Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) is a very powerful NGO, with an annual budget of over €2 billion. It describes itself as an “international, independent medical humanitarian organisation” and claims that it “observes neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics.” Reflecting the “halo effect” that protects MSF and its image as a major and unbiased provider of humanitarian aid, MSF is a popular choice for charitable giving in Gaza. CNN, NPR, Time, Vogue, United Way, Global Citizen, and others recommend MSF as a suitable destination for donations. 

However, as shown by MSF’s political campaigns since the brutal Hamas October 7 massacre, its stated commitment to the principles of “neutrality and impartiality” do not extend to Israel. MSF has repeatedly demonized Israel, ignored Israeli victims, and erased Hamas’ massive war crimes and responsibility for turning Gaza into a massive underground terror base. 

MSF also repeatedly denied that Hamas was present in Gaza hospitals, claiming that “we have seen no evidence that the hospital buildings or the compounds are being used by Hamas as a military base.” Instead, the NGO alleged that Israel was “attack[ing] health care.” Based on the extensive evidence produced by Israel to Hamas’ systematic exploitation of Al-Shifa Hospital and other medical facilities, it is impossible that MSF staff and volunteers were unaware of the reality. MSF’s silence is a betrayal of medical ethics, the hostages, and Palestinian civilians; any medical staff involved in covering up these activities could face civil and criminal liability in both domestic and international courts.

Perhaps most disturbing, and certainly relevant for those considering a donation to MSF, is the admission by an MSF official that the NGO had “given donations to the [Gaza] Ministry of Health from our own stocks. We basically emptied our stocks to give to the Ministry of Health” (32:00 in a webinar titled “Gaza: Genocide in the Making,” October 18). In other words, MSF readily provided materials to a Hamas-run entity after it had perpetrated the incomprehensibly brutal mass slaughter of October 7 and while it was engaged in a violent confrontation with Israel. In the best case, this reflects an irresponsible naivete on the part of MSF and a willful disregard for counter-terror regulations. 

Blatant Hypocrisy: Ignoring Attacks on Israeli Medical Facilities

A recurring theme in MSF statements are claims regarding attacks on Palestinian hospitals, ambulances, and medical personnel (see below for more details). 

However, NGO Monitor was unable to identify a single utterance from MSF mentioning, let alone condemning, Hamas’ blatant violations against Israeli medical facilities and health care workers since October 7. This includes the murder of medics who were treating victims of the October 7 attacks, including in a medical clinic, and the intentional targeting of Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross) ambulances during the massacre; the murder of doctors during the massacre; and rockets from Gaza striking Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. 

Hypocrisy: Ignoring Israeli Victims

MSF’s ignoring of Palestinian targeting of Israeli medical facilities and workers is part of a larger trend of MSF altogether ignoring Israeli victims. Out of 112 tweets from MSF’s X account from October 7 to November 19 that deal with the conflict, not one mentions Israeli victims alone; 5 mention both Israelis and Palestinians. 

MSF, which claims to promote moral principles, has made no reference to hostages illegally held by Hamas in Gaza, nor has it campaigned for them to receive medical treatment. At least one hostage was undergoing cancer treatment at the time of her kidnapping, another had his arm blown off by a Hamas grenade at the Nova festival, and a third hostage was kidnapped in her ninth month of pregnancy and reportedly gave birth in captivity. None is included in MSF’s “humanitarian” advocacy.

The single condemnation of Hamas came in a statement headlined “Indiscriminate violence and the collective punishment of Gaza must cease” (October 12), which began: “Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is horrified by the brutal mass killing of civilians perpetrated by Hamas, and by the massive attacks on Gaza, Palestine, now being pursued by Israel.” (A similar sentiment was tweeted that day.) Such isolated statements reflect an immoral equivalence between the deliberate mass murder of civilians by Hamas with actions taken by Israel to protect its citizens, while abiding by the laws of armed conflict and seeking to avoid harm to civilians.

Erasing Existence of Hamas: Allegations of Attacks on Hospitals

Numerous MSF statements and social media posts reference alleged Israeli attacks on hospitals, ambulances, and other medical facilities. In MSF’s narrative of demonization, this is an “unrelenting assault on Gaza’s health system” (“Patients and medical staff in Gaza trapped in hospitals under fire – attacks must stop now,” November 11). One MSF official, “Sohaib Safi, medical coordinator for MSF in Gaza,” told Al Jazeera that there was “very clear evidence’ that medical aid in the enclave was being intentionally attacked by Israeli forces.” No such evidence was provided, reflecting MSF’s consistent lack of credibility.

During the second week in November, as Israeli forces converged on Shifa Hospital and the complex of tunnels and Hamas command center beneath the facility, MSF condemnations of Israel intensified. MSF accused the IDF of signing “the death warrant for civilians currently trapped in Al-Shifa hospital.” At the same time, MSF made no mention of Israel’s providing fuel, medical equipment, and incubators to the hospital.

Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups, on the other hand, do not appear at all in MSF’s accounts. MSF does not name or condemn Hamas for conducting its military operations in, underneath, and near hospitals and other medical facilities The group does not condemn the placement of Hamas’ extensive tunnel network underneath hospitals and medical clinics. MSF does not condemn Hamas and other terror groups for using ambulances to illegally transport fighters and weapons in an attempt to shield them from detection and attack. And MSF does not condemn Hamas for holding hostages in Gaza hospitals

These Hamas actions are all blatant violations of the laws of war, related to medicine and health. And they all are necessary to understand that Israeli military responses to mass terror are entirely consistent with international law, including those conducted in and around medical facilities. But the MSF propaganda campaign ignores these basic dimensions. 

Erasing Existence of Hamas: Repeated and False Allegations of “Indiscriminate” Attacks

A related phenomenon occurs with MSF’s repeated allegations of “indiscriminate bombing,” “indiscriminate attacks,” “indiscriminate bloodshed,” and “indiscriminate violence.” 

According to MSF, Hamas and its terror infrastructure, embedded within and beneath civilian buildings, seemingly does not exist in Gaza. In this false narrative, Israel is either deliberately targeting medical facilities or it is indiscriminately targeting everything else. The erasure of the total control exerted by the Hamas terror organization in Gaza is immoral and a form of disinformation.

Demonization of Israel

In multiple statements, MSF uses extreme rhetoric that casts Israel as the perpetrator of the very worst crimes. For instance, on October 17, MSF falsely accused Israel of the “bombing of Ahli Arab Hospital,” repeating Hamas propaganda regarding the death toll and calling it “a massacre.” This was quickly determined to be a blood libel, after definitive evidence showed that the strike was from a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. (See NGO Complicity in Hamas Propaganda on Gaza Hospital for more information on this incident.) 

In an October 28 press release, “Immediate ceasefire is needed in Gaza to stop the bloodshed,” MSF alleged that Israel had committed an “atrocity [] on a scale never seen before in Gaza” and “indiscriminate violence unleashed on a helpless people” (emphases added). Reflecting MSF’s singling out of Israel and condescending characterization of Palestinians as “helpless”, a ceasefire was considered urgent “to prevent more deaths in Gaza, Palestine” and only Israel had any agency “to stop the bloodshed.” Nowhere in the statement did MSF call upon Hamas to surrender or to release the 240 hostages, including more than 30 children.

MSF also used the phrases “unconscionable violence,” “horrific onslaught,” and “senseless violence” in reference to Israel. 

The demonization involves the top of the organization. In an October 17 statement  (“Unconditional humanity needs to be restored in Gaza”), MSF’s International President Dr Christos Christou condemned Israel as “inhumane” and alleged an “egregious level of collective punishment currently being meted out on the people of Gaza.” 

The Responsibility of MSF Funders and Enablers 

In 2022, MSF reported €2.16 billion in operating expenses. Government donors to MSF are Switzerland and Canada. (MSF states that it does not “accept funding from the EU, its Member States and Norway in response to EU decisions on migration policy.”) 

MSF states that, in 2022, it spent €20 million in “Palestine” (MSF’s financial report does not provide a breakdown between Gaza and the West Bank). MSF claims that its activities in the region were supported by “private and other income,” not “public institutional income.” The funders of this immoral campaign are accountable for the abuse of their donations.