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The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the news for its controversial comments and actions during this coronavirus pandemic. Our organization – Mattot Arim – decided to check how the WHO handles another hot-button topic: Israel.

Sadly, we found WHO’s website laden with human-interest stories painting Israel in a bad light. For example, it describes a Palestinian three-year-old in “very critical condition” who allegedly “hasn’t been able to access treatment” because “her mother’s applications for Israeli-issued permits” have been “delayed or denied.”


It also speaks of Palestinian medics like “Sabreen” who said he was shot in the “head with live ammunition a few months ago” and claimed to be “targeted as a paramedic.” It also mentions a “first aid worker severely injured in both legs while providing care.”

Of course, Israel never targets medics. But people storming Israel’s border – even those who join “only as medics” – can certainly get shot inadvertently. This is especially true when tires are deliberately burned during these riots to create a smokescreen, making it impossible – not just almost impossible – to distinguish “medics” from anyone else.

That WHO implies or insinuates “illegal” behavior on Israel’s part while ignoring Israel’s obligation to protect its own citizens. The WHO also ignores Hamas’s practice of deliberately including children in groups of men storming Israel’s borders. Israel has no choice but to respond whereas Hamas can easily stop the rioting and burning of tires to intentionally obscure visibility. But Hamas prefers not to stop these riots or practices that inevitably result in tragic injuries to children and medics.

We recently turned to an Israeli government spokesperson for his perspective. We learned that the government is well aware that the WHO publishes “reports” criticizing Israel and does not always even ask for an Israeli response before publication. Israel can try to correct false claims, but UN agencies like the WHO aren’t obligated to post Israel’s explanations on their websites.

Also, the number of false allegations is so high that Israel’s ability to properly respond is limited. Often, the relevant data is simply not in Israel’s possession. And “in the vast majority of cases,” the problem lies in the interpretation. WHO officials insist that health workers should be protected at all times. But Israel begs to differ, since the border being stormed is the only thing that separates Israel’s citizenry from a terror organization. Is Israel to be barred from ever using live ammunition on any group of armed rioters storing its border because the rioters hide medics and children in their midst?

The WHO knows that “a lie gets half way around the world before truth has a chance to get its pants on.” And the WHO lets itself be the vehicle for Hamas-orchestrated Israel bashing. The WHO, a respected international organization, thus grants legitimacy to Hamas while robbing Israel, a responsible democracy, of her legitimacy.

The WHO performs many important professional activities, but it also effectively accuses the world’s only Jewish state of causing people to die. This kind of blood libel converts ordinary people into anti-Israel activists or anti-Semites. After all, what’s more virtuous to a college student than the protection of innocent human life from death?

The WHO knows its behavior has implications for Jews around the world, yet it lets the situation continue. This does not speak well for WHO’s ability to deal with controversial matters.

The WHO has not responded to our request for comment.


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Susie Dym is spokesperson for Mattot Arim, an Israeli grassroots organization that has worked toward peace-for-peace since 1992.