I must apologize for the lack of posting during this past week. Life simply got in the way. But never mind, thank goodness it’s Friday and time for another Good News Friday post.
First on my list is some good news from Britain’s Labour Party! (via Sussex Friends of Israel). Yes, you thought there could be no such thing with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, but there are some very good people in the Labour Party after all, and despite their Dear Leader’s refusal of the invitation, the deputy leader, Tom Watson, led a delegation to visit Yad Vashem:
Mr Corbyn was originally invited by the leader of the Israeli Labour Party Isaac Herzog in the wake of the row which erupted earlier this year over anti-Semitic comments by former London mayor Ken Livingstone.
Mr Watson paid his respects at Yad Vashem alongside fellow Labour MPs Dame Rosie Winterton, Michael Dugher, Ruth Smeeth and Gloria De Piero.
Mr Watson was quoted as saying: “I wanted to come back to Israel and the Palestinian Territories and to pay respects on behalf of the UK Labour Party at Yad Vashem.
“We remembered those who died in the Holocaust and renewed our determination to fight racism and anti-Semitism – whatever form it takes and wherever it exists.
“We travelled to East Jerusalem to meet inspiring young entrepreneurs from both the Israeli and Palestinian communities studying together.
Now that is the behaviour of a proper leader. If only Tom Watson could depose Corbyn and bring the party back to its former standing. Kol hakavod to Mr. Watson and his fellow MPs who realized the importance of mending fences with the Jewish community and joined him on this important trip.
Another good news item from the world of politics comes from across the ocean, where the US House of Representatives has introduced a bill calling for the extension of the law forbidding the boycott of Israel to apply to BDS anti-settlement initiatives too (via Brian Goldfarb):
Fines for boycotting Israel would be extended to companies complying with the BDS movement, including the boycott of West Bank settlements, under a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Reps. Pete Roskam, R-Ill., and Juan Vargas, D-Calif., introduced the bill Monday. The measure is a companion to one introduced in the Senate in September by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., called the “Protecting Israel Against Discrimination Act.”
The House bill amends language in bills passed in the 1970s to combat the Arab League boycott of Israel to encompass the modern Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – and to include efforts that would boycott settlement goods.
Whereas the original anti-boycott laws targeted companies cooperating with boycotts that were launched before Israel’s establishment as a means of squeezing its Jews, and then as a means of isolating the new Jewish state, the new bill appears to extend the definition to those who would use boycotts to pressure Israel into giving up territory.
The legislation was sparked in part by the creation of a database by the United Nations Human Rights Council of companies that do business with Israel’s settlements. It extends existing penalties for boycotting Israel to international organizations like the council.
The bill also requires the Export-Import Bank, a government agency that seeks to facilitate American trade overseas, to consider whether a company applying for a loan adheres to the BDS movement.
This is very good news, and it will be even better when and if the legislation is passed. Maybe with Donald Trump at the helm it stands a better chance.
But the best news of all comes from the UN of all places! A few weeks ago I mentioned that the UN’s World Health Organization is considering giving Israel its highest award. Well – it happened! (via Brian Goldfarb). The WHO has officially ranked Israel’s emergency medical team as No. 1 in the world:
The United Nation’s World Health Organization recognized the Israeli army’s field hospital, which is regularly sent abroad to provide aid at natural disaster sites, as “the number one in the world” in a ceremony last week, classifying it as its first and only “Type 3” field hospital, according to its commander, Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Ofer Merin.
As reported in The Times of Israel last month, the WHO and the Israel Defense Forces had been in talks to determine if the army unit met the demands of a “Type 3” medical team, a status no medical team had ever reached before.
Last Wednesday, the IDF’s field hospital team received the “Type 3” designation, along with some additional “specialized care” recognitions, which technically made it a “Type 3 plus,” though the army kept the information quiet until Sunday.
“We’re going to recommend the director-general verifies [Israel’s team] as a Type 1, Type 2, and also Type 3 and multiple different types of specialty cells,” Dr. Ian Norton, the lead author of the classification system and head of the WHO delegation, said Wednesday at the ceremony in the Medical Corps’ base in Ramat Gan, outside Tel Aviv.
“We haven’t had that ever before,” Norton said, praising the months of work put in by the Israeli team to receive the designation.
Israel will receive official WHO patches noting the new designation, and members of the IDF’s Medical Corps, including Merin, will meet with the head of the international organization at a formal ceremony in Hong Kong at the end of the month, the army said.
In a phone conversation with reporters on Sunday, Merin, who has personally invested “hundreds of hours” in the recognition process, described the experience of having the work he and his team have done be classified as the best in the world as “emotional.”
“I wish I could sit here and say it’s a ‘Mazal tov’ for me, but it’s a ‘Mazal tov’ for the army, for Israel,” Merin said, using a Hebrew term that literally means “good luck,” but is used as “congratulations.”
The military’s field hospital is “not just some medics and doctors spread out in the field”; rather it is a “national treasure” that has the capabilities of an advanced, permanent hospital but can be set up almost anywhere in under 12 hours, Merin told The Times of Israel last month.
Israeli disaster relief delegations — some of them led by Merin — have been some of the first and largest to arrive at the scenes of natural disasters. Teams from the IDF Medical Corps and Home Front Command provided rescue and medical services after an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and, most recently, an earthquake in Nepal in 2015.
This Type 3 classification ensures that Israeli teams will continue to be the first allowed on the scene of future disasters and further cements Israel’s position as a world leader in emergency medicine, proving to friends and foes alike that the Jewish state knows how to handle catastrophes.
“This recognition isn’t just international. It’s also recognition for ourselves, showing us what we can do,” the army spokesperson said Sunday.
The article goes on to explain the importance of this citation to Israel’s emergency medical team. Not every team is so efficient, and sometimes emergency teams actually get in the way of the important work and become a burden to the very country they are trying to help:
For many years there was no internationally recognized system of categorizing emergency response teams — which could operate independently, which needed assistance from the local government in order to function, what services could they offer, etc. — information that can be crucial in a disaster situation.
Rescue workers need to know where they can take patients. When deciding which teams can come in as part of the relief effort, local governments need to know which foreign field hospitals are entirely self-sufficient and which require resources like fuel, oxygen and medications that are often scarce after a disaster.
“They cannot be a burden on the affected country. In the past, teams arrived with no equipment, and local authorities had to look after them; we found that inappropriate,” Norton said.
Regarding the meaning of the different rankings:
A Type 1 medical team can offer first aid and other immediate emergency care on an outpatient basis, meaning the victims do not remain in the hospital for extended periods of time; a Type 2 has at least 20 beds for inpatients and can perform 7-15 surgeries per day; and a Type 3 has twice as many inpatient beds, an intensive care unit and can perform 15-30 surgeries per day, as well as provide a host of other services, including rehabilitation.
Israel’s field hospital blows past some of these requirements: A Type 3 field hospital needs 40 inpatient beds, Israel’s has 86. A Type 3 needs two operating rooms, Israel’s has four.
For Type 2 and Type 3 teams there are additional “specialized care team” designation, including burn units, dialysis, obstetrics and gynecology, and reconstructive plastic surgery.
Israel, in addition to its Type 3 designation, was also recognized for its abilities in the latter two categories, plastic surgery and OB/GYN care, making it a “Type 3 plus.”
Merin, wary of bragging, said, “We’re already standing on the podium. I don’t think we need that. We’re already recognized as the only Type 3 team in the world. It’s good enough.”
Some aspects of the classification were not simply an issue of which specialists are on staff or the amount of oxygen the facility can produce per minute, but deal with the ethics of emergency care.
And the best part of the article comes at the end:
In addition to being the only Type 3 team in the world, Israel’s is also the only one with a “military component” that has been recognized by the WHO.
“It’s a proud moment for all the Jews around the world and for people from Israel and for people from the IDF Medical Corps. It’s great moment for all of us, really. It’s a great moment,” he said.
Indeed, you have done us all proud. You fulfill the essence of Jewish ethics which is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. You help the needy and the sick, and all with the most advanced medical care and human kindness. What country could ask for more? We really can be proud of our crazy little country. 🙂
I would also add a huge kol hakavod to – dare I say it? – the WHO for recognizing Israel’s excellence in this field. Maybe they will now rescind the ridiculous and highly offensive accusations against Israel in that very same WHO that she is the “world’s worst health rights violater”. (!!!)
On that happy but thoughtful note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.