By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
“IDF paramedics treating Palestinian after he tried to stab a Border policeman,” tweeted the IDF spokesman recently. An article on another incident claimed the IDF was using a “revolutionary treatment to save life of Palestinian stabber.” The article detailed that the medical professionals don’t ask what the person they are treating did before or what he will do after, their job is not judge and jury, it is to provide treatment. At the end of the article, one source claimed “I know this was ‘sexy’ because it was a terror attack, but this happens all the time.” Sexy?
In Israel there is a sort of sexy-addled perversion with reporting stories about how great the country is for providing first aid and priority treatment to wounded terror suspects. “In the hospital the terrorist is the patient,” say the headlines. It is part of Israel’s medical ‘hasbara’ or efforts to increase public relations. Whether it is opening a field hospital to treat Palestinians wounded in bombing in the Gaza war, or treating sick Gazans even as missiles rain down from Gaza, the real fetish is the stories of “Israeli hospitals treat terrorists and victims alike.” The articles boast of how on one floor the terrorist is being treatment and the person they disfigured is being treated on another and hospitals “wouldn’t have it any other way.” Even after the Boston bombing, Israel’s “medical help for terrorists” had to go into over-drive. A doctor at a Boston hospital told Ynet, “It was very similar to what I was used to in Israel in that we had to admit many injured people in a short period of time…The fact that we are treating both the victims and the suspected terrorist also reminds me of similar situations in Israel. In Israel we had an injured soldier and a terrorist lying on adjacent beds. When an injured person is admitted to the ER, the doctor or nurse treats him without asking questions.”
You’d almost think that from all the reports about terrorists lives being saved that the Israeli medical profession exists primarily to aid wounded terrorists and that this is the job they revel in the most. The actual number of terrorists being given treatment in hospitals is infinitesimal. With some 180,000 Palestinians being treated in Israel a year, there are only a few instances of perpetrators being in the same bedroom with the IDF soldiers they have stabbed.
If you ask about this weird fetish the media has with the “we save terrorists” and the sheer lunacy of the headlines, one gets immediate push-back from the pro-Israel crowd. “You’ve forgotten what it is like outside Israel, every bit of positive spin helps”; “it is important to document the truth when the world lies against Jews”; “It’s for people who don’t know anything about Israel and are unaware”; “we should promote Israel’s commitment to humanity in an area of savagery”; “it’s a soft hasbara, these images were ignored for years and this people don’t know about”; “Would you prefer Israel keep quiet about it when there is a media war”; “when the international community demonizes Israel, this is the human face”; “no other country has such humanity”; “it is about confronting accusations of war crimes.”
Humanizing Israel? This helps to confront demonizing of Israel. It is “positive spin” and it is part of the “the truth” that will make people aware of something Israel is doing? I wonder, if I had found out that the Turks were treating Kurdish PKK accused of terrorism, would that change my view of Recep Tayyip Erdogan? If I found out the Americans had choppered out Vietnamese wounded in napalm attacks, would my view of the US in Vietnam change. If someone told me that US special forces, after shooting some Taliban, then flew them back to Ramstein for emergency treatment, so they could be back to join their Jihadist brethren soon, would I think differently about the US in Afghanistan? If only Admiral ‘Bull’ Halsey had helped more Japanese seamen at Guadalcanal would I admire him more? It’s odd I never considered whether the US medical teams searching for survivors aboard the USS Arizona in 1941 had paused to aid Japanese pilots who had been shot down and give them medical treatment alongside the sailors.
We’ve never thought about that because it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t change our opinion for better or for worse. If Iran’s Ayatollahs gave medical treatment to ISIS, or didn’t, we wouldn’t think them better or worse. If Turkey patches up the PKK, or if the Americans in Afghanistan help out the wounded Taliban or if Israel helicopters out the Hamas fighters, it really doesn’t change the moral equation or any judgement of the conflict. There is no evidence one anti-Israel person, upon hearing Israel puts terrorists in a shared room with a soldier they stabbed, suddenly thinks Israel is great. In most cases they think that Israel unlawfully shoots down innocent Palestinians anyway so it should provide them treatment.
To argue that this is not a great media story of the wonderful greatness of helping terrorists, does not mean that Israel should not provide necessary medical treatment. But why glory in it? It doesn’t help Israel. It doesn’t humanize Israel. The whole story that Israel’s medical aid for Hamas leader’s children, another frequent story, somehow makes Israel better, is ludicrous. If Israel wants to talk about aiding Palestinians through medical treatment, why not focus on the 99.99% who aren’t terrorists? Why focus on the one weird story where a perpetrator and the guy he stabbed are all being treated. It’s not “sexy”, its just macabre, bizarre and a fetish. There is a kind of self-flagellating oddity of “we are amazing, we are so human, we helped a guy who tried to kill someone.” That doesn’t make you more human. In every country that is relatively decent, those who commit crimes and are wounded are not then left to die. School shooters, criminals, even murderers, get medical treatment. When they capture escaped convicts after a gun battle, they don’t just let them die. What’s the difference between a criminal who shoots a cop and is then wounded in gunfire and a terrorist? In the instance where the criminal is wounded, he gets emergency medical treatment. That isn’t a “sexy” news story. It’s just obvious. Would you see the headline: “US hospital treats wounded bank robbers who shot policeman, doctors say ‘we wouldn’t have it any other way'” Of course not. Because it’s not to boast that you treated the suspects, it’s just the way it is.
To be human is to say that those who stab and murder don’t deserve equal treatment. It’s only the robotic medical personnel who lecture on about “ethics” and “doing their job.” Of course the natural human response is to say “screw the terrorist.” But since one doesn’t want doctors being judge and jury, one can’t have the doctor decide “I’ll not treat patient X because he is a terrorist.” Perhaps they’ve got the wrong patient. Sometimes a terrorist suspect may not be a terrorist, such as the case in Afula in Israel. The innocent man shot and beaten to death in Beersheba was not a terrorist. Haftom Zarhum should not have been given less medical treatment because he was a “suspect”, because in fact he was innocent and he was in dire need of care.
Israel should focus on saving lives. It should focus on the victims. It should focus on those 99.99 percent of Palestinians who are not terrorists. There is no compelling reason to ever have stories about how amazing it is that a suspect was treated and how amazing it is that his life was saved or how wonderful it is he sat in a room at a hospital next to the soldier he stabbed. And let’s be honest here. The Americans in Afghanistan don’t send the wounded Navy Seal to the same hospital in Ramstein as they do some Afghan who stabbed him. Only Israel brags about doing that. Only Israel seems to think that it’s soldiers should be dumped on a gurney along with the guy who stabbed them and get equal treatment, when in fact in a real human society a soldier sacrificing his life for a country deserves the absolute priority and top treatment.
And if the hasbara crowd doesn’t think so, if they think the terrorist is the real victim, and the one in need of the real first aid, then they’ve lost it somewhere along the way. Because there is no shame that American Marines at Okinawa got off the beach first when wounded, there is no shame that my great-great grandfather was evacuated when gassed at the front in the First World War and that his unit didn’t make sure to put the German wounded on the first ambulance going back with him.