Below is a correspondence between NGO Monitor and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, about its hosting of Prof. Walden, Board Member of Physicians For Human Rights- Israel. The press release in discussion is at the end of the correspondence.
1. Letter from Gerald Steinberg to Henry Grunwald, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, April 10, 2008
2. Henry Grunwald’s reply to NGO Monitor, April 15, 2008
3. Press Release from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, April 8, 2008
Board of Deputies of British Jews
6 Bloomsbury Square,
London, WC1A 2LP
I was surprised to read the press release announcing that the Board of Deputies of British Jews had hosted Prof. Walden, who, among his other qualifications, is also a leader of the NGO known as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) and a member of its board.
PHR-I does some very important work in proving medical care, but at the same time, it is one of the leading NGOs involved in anti-Israel campaigning, and is active in events such as Israel Apartheid Week. In many of its reports, including some in which Prof. Walden is quoted, PHR-I reinforces the image that Israel is primarily responsible for the problems of Palestinian health care, erasing the gross failures of the Palestinian officials and the context of terrorism.
Such rhetoric helps to feed the anti-Israel boycott movements, and the demonization associated with the Durban strategy. In 2002, during the height of the Palestinian mass-terror attacks, PHR-I distributed a highly offensive cartoon booklet, including images that were considered by many to be antisemitic. In response to these and other activities, the Israel Medical Association (IMA) accused PHR-I of politicization and Dr. Yoram Belsher protested that this NGO had politicized its activities at the expense of providing medical services in the territories. (NGO Monitors detailed analysis of PHR-Is activities can be found at http://www.ngo-monitor.org
Prof. Walden’s “inspirational message of hope and reconciliation” to the BOD, highlighting Israel’s policies of providing medical care to Palestinians and to the disadvantaged, and “sowing the seeds of peace”, was very different from some of his other activities, and those of PHR-I in general. In a widely reprinted article published on the British Medical Journal website (27 May 2006) and written by Don Macintyre (The Independent), Walden promotes the destructive image that Israeli policy-decisions seek to harm Palestinians by deliberately withholding of medical services. Similarly, PHR-I’s May 2006 press statement quoting Walden states: “Both during their speeches and when they answered questions from the audience, the two representatives of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel stressed the responsibility of Israel for the health needs of the residents of the occupied territories. The organization stated clearly that in the event that the PA collapses, Israel will carry the full responsibility for the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.”
Such politicized misrepresentations from PHR-I are often used by individuals and organizations in their anti-Israel campaigns. For example, the widely discredited WHO publication, "Access to Health services for Palestinian People," (April 2, 2008), which terms Israeli policy as "inhumane" and a form of "collective punishment", includes evidence and Palestinian claims based taken directly from PHR-I. And Richard Horton’s attack on Israel (The Palestinians: The Crisis in Medical Care The New York Review of Books, Vol. 4, March 15, 2007, www.nybooks/com/articles/19974), is based, in large part, on PHR-I allegations. In response, Dr. Elihu Richter (Hadassah hospital and Hebrew University) wrote, “PHR-I’s ever more radical leadership, in its political positions, applies a double standard to the protection of life: one for the Palestinian victims of the occupation’s heavy hand, and a lesser one for Israeli victims of the terror, the reason for the heavy hand.”
This destructive ideological emphasis is also reflected in the many presentations by Rochama Marton, founder and President of PHR-I, who addressed a panel as part of Israeli Apartheid Week at SOAS on February 11, 2008. In a June 2006 conference in Vienna organized by the UN Committee on Inalienable Rights of Palestinian People, Shabtai Gold, a PHR-I spokesman, accused Israel of “responsibility for the predicted crisis due to closures”, and failing to mention ongoing Palestinian violence.  And there are many more examples, as shown in detail in NGO Monitors analysis.
Perhaps at this stage, it would be useful for the BOD, in cooperation with Dr. David Katz, to approach Prof. Walden with these issues, and explain the need for groups such as PHR-I to avoid participating in and contributing to the demonization which propels boycott campaigns.
I look forward to your response, and suggest that in the future, as the BOD plans an activity involving officials from an NGO that claims to promote human rights, peace, humanitarian assistance, etc. NGO Monitor can provide additional information using our comprehensive data base.
With warms wishes for a chag sameach vkasher,
Gerald M. Steinberg
 Israeli human rights group calls on government to save health services in Gaza and West Bank, http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content
 PHR-I "Double Standard": Richard Hortons 2007 Visit to Gaza and Israel: A Fools Journey, Professor Elihu D. Richter MD MPH, January 16, 2008, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) http://www.ngo-monitor.org
Thank you for your letter concerning the work of PHR-I sent following our meeting with Professor Walden.
As always, I am grateful to you for furnishing us with information about issues impacting on how Israel is perceived abroad. We are acutely conscious of the need to understand the perspectives of groups critical of Israeli policy and, where possible, to influence their public statements to take account of how they may be interpreted outside of Israel. The many and varied ways in which Israel might achieve peace and security are a source of vigorous debate, but the acid test for us is whether or not such groups ultimately support a safe and secure Israel.
Our meeting with Professor Walden was precipitated by an invitation from the Liberal Jewish movement, who had brought him over to the UK for a speaker tour. It did not seem right for us to reject the offer to meet, and for the reasons stated above, such an opportunity seemed worth pursuing, particularly as Israeli doctors have been the target of calls for a boycott from members of the medical fraternity here. As with left-wing Israeli academics, it is ironic that those critical of certain Israeli policies are being targeted in this way, and that is something that actually resonates with those prepared to oppose boycotts.
As an Israeli who has fought in four wars for his country, and who works with the victims of terror, we did not find reason to doubt Professor Walden’s bona fides, and what he had to say about his work in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is relevant and necessary for us to hear. Those at the meeting, which was attended by no more than a dozen Deputies, Jewish doctors and professional staff, did not listen passively, but robustly questioned Professor Walden on the extent to which his criticisms take account of the security situation. We needed to hear his views and responses.
The Board meets with a variety of groups from both the right and left, religious and secular elements of Israeli society both to listen and learn. It is a policy that allows us to deflect criticism of the Board that we are closed to different points of view. Just recently this approach lead us to visit Ofra, together with Yisrael Harel, to hear about the concerns of the settlers in this area.
Let me therefore thank you again for the additional information that you have provided regarding PHR-I. This can only assist in any future contacts with this organization.
With warm regards and wishing you also a kosher and happy Pesach.
LEADING ISRAELI HUMAN RIGHTS PHYSICIAN DELIVERS MESSAGE
OF HOPE AND ACTIVISM
LONDON – (8 April 2008) – Professor Raphael Walden, Deputy Director General of Tel Hashomer’s Sheba Hospital addressed a breakfast briefing to the Board of Deputies of British Jews this morning, and delivered an inspirational message of hope and reconciliation about his work at one of Israel’s premier hospitals. Speaking to an audience that included several leading UK Jewish physicians, Prof. Walden gave a detailed description of the care and determination that Israeli doctors take to treat all patients regardless of their race, religion, or economic status – and irrespective of whether they reside in Israel or areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Typical of those singled out for care, he said, are the disadvantaged patients without access to medical treatment or the means to afford the on-costs (such as prescription charges) of medical insurance within Israel.
Key groups include Israel’s migrant workers, who support the country’s infrastructure, as well as refugees and asylum seekers from war-torn regions such as The Sudan and Sierra Leone. Walden emphasised that the passion for his work arises from a motivation to fulfil "standards proclaimed by Jewish ethics, which obligate members in society to treat the less fortunate with the utmost respect."
Professor Walden is a member of the board of Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli organisation which mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice, and promotes a universal "right to health".
The organisation runs mobile health care clinics, and also monitors and facilitates the transfer of patients to Israeli hospitals. He said that his lobbying on behalf of weaker population groups was "dictated by his love for Israel," and that he was seeking to "sow the seeds for peace". He believes that medical activities are a prime example of how this could be achieved. Walden also related that, at the Peres Centre, Israeli physicians conduct courses and training programmes for their Palestinian counterparts in a cross-section of different areas of medical practice, including Emergency Medicine.
Professor Walden served in the Israel Defence Forces during four wars, and was a physician in an elite paratroopers division. Currently Commander-in-Chief of the largest field military hospital, he believes that this experience has enabled him to gain an insight into the wide variety of perspectives that there are on the conflict. The breakfast was chaired by Professor David Katz, Vice-Chairman of the Defence and Group Relations Division and Executive Chairman of the Jewish Medical Association (UK). Vivian Wineman, Chairman of the Division and Senior Vice-President of the Board of Deputies was also present, together with Drs Simon Cohen, Mark Ornstein and Simon Wiseman from the JMA Council; Rabbi Janet Burden of the West Central Liberal Synagogue and the South Bucks Jewish Community, Dr Daniel Ellis of the Board of Deputies International Division; Board of Deputies Chief Executive, Jon Benjamin; Director of Public Affairs, Elizabeth Harris, Public Affairs Officer for the International Division, Simeon Ezra; and Interfaith Officer, Aviva Dautch.
The Board of Deputies is the representative body of the British Jewish Community.
For more information, please contact Winston Pickett, Director of Communications: Tel: 0207 543-5400 Mobile: 07932 075 625, E-mail
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