Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

California Chronicle: California Physicians Visit Palestinian, Jordanian Hospitals

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

California Chronicle: California Physicians Visit Palestinian, Jordanian Hospitals

Article excerpt

California Chronicle: California Physicians Visit Palestinian, Jordanian Hospitals

By Pat and Samir Twair

The Southern California Medical Society of Arab Americans has made another of its ground-breaking missions to the Middle East and the results could improve health care in the region for years to come.

Hospitals in Amman, Jerusalem, Nablus and Gaza were targeted in the 12-day trip that began July 12. Non-Arab specialists who joined their Arab-American colleagues in volunteering their expertise were orthopedic surgeon Colin Moseley, chief of staff at Shriners' Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, and Dr. Yoshio Setoguchi, director of the Child Amputee Prosthetic Program (CAPP) at Shriners' Hospital.

It was an exciting trip for Drs. Moseley and Setoguchi who, as novices to the Middle East, found themselves in Gaza just as PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was preparing to make his historic return from exile. Nonetheless it was a shock to the visiting physicians to encounter piles of uncollected garbage in newly liberated Gaza.

Ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Kamal Batniji protested to Herb Tobin, president of the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University: "Gaza is no different than Rwanda. How could anyone allow this cesspool to occur? The Israelis, the Americans, the Palestinians should not be excused. Stop this nightmare."

Tobin immediately faxed Dr. Batniji copies of his messages to the Israeli government that expressed outrage over Gaza's garbage crisis. Whether by coincidence or not, Israel announced $15 million was being donated by Japan for garbage collection in Gaza.

Dr. Moseley said he was impressed by the spirit of the Gazans--especially the doctors--both in coping with the medical emergencies that had challenged them during the intifada and in coping now with the residue of shattered bodies in its wake. At an Anglican hospital, he heard how surgeons had operated without electricity and how relatives of patients couldn't leave hospitals under curfew for days because of Israeli police snipers. A bucket was brought to him full of the "rubber" bullets used by Israeli forces which had been extracted from the bodies of Palestinians. "Those `rubber' bullets looked just as lethal as the regular lead ones," Moseley said.

When an earlier delegation from the California physicians group visited the occupied lands in 1989, its most important result was to convince Israelis that the international medical community would not stand for invasions of Palestinian hospitals by Israeli troops to arrest, beat and sometimes shoot wounded Palestinian patients. …

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