FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Breaking Up Barriers to Peace in the Middle East

Recently in Israel, collaboration among Israeli, Palestinian and American doctors saved the life of a Nablus teen. Jummana, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, had been suffering from a rare but serious endocrine problem. Her Palestinian Authority doctors referred her to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where she was successfully operated. This was part of a new model of treatment called “Bring the Patient, Bring the Surgeon.”

Prof. Dov Tiosano, an Israeli pediatric endocrinologist, had examined Jummana and diagnosed a tumor related to a genetic disease resulting from consanguinity. Dr. Tiosano contacted a colleague in the U.S. National Institutes of Health who confirmed the diagnosis and contacted Prof. John A. van Aalst, director of the plastic surgery division at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for advice as to the best place to have surgery on the Palestinian teen.

Prof. Van Aalst, who has strong professional connections with both Palestinian and Israeli doctors then suggested that the teen be operated at Rambam Medical Center. He considered that the safest, easiest and overall more convenient place for the operation. The interaction among Palestinian, Israeli and American doctors led to a successful outcome, which can be a learning experience for future similar cases.

While health initiatives alone cannot secure peace, particularly where political, cultural, psychological and religious tensions abound, they often serve as a useful point of contact between conflicting parties. Bi-national health programs have served to expand cooperation between divided peoples, demonstrating the power of citizens’ communication in hostile political environments.

During the 1980s, violent clashes between Nicaragua’s Contras and Sandinistas roused the interest of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result, PAHO implemented the “Health as a Bridge for Peace” strategy aimed at providing health care to populations living in war-torn areas in Latin America. Their work resulted in so-called “Days of Tranquility” in El Salvador and Peru, during which thousands of children were vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and measles. Most notably, PAHO’S activities enjoyed the backing of government officials and rebel guerrilla forces. Concern for public health was a common ground.

The same approach has been used in the Middle East. Since its founding in 1988, the Association of Israeli-Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights has created two funds to address the medical neglect of Palestinian migrant workers’ children: The Palestinian Children’s Medical Care Fund and The Children of Foreign Workers Medical Fund. The organization also conducts training activities for Palestinian health professionals, and has become a leading advocate for health and human rights in the region. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, several new health groups were created, which provided health services to the Palestinians.

Canada, Israel and Jordan have enjoyed a good amount of academic exchange, and Israelis and Palestinians have worked together on publications and scientific symposiums.

Cooperation is not limited now to the medical field. In music, two orchestras formed by Arab and Israeli musicians have been performing in several countries: one, the Orchestra for Peace, created by the Argentine musician Miguel Angel Estrella, and the other, the West-Eastern Divan orchestra co-founded by Daniel Barenboim, the Argentine born Israeli conductor and Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American professor. In addition, several individuals and small groups have been tirelessly trying through their work to increase the understanding between the two peoples.

One should add the exchange of other artists as well as teachers and students, technical personnel of different disciplines and sports idols playing on mixed teams of Israelis and Palestinians. I am proposing nothing short of a massive effort by both Israelis and Palestinains -which will surely find wide international support- to break down the psychological barriers separating their citizens. So much money has been spent in trying, vainly, to hurt the other side that a smaller effort could be devoted to creating an atmosphere conducive to peace.

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians will not be achieved overnight, but it is only through a massive effort involving the citizenry that reconciliation and cooperation can occur between both peoples. In a region plagued by mistrust, deep-rooted fear and violence, building citizen’s bridges is the best antidote to war. These actions, by themselves, will not bring a permanent solution to the conflict, but they will create the conditions that could make peace inevitable between Israelis and Palestinians.

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

March 20, 2019
T.J. Coles
Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”
W. T. Whitney
Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show
Kenneth Surin
Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist
Howard Lisnoff
“Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party
Walter Clemens
Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together
George Ochenski
Failing Students on Climate Change
Cesar Chelala
The Sweet Smell of Madeleine
Binoy Kampmark
Global Kids Strike
Nicky Reid
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party
Elliot Sperber
Empedocles and You and Me 
March 19, 2019
Paul Street
Socialism Curiously Trumps Fascism in U.S. Political Threat Reporting
Jonah Raskin
Guy Standing on Anxiety, Anger and Alienation: an Interview About “The Precariat”
Patrick Cockburn
The Brutal Legacy of Bloody Sunday is a Powerful Warning to Those Hoping to Save Brexit
Robert Fisk
Turning Algeria Into a Necrocracy
John Steppling
Day of Wrath
Robin Philpot
Truth, Freedom and Peace Will Prevail in Rwanda
Victor Grossman
Women Marchers and Absentees
Binoy Kampmark
The Dangers of Values: Brenton Tarrant, Fraser Anning and the Christchurch Shootings
Jeff Sher
Let Big Pharma Build the Wall
Jimmy Centeno
Venezuela Beneath the Skin of Imperialism
Jeffrey Sommers – Christopher Fons
Scott Walker’s Failure, Progressive Wisconsin’s Win: Milwaukee’s 2020 Democratic Party Convention
Steve Early
Time for Change at NewsGuild?
March 18, 2019
Scott Poynting
Terrorism Has No Religion
Ipek S. Burnett
Black Lives on Trial
John Feffer
The World’s Most Dangerous Divide
Paul Cochrane
On the Ground in Venezuela vs. the Media Spectacle
Dean Baker
The Fed and the 3.8 Percent Unemployment Rate
Thomas Knapp
Social Media Companies “Struggle” to Help Censors Keep us in the Dark
Binoy Kampmark
Death in New Zealand: The Christchurch Shootings
Mark Weisbrot
The Reality Behind Trump’s Venezuela Regime Change Coalition
Weekend Edition
March 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Is Ilhan Omar Wrong…About Anything?
Kenn Orphan
Grieving in the Anthropocene
Jeffrey Kaye
On the Death of Guantanamo Detainee 10028
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
In Salinas, Puerto Rico, Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria
Ben Debney
Christchurch, the White Victim Complex and Savage Capitalism
Eric Draitser
Did Dallas Police and Local Media Collude to Cover Up Terrorist Threats against Journalist Barrett Brown?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Straighten Up and Fly Right
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s $34 Trillion Deficit and Debt Bomb
David Rosen
America’s Puppet: Meet Juan Guaidó
Jason Hirthler
Annexing the Stars: Walcott, Rhodes, and Venezuela
Samantha M. - Angelica Perkins
Our Green New Deal
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Nightmare Budget
Steven Colatrella
The 18th Brumaire of Just About Everybody: the Rise of Authoritarian Strongmen and How to Prevent and Reverse It
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Riding the Wild Bull of Nuclear Power
Michael K. Smith
Thirty Years Gone: Remembering “Cactus Ed”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail