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Behind the Headlines: Hadassah Tries to Avert Expulsion of Israeli Doctors from World Body

May 1, 2002
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The threat of an anti-Israel resolution looms over the convention of another world body this week.

A delegation at the World Medical Association may try to introduce a resolution to expel its member group, the Israel Medical Association, according to Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

Hadassah officials believe the resolution would blame Israeli doctors for not opposing Israel’s recent military operation in the West Bank.

The conference, which begins Thursday, comes just a week after the U.N. Commission on Human Rights wrapped up its annual six-week meeting in Geneva on Friday.

That meeting blasted Israel in harsher and more numerous resolutions than ever before, according to Jewish observers.

In an effort to pre-empt any action against the Israel Medical Association, Hadassah is waging a campaign to defend the Israeli doctors, and says an anti- Israel resolution at the WMA conference would only reflect anti-Semitism.

Based in a French town just outside Geneva, the WMA is a non-governmental organization that works closely with the United Nations, but operates as an independent consortium of national medical associations.

The group denies any motion to expel the IMA on their website, calling the subject a “hoax” that has elicited 20,000 e-mail protests. Spokesman Nigel Duncan said the story was born in a Jerusalem Post article that he called “completely untrue.”

“What is being discussed,” he said, is a “proposed resolution on the assurance of medical and health services during the armed conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The WMA may not have been informed of the resolution, but calling the issue a hoax just avoids the issue, said Amy Goldstein, director of Israel, Zionist and international affairs for Hadassah.

The American Medical Association already has pledged to help defeat such a resolution, she added.

For its part, the IMA prepared a position paper defending itself and calling on the Israeli army to balance the provision of medical services with the need for security.

Israeli physicians have “repeatedly balanced treatment of the victims with that of the perpetrators,” said Bonnie Lipton, Hadassah’s president.

Attacks on Israeli doctors smack of “institutional anti-Semitism, and are a continuation of the anti-Israel campaign currently being waged at the U.N. and other world bodies,” Lipton said.

Indeed, that was the case at the Human Rights Commission, according to Andrew Srulevitch, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based group associated with the American Jewish Committee.

In summarizing this year’s commission, he said it hearkened back to the U.N. World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, last year, which has become a codeword in Jewish circles for blatant anti-Semitism.

“It became focused almost exclusively on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Srulevitch said, estimating that fully one-third of the commission’s time was devoted to the subject.

Resolutions condemning Iran, Zimbabwe and Chechnya for human rights abuses were all defeated.

The commission, which typically passes five anti-Israel resolutions at its annual gatherings, this year issued eight.

The traditional five cover what the commission sees as the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, Lebanese detainees in Israel, Israel’s human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israeli settlements.

This time, the language on the human rights violations was altered to refer to a previous U.N. resolution on the right to resist occupation “by all available means, including armed struggle.”

That reads like a “green light” for terror, according to Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The additional three resolutions relate to a special session on the Arab- Israeli conflict in which an investigation into human rights abuses in the region was approved — but only with regard to Palestinian victims.

Still, pro-Israel advocates counted a small victory Monday as the United States regained a seat it lost last year for the first time since the commission’s founding in 1947.

“They will be a very welcome presence back on the commission, since the United States is one of the few countries in the commission that takes human rights seriously,” Srulevitch said. He named Syria, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia as examples of “serial human rights violators” that belong to the body.

But even the United States can’t stop the anti-Israel rhetoric, he said.

Despite the fact that America tried this year to work behind the scenes, the outcome largely is determined by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Srulevitch said.

With its large voting bloc, Srulevitch said, the Islamic group “decides that this is what they want to do.”

They aim to “co-opt the U.N.’s imprimatur of objectivity and try to brand Israel as sort of the arch-villain, the arch- violator of human rights,” he said. And “they have enough support to do as they please.”


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