Saving Baby Mohammed

March 16, 2008

* Der Spiegel: As a Palestinian woman gives birth to twins in an Israeli hospital she experiences firsthand what it is like to be the target of Gazan rocket fire

* The Times of London: “I witnessed eight-day-old Mohammed Amin El-Taian – crippled by a chest infection, and heart and gastric problems – being carried across the Erez crossing” where Israeli specialists saved his life

* “Dr. Shmuel Zangen, the director of the hospital’s neonatal unit, notes, ‘It certainly is odd that we take care of Palestinian children while they shoot at us.’”

 

CONTENTS

1. What Holocaust?
2. Palestinian twins born in Ashkelon as Hamas tries to kill them
3. Tel Aviv hospitals saving Palestinian lives
4. Unreported by the rest of the international media
5. Exploiting Israel’s goodwill
6. “Humanitarian assistance to Gaza today”
7. A bride and groom at the polls
8. “Palestinian twins under rocket fire from Gaza” (Der Spiegel, March 11, 2008)
9. “Hamas-Israel: a tiny ray of hope” (The Times of London, March 11, 2008)


[Note by Tom Gross]

WHAT HOLOCAUST?

Both the leading German news magazine, Der Spiegel, and The Times of London, have regularly carried extremely hostile and often untrue stories about Israelis. It therefore comes as a surprise that each have now run a report about separate incidents in which Israeli medics treated sick Palestinian babies even as they were being fired upon by Palestinian terrorists.

The Times in particular has carried some truly vile articles about Israel recently, as well as extremely unpleasant cartoons. In one article about Israel that I highlighted recently on this website, The Times said Israel had “unleashed a Holocaust” in Gaza. (It should be noted that the article below about saving eight-day-old Mohammed Amin El-Taian is not written by one of The Times’s regular Middle East correspondents.)

(Senior editors at both The Times and Der Spiegel subscribe to this email list.)

Contrary to the absolute lies broadcast around the world last week by the Associated Press, quoting British “human rights” groups* alleging that Palestinians are receiving the worst healthcare since 1967, in fact – thanks to hospitals and medical clinics Israel itself paid for and built in Gaza after 1967 – healthcare in Gaza is much better than in many places in the third world. For particularly complex treatments, however, Gazans continue to be treated in Israel at Israeli taxpayers’ expense.

(* Oxfam have now admitted that some of the information given in the report was incorrect. See the next dispatch for more.)

 

PALESTINIAN TWINS BORN IN ASHKELON AS HAMAS TRIES TO KILL THEM

The first piece below, from Der Spiegel, relates how Iman Shafii, a-32-year-old Gazan, who had complications arising from her fertility treatment, gave birth to healthy twins at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon at the very same time that Hamas was pounding the hospital with Katyusha-style grad rockets. The twins – a girl, Bayan, and a boy, Faisal – are now in good condition.

Der Spiegel notes: “In Ashkelon, Iman Shafii is encountering, for the first time, victims of the acts of terror committed by her own people. One of them is nine-year-old Yossi, who is sitting in a wheelchair. A steel frame holds his left shoulder together. It was fractured by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in the city of Sderot. ‘The people in Sderot are suffering just as we are in Gaza,’ she says.

“Dr. Shmuel Zangen, the director of the hospital’s neonatal unit, notes, ‘It certainly is odd that we take care of Palestinian children while they shoot at us.’

“When her twins were two days old, Shafii says she was petrified as a Grad rocket landed on the hospital grounds. ‘The groups that are firing the rockets are not fighting a just war,’ says the Palestinian mother, adding that they are not abiding by what the Prophet Muhammad said: that wars may only be waged between soldiers, but not against civilians.”

In Beit Lahia in Gaza, her husband, Ashraf Shafii, who works at the Islamic University of Gaza, told Der Spiegel how masked men repeatedly set up their rocket launchers under the cover of houses. “They shoot at Israeli civilians, which is completely unacceptable,” says Shafii. “And they put us Palestinian civilians in grave danger, because the Israelis shoot back.”

 

TEL AVIV HOSPITALS SAVING PALESTINIAN LIVES

In the second piece attached below, David Byers writes in The Times:

“I witnessed eight-day-old Mohammed Amin El-Taian being carried across the Erez crossing to Israel by a doctor from the Gazan Ministry of Health and handed to his counterpart from Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross.

“Mohammed – crippled by a chest infection, and heart and gastric problems – was then transferred along with his mother to the Dana Children’s Hospital in Tel Aviv, where he was to get the emergency treatment needed to save his life. MDA says that around five patients a week are transferred into Israel for treatment.

“Yonni Yogadovsky, of the Israeli MDA, said, ‘This is an established procedure and people from the hospitals [in Gaza] and Hamas know about it. We are neighbors and it happens that we don’t like each other very much. But when it comes to emergencies that save human lives, this is beyond political disputes.’”

In spite of this, Hamas snipers continue to fire at the MDA at border crossings where they are helping Palestinians.

 

UNREPORTED BY THE REST OF THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA

Other European and North American publications have not covered the Der Spiegel story even though this notification of the story was widely emailed to the international media by the Israeli foreign ministry press department.

You can click on the article links below to see photos of Gazan babies being attended by Israeli nurses at the very hospitals that Palestinian militants are shelling. The Times of London link also has video of the delicate operation to save Mohammed.

By contrast, the BBC last week aired one of the most vicious, disgraceful pieces of journalism I have ever seen. BBC interviewer Sarah Montague harangued and bullied the mayor of Sderot, which has suffered more rockets and bombings per capita than any other town in the world, for over 20 minutes with a series of biased, ill-informed questions that would have made the propagandists of a Fascist dictatorship proud.

BBC World TV was so pleased with the interview that they aired it several times in recent days.

Amazingly, once again displaying their astounding incompetence, the Israeli foreign ministry and London embassy sent the web link for this BBC interview, complete with its uncorrected lies about Israel, to foreign journalists and news editors as recommended viewing.

 

EXPLOITING ISRAEL’S GOODWILL

Treating Palestinians in Israel continues to carry some risk to Israelis. The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported last Thursday how last week “Palestinians used “medical patients’ buses to sneak into Israel.”

In the past, Palestinians have taken advantage of Israel’s humanitarian aid to Palestinian patients in order to carry out terror attacks.

 

“HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO GAZA TODAY”

Each day foreign journalists receive bulletins like these ones but fail to mention the information given in them in their articles:

IDF spokesperson’s update
Humanitarian Assistance to Gaza Today
March 14th, 2008

20 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies with a total weight of 301 tons were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom Crossing [by the Israeli army paid for by the Israeli government]. The supplies were transferred today: vitamins, diapers, toilet paper, fruit, oil, frozen meat, tea, coffee, powdered milk, reproduction eggs, corn, pasta, carrots and tahini.

March 13, 2008
Approximately 152 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings:
* 59 trucks through Sufa Crossing containing: meat, fruit, sugar, bananas, flour, coffee, garlic, oil, pasta, carrots.
* 73 trucks through the Karni Crossing conveyer containing: wheat, grains, barley.
* 20 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: diapers, pasta, tea, oil, toilet paper, fish, medicine, meat preservatives.

March 12, 2008
A total of 1,567 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies were transported.
* Sufa Crossing - 54 trucks were unloaded.
* Kerem Shalom Crossing - 22 trucks were unloaded.
* In addition, 640,000 liters (14 tankers) of fuels and 248 tons of heating gas (14 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 11, 2008
A total of 3,877 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies were transported.
* Sufa Crossing - 72 trucks were unloaded.
* Kerem Shalom Crossing - 21 trucks were unloaded.
* Karni Crossing conveyer - 61 trucks were unloaded (2,800 tons of wheat, legumes, corn and animal feed)
* In addition, 695,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuels and 320 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 10, 2008
A total of 3,810 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies were transported.
* Sufa Crossing - 59 trucks were unloaded.
* Kerem Shalom Crossing - 5 trucks were unloaded.
* Karni Crossing conveyer - 81 trucks were unloaded (2,800 tons of wheat, legumes, sesame seeds, corn and animal feed)
* In addition, 695,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuels and 320 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

***

Meanwhile, Kassams continue to rain down on southern Israel (15 hit Israel on Thursday, six on Friday). Almost no foreign media bother to mention these unless there is some Israeli counter-response.

 

A BRIDE AND GROOM AT THE POLLS

And on a different matter, since this isn’t being mentioned by most Western media, and to show what a farce the Iranian “elections” were, the official Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency published the “election results” 41 minutes before the end of the voting yesterday.

Many Iranians were coerced into voting at an election where most reformist and pro-democratic candidates were banned from standing. Here, for example, is a bride and groom, who interrupted their wedding at the encouragement of the Islamic clerics, going to vote.

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

BORN IN ISRAEL

Palestinian twins under rocket fire from Gaza
By Christoph Schult in Ashkelon
Der Spiegel (Germany)
March 11, 2008

www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,540689,00.html

When a Palestinian woman gave birth to twins in an Israeli hospital she experienced what it is like to be the target of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The humming noise in the sky over Beit Lahia grows slowly louder. It sounds as if the buzzing of a hornet were being amplified by loud speakers in a football stadium. Residents of the Gaza Strip call them “Sannana,” or the humming ones, the small unmanned drones that the Israelis use to scan the border region for rocket commandos –and then to liquidate them with precisely targeted missiles.

Ashraf Shafii has climbed onto the roof his house and is looking across strawberry fields toward the border wall. The smoke-belching towers of the power plant in the Israeli city of Ashkelon jut into the sky along the horizon. His wife is over there in Ashkelon today.

Shafii, a 34-year-old lab technician at the Islamic University of Gaza, glances at his six-year-old daughter. “We were so desperate to have more children,” he says. For years, he waited in vain for his wife to bear a son. When she turned 30, the couple decided to get fertility treatment.

Iman Shafii finally became pregnant. During an ultrasound examination, doctors discovered four small embryos. The first died in the fifth month of pregnancy and the second died a few weeks later. Shafii was admitted to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, but the condition of the two remaining embryos became increasingly fragile. “You have to go to Israel,” the doctor told her.

Because Israel refuses to engage in any contact with the authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza, patients turn to private brokers who submit their entry applications to the Palestinian Authority of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. But it can be a lengthy process.

The Shafiis were lucky. Iman was permitted to enter Israel after only 24 hours. She took a taxi to a spot near the Eres border crossing, and then she was pushed in a wheelchair across the last 500 meters of bumpy ground. She reached the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon just in time. She gave birth on Feb. 25, by Caesarean section, to a girl, Bayan, and to the couple’s long-awaited son, Faisal.

Iman Shafii, 32, wearing a headscarf and oval glasses, and speaking in a soft voice, sits on a chair between two incubators. Today is the first day she is permitted to hold her babies in her arms. A nurse brings out the boy first, then the girl. As the tears well up in her eyes, Shafii kisses her children on their foreheads. “If the children had stayed in Gaza, they would not have survived,” she says.

Her only impression of Israel has been the one she gets on Palestinian television, which usually shows tanks and soldiers, and celebrates attacks, like the recent shooting inside a Talmud school in Jerusalem, as acts of heroism. But now a doctor wearing a yarmulke walks into the room, says “Shalom” and asks her in English how she is feeling.

Dr. Shmuel Zangen, the director of the hospital’s neonatal unit, doesn’t care who he treats. “As a doctor, I enjoy the privilege of not having to think about it,” he says. “It certainly is odd that we take care of Palestinian children while they shoot at us. It’s the sort of thing that only happens in the Middle East.”

“NOT A JUST WAR”

In the past, Shafii saw the Israelis exclusively as perpetrators, but in Ashkelon she is encountering, for the first time, victims of the acts of terror committed by her own people. One of them is nine-year-old Yossi, who is sitting in a wheelchair. A steel frame holds his left shoulder together. It was fractured by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in the city of Sderot. “The people in Sderot are suffering just as we are in Gaza,” she says.

There was a sharp increase in the Palestinian rocket attacks after Israel cleared the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in September 2005. The Israeli military counted 2,305 hits last year, and there have already been 1,146 in the first two months of this year. Until now, almost all of the missiles have been Qassam rockets, which are made in the Gaza Strip and have a range of about 12 kilometers (seven miles).

But the breaching of the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Egypt by Hamas in January made it possible to bring in Russian and Iranian rockets with longer ranges. This means that cities considered safe in the past are now threatened. One of them is Ashkelon. On the second day after the birth of Bayan and Faisal, a Soviet-made “Grad” rocket landed on the hospital grounds. “I heard it hit, 200 meters away from me,” says Shafii. The neonatal unit was moved to a bunker the next day. “The groups that are firing the rockets are not fighting a just war,” says the Palestinian mother, adding that they are not abiding by what the Prophet Muhammad said: that wars may only be waged between soldiers, but not against civilians.

The buzzing drone in the sky over Beit Lahia has flown away to the south. The sound of an Israeli missile striking its target can be heard a short time later. Within a few minutes, there are reports that a member of the group Islamic Jihad was killed.

Ashraf Shafii describes how young, masked men repeatedly set up their rocket launchers under the cover of houses in Beit Lahia. “They shoot at Israeli civilians, which is completely unacceptable,” says Shafii. “And they put us Palestinian civilians in grave danger, because the Israelis shoot back.”

Why doesn’t he object? “They are armed,” says Shafii, “and they shoot at anyone who gets in their way.”

The father is holding the first photos of his newborn twins in his hands. He is worried about the rockets being fired at Ashkelon. He says that he would never have believed it possible that he could be indebted to the Israelis for anything. “What a confusing situation,” he says.

(Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan)

 

SAVING BABY MOHAMMED

Hamas-Israel: a tiny ray of hope
By David Byers, at the Erez crossing
The Times (of London)
March 11, 2008

www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3522980.ece

It is one of the world’s most volatile borders, separating the Middle East’s most bitter of enemies. Erez – the only pedestrian crossing into Israel for 1.4 million Palestinians crammed into the Gaza Strip – has been largely sealed off since Hamas’ takeover last summer, leaving its residents in an increasingly desperate plight. But the rescue of one, dying, Palestinian baby at the concrete fortress last week threw a ray of light on a little-known humanitarian agreement between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, at a time when they are locked in a state of conflict.

In a delicate operation, which I witnessed, eight-day-old Mohammed Amin El-Taian was carried across no man’s land on a stretcher at midday by a doctor from the Gazan ministry of health and handed to his counterpart from Magen David Adom (MDA), the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross.

Mohammed – crippled by a chest infection, and heart and gastric problems – was then transferred along with his mother to the Dana specialist children’s hospital in Tel Aviv, where he was to get the emergency treatment needed to save his life. If he had been left at the under-resourced Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where he was born, Mohammed’s chances of survival would have been extremely slim.

The decision to allow him to cross the border-fortress – at the point where Hamas snipers fired at Israeli soldiers only days before – is part of a little-known humanitarian deal between health officials of the two enemies, in which a small number of the neediest patients in Gaza given emergency treatment in Israel’s more advanced hospitals.

Such co-operation is now almost the only dialogue taking place between Gaza-based Palestinians and Israelis, at a time when rocket attacks by Hamas – and bloody reprisals by Israel – dominate the headlines.

One Israeli medic told me that one of Hamas’ border-guards at Gaza, known as Ahmed, had struck up a working relationship with his Israeli counterpart to ensure transfers such as that which saved little Mohammed could take place.

“We co-operate every day. He rings me in the middle of the night, he has my mobile number. Despite the situation, we work together,” the medic says. As a result, MDA claims that around five patients a week are transferred between the two camps.

Yet human-rights groups claim that Mohammed is one of the lucky ones, and that the successful implementation of this little-known agreement is rare. One such group, the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, last November lodged an application with the country’s high court on behalf of 11 seriously ill Gazans, who it said were denied visas to leave the territory for undefined security reasons. And last May, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim Mansour, 23, a Palestinian from Gaza, died after waiting five days for an emergency medical permit that Israel had repeatedly denied on “security” grounds.

Further claims made by human-rights groups – denied by Israel – state that some needy Palestinians are having their applications revoked because they refuse to become agents for Israeli security forces.

In particular, the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs cited the case of Bassam al-Wahidi, a 28-year-old journalist from the Gaza town of Rafah, who travelled to Erez requiring an eye operation. Al-Wahidi claimed that, once at the border, he was interrogated by Israeli agents, and asked to become an informer. After refusing, he was turned back and has failed to get the permit and treatment to save his eyesight. The Physicians for Human Rights group says that this practice has been reported before, and they have complained about it.

Israel says it helps the patients it can under the terms of the deal. However, it adds that it is restricted by legitimate security concerns at a time when Hamas-affiliated militants fire around a dozen rockets a day into the Jewish state’s border towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, near to Erez. Hamas, which does not recognise the existence of Israel, also claimed responsibility for the shooting of eight students at a religious school in Jerusalem last week.

Israeli border guards at Erez also tightened restrictions after a recent Hamas-led co-ordinated breach against one of the two other Gaza borders, the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which led to Palestinians flooding over the border. Standing in no-man’s land with baby Mohammed, Yonni Yogadovsky, of the Israeli MDA, said that the child’s transfer showed a glimpse of Israeli-Palestinian co-operation that should provide some hope even at a time of conflict, in the region.

“Nobody talks about it, people only ever talk about the violence,” he says. “But this is an established procedure and people from the hospitals [in Gaza] and Hamas know about it.

“We are neighbours and it happens that we don’t like each other very much. But when it comes to emergencies that save human lives, this is beyond political disputes.”

Despite doubts over how effectively this extraordinary agreement has been implemented, for baby Mohammed – being treated by his country’s historical enemies – this smallest of compromises between the most bitter of foes is likely to have saved his life.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.