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April 25, 2014
Steve Linde
Editor-in-Chief, The Jerusalem Post

Sir –

The humanitarian work of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, providing medical care for Palestinians in the West Bank, is unobjectionable (“Traitor or humanitarian hero? The story of Dr. Walden,” Magazine, April 4, 2014). But this is only part of its agenda. Its radical political advocacy, far removed from medical, humanitarian concerns, is unmentioned.

In 2009, PHR-I provided pro-Palestinian activists with first aid training in preparation for the violent protests against the security barrier at Bil’in, “in solidarity with their struggle against Israeli occupation.” Dr. Yoram Blachar, then president of the Israel Medical Association, criticized PHR-I for the course: “Physicians for Human Rights has proved it is a radical political group disguised as a medical organization.”

Another example of PHR-I’s political actions was in February 2003, when it placed an advertisement in the Ha’aretz newspaper declaring that the “organization will only work with doctors who resist the occupation.”

As noted in the article, PHR-I’s activities are funded by governments, including the EU and Norway. This largesse enables an unholy combination of medicine and politics.

NGO Monitor has shown that NGOs and NGO officials that proclaim a mandate related to human rights, particularly with a medical focus, are regularly shielded from scrutiny. This “halo effect,” an added degree of credibility, reflecting an undeserved perception of altruism and expertise, allows damaging political warfare to continue under the guise of humanitarianism and activism.

Rivka Hecht

The writer is a research fellow at NGO Monitor, Jerusalem