In recent months, I’ve been contacted repeatedly regarding news reports that Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical response and national blood service, is removing its logo from ambulances in Judea and Samaria, or ending all operations there entirely. It’s been a frustrating time because the reports haven’t been accurate, and the misrepresentations have created a backlash that’s bad for Israel – and for all Israelis. As an Israeli living in the Judean mountain region of Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, I want to set the record straight.
First, two points of clarification. People ask me about Magen David Adom’s services in Judea and Samaria because I serve as the representative in Israel for American Friends of Magen David Adom (www.afmda.org), MDA’s American fundraising affiliate.
While reports about MDA removing its logo or ceasing activities in Judea and Samaria are the catalyst for recent rumors, all this originates from reports that MDA signed an agreement in 2005 that enabled it to be accepted as a member of the International Red Cross, righting a six-decade wrong of MDA and Israel being excluded from that international body. The decision to sign the agreement largely originated from Israel’s government at the time. MDA does not make political or diplomatic decisions on behalf of the State of Israel.
Except for the borders with Egypt and Jordan, Israel has no internationally recognized borders, and MDA’s role, by law, is to provide equal services to all Israelis, regardless of on which side of the Green Line they live.
The truth is, MDA has not changed its operations in Judea and Samaria at all. It’s never ceased working in these areas or providing equal and full lifesaving services to Israelis (and Palestinians) who live here. Anyone suggesting otherwise simply does not have their facts straight or is deliberately misrepresenting them. As a result of the latter, there is an increase of the former.
The facts are unambiguous. MDA operates more than 60 ambulances based in 14 stations throughout Judea and Samaria, serving an Israeli population there of more than 250,000. On a per capita basis, the number of ambulances in Judea and Samaria is much higher than in Israeli cities with comparable populations.
The fact is that MDA responds to dozens of calls daily in Judea and Samaria, serving Arabs and Jews without discrimination.
Another fact is that MDA does not play politics when it comes to saving lives. People on the right of the political spectrum who are worried that MDA has left Judea and Samaria need to know that hasn’t happened and that MDA serves all Israelis equally. People on the left of the spectrum, who don’t believe Israel should be in Judea and Samaria, need to know that MDA serves all its residents equally, regardless of their citizenship – as it does within the Green Line between Israeli Arabs and Jews.
Misrepresenting these facts, calling for a boycott of donations to MDA, and damaging support for this critical organization do nothing other than harm Israelis. Every donor lost makes it harder for AFMDA to provide resources to save lives in Israel. There seems to be myriad ill-defined political agendas driving these news reports. Few of them have been factual. And their motives are malicious.
To some degree, these inaccurate stories have been fed by MDA’s decision to remove its logo from community ambulances throughout Israel at the same time that details of the agreement with the Red Cross have come to light. Previously, community ambulances bore the MDA emblem, even though they weren’t operated by MDA. Now, emblems on those community ambulances are being replaced with another insignia, which like the MDA logo also features the iconic Star of David. So the accusation that MDA is removing the Star of David from its ambulances – whether they’re operating in Judea and Samaria or anywhere else in the country – is false.
Sadly, the misinformation continues, and some people have deliberately misrepresented the facts, doing great damage to MDA, its reputation, and our ability to continue to help Israelis with medical emergencies – a particularly dangerous scenario given the resumption of rocket attacks from Gaza and daily threats from Iran.
Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood, sandwiched by enemies to its north and south. The mission of saving lives has to be immune from politics and political games. If people have legitimate issues with MDA or the government’s international diplomacy, they should voice them in the proper forum and not misrepresent the facts. Let people of goodwill who care about Israel continue to support MDA – not because it’s my job to say this, but because MDA, more than any other Israeli organization, truly saves lives and benefits all Israelis.
Jonathan Feldstein is an Israel-based representative of American Friends of Magen David Adom, the American fundraising affiliate for Israel’s emergency medical response organization. He lives in Efrat in Judea.