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Truth, Lies, and Saving Lives

By:

Feldstein-042012

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.

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9 Responses to “Truth, Lies, and Saving Lives”

  1. Karen Berger says:

    Fantastic piece. Thank you.

  2. Marc says:

    So perhaps you will explain why MDA insists on removing their emblem from the community ambulances who do the bulk of the work? And perhaps, being a resident of Gush Etzion you will comment as to the recent request by MDA Jerusalem to the Security Chief of Gush Etzion to Change the Ambulance at Nokdim (Eastern Gush Etzion) because the donor does not want his ambulance serving in Judea and Samaria? We would love to hear more of the facts, as Efrat is just one small part of Judea and Samaria.

  3. Marc Prowisor says:

    So perhaps you will explain why MDA insists on removing their emblem from the community ambulances who do the bulk of the work? And perhaps, being a resident of Gush Etzion you will comment as to the recent request by MDA Jerusalem to the Security Chief of Gush Etzion to Change the Ambulance at Nokdim (Eastern Gush Etzion) because the donor does not want his ambulance serving in Judea and Samaria? We would love to hear more of the facts, as Efrat is just one small part of Judea and Samaria.

  4. Kenneth Blum says:

    The fact that the Head of MDA has been reported as misleading the public creates an environment of suspicion and mistrust. Unfortunately Jonathan, you are far removed from the top administrative decisions and conversations of MDA. Therefore, although you are a great guy and work for a great cause, does not give you the mandate to set the record straight. There are still too many questions unanswered. We need to see this agreement in its entirety and get the facts. although your article was very articulate and showed your passions, simple refuting an argument is not good enough. We need to see the agreement. Has it been published anywhere? Can you link it to this article?

  5. Marc says:

    I have to disagree in a few points, and actually give some pro MDA news on others. By MDA removing their insignia from the community ambulances they seem to be abandoning us to the public eye, indeed many of the volunteers must now get equipment from other sources, where as MDA was quite involved in the past including the upgrading and upkeep of ambulances, which has declined over the years. The community and regional ambulances saw themselves as part of a family, a large family of Medical First Responders, part of MDA and the emblem was a source of pride. MDA has now shown us that we are not really a part, more like a cousin, again despite that it is the communal and regional ambulances that are the first responses (Besides Efrat and some of the larger centers). We truly feel betrayed to a point given that they officially at least in the public eye wish to distance themselves from our communities.
    That being said, because of the pressure created MDA has started supplying some basic equipment again to offset some of their recent actions of disengagement, though many o these pledges of continued assistance remain in the “pledge” stage.
    I would be glad to show you around to areas outside of your region to expose you to a side that perhaps you do not see and speak to those that carry the weight of medical First Response, perhaps you may enlighten MDA in hopes of bringing back the unity there once was.

  6. Ken, two issues. First, the reports to which you allude have no more validity than the reports that MDA is not servicing Judea and Samaria. Mda does serve Judea and Samaria and that's incontrovertible. It's irresponsible to confuse issues. Despite the "environment of suspicion and mistrust" you suggest, if God forbid you or your kids in Eli need an ambulance, there's only one number you're going to call, 101, Magen David Adom. Ask all the questions you want to the relevant sources. But shame on you or anyone who does so in an irresponsible way that damages MDA in the long run and it's ability to be there if, or when, we need it.

  7. Marc Prowisor says:

    Jonathan, you are right he will call MDA, but the response will come from either three Community ambulances, either Eli, Shilo, or Maaleh Levona. The MDA Ambulance will only come out if the other three need assistance, maybe a MDA paramedic. So MDA will patch the call, but the community will respond. These are the simple facts, this is the response that always have been, the only difference is the emblem that used to comfort and bring hope and pride has now changed, along with most of the equipment in the field.

  8. Jonathan Feldstein: This is pure propaganda. First – 101 is a national number, currently contracted to MDA, who issue the call to the station in Eli, whose volunteers DO NOT RECEIVE ANY MONEY FROM MDA and whose ambulance is clearly marked "Benjamin Regional Council" having been STRIPPED of the MDA symbol by virtue of the aforementioned scandalous agreement that the head of MDA signed with the Palestinian Red Crescent (Nice bone MDA threw to Yesha communities by also stripping ambulances in a bunch of "green line" locales as well – its all cover) . Second – the FACT is that in said agreement, MDA recognizes the Palestinian Red Crescent as the "official" provider of emergency services in Judea & Samaria from the perspective of the International Red Cross. Thus, the State of Israel's official, national rescue service organization, MDA has taken a unilateral position, in contradiction to even the Israeli Foreign and Justice ministries, who consider Judea & Samaria "Disputed" and not "Occupied" thereby laying legal basis for Israeli/Jewish claims to the heartland. MDA has, on an organizational level, "disengaged" from Judea & Samaria in return for "Lentil Soup" (נזיד עדשים) from the International Red Cross. I hope and pray that the Israeli government never sends your bosses to negotiate with our enemies on behalf of the Jewish people.

    And – BTW – if we are all wrong and just over-reacting – show the damn agreement in its entirety. Why are you hiding?

  9. http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/red-cross-crescent-movement/31st-international-conference/31-international-conference-mou.htm

    Read it: "The Monitor also mentioned an agreement reached between the two NS according to which responsibility for EMS operations in Israel settlements located within Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel since 1967 would be transferred by MDA to other entities."

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