoom grew up in Shfaram and specialized in family medicine and health-system management. The Health Minister congratulated the doctor on winning the public tender and said he was certain Barhoom had been chosen "on his own merit and not as a representative of a sector. Nevertheless, I am sure that Dr. Barhoom's choice will only strengthen the connection between Jews and Arabs in the North, and I am sure he will advance the hospital in Nahariya as he brought forward the Italian Hospital in Nazareth."

b) Whilst on this subject, I received a mail this week from Barry Shaw in Netanya who wrote about a hospital experience that beats the Boycott. He writes:-

“It's never a pleasant experience to go into hospital. It's one of my least favourite things to do. But, when you've got to go, you've got to go.

The operation wasn't too bad. The Israeli medical service is excellent and the care is wonderful. As I was wheeled from the recovery room to my ward I was still in that euphoric state that only a trained anesthetist can induce. I was wheeled into a room where I was to be parked until my release the following day.

In the next bed to me was an Arab boy, attended to by his mother dressed in traditional Arab dress of what could be described as moderate Muslim attire.

We were gracious and pleasant with each other, and they offered me orange juice, figs, and nuts. When I was sufficiently out of la-la land and back into the land of the living I began to hear their story.

Sarim Shahub is twenty one years old, and from Gaza. In May, he was shot in the face and arm and had been in intensive care at Ichilov Hospital. He was now sufficiently well to move around in the Trauma Ward while receiving treatment for his face wound. One bullet had entered through his left cheek and exited through the side of his mouth. The Israeli surgeons had put a breathing tube in his throat, and he was temporarily unable to speak.

His mother told me that he had been caught up in the fighting between Hamas and Fatah. This may be true. It could also be true that he had been fighting for one of the factions.

The following day, when I felt strong enough to crawl around the ward, I noticed that other rooms were taken up by Palestinians. I was told that all had gunshot or shrapnel wounds inflicted in the Palestinian in-fighting in Gaza. One room was out of bounds. Either the patients were in intensive care, or they were people of significance, and therefore kept isolated.

As I lay in bed next to Sarim I read an article about the intended British boycott of Israeli academic institutions. I looked across at Sarim as he lay in his hi-tech Evolution hospital bed. Here was a Palestinian from Gaza receiving the finest medical care and attention from Israeli doctors and nurses, all trained in Israeli academic institutions. These are the very institutions that British academics wish to boycott. His treatment will consider for some time until he is healthy enough to return home to Gaza.

I do not know what his fate will be. I only know that his immediate past was damaged by corrupt and violent Palestinian leadership who continue to reject creating a state of their own alongside the Jewish state of Israel, and by the lawlessness and violence that is today's Palestinian society.

I do know that Sarim has been given another chance of life by the dedication and professionalism of the Israeli medical profession.Will somebody please tell me how a British boycott of Israeli academics and learning institutions will have helped Sarim, and others like him, in his moment of crisis?”

c) Continuing the medical theme this week, ten Ethiopian doctors and nurses are taking part in an intensive course in Jerusalem on the treatment of AIDS patients. More than half of all HIV/AIDS patients in Israel are Jews of Ethiopian descent, which has given doctors in the Jewish state a wealth of experience in treating that demographic.

About four years ago the Israelis decided to start sharing that experience and knowledge with Ethiopian medical professionals who simply lacked the resources to make the same gains on their own. To date more than 50 Ethiopian doctors and nurses have participated in the two-week training course, and have returned to their own nation equipped to provide far better treatment to those suffering from the world's most feared disease.

And the world is talking about boycotts, rights to exist, racism, etc., etc


Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

27 July 2007
Sharon Klaff
Jewish Mother
Barry Shaw,
London, UK