Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Palestinian Bird Flu Should be Cooperation Point, But Could be Threatening Point

I was thrilled to see the headline on the Jerusalem Post, “Israel, PA Join Forces to fight Bird Flu". But what I found wasn’t a report about how well these two opposing parties are working together to avert a public health crisis. It was a warning to the Palestinians that they will cease to receive this type of aid if Hamas is allowed to take power.

Security officials warned that once Hamas establishes the new Palestinian government, the possibility of maintaining such close coordination and contacts with Palestinians on such issues are doubtful. "If Israel's policy is to refrain from speaking with Hamas, then once the new Palestinian government is instated and new ministers take their posts, all contacts will be stopped," a security official said.

There are questions as to whether there is an outbreak of bird flu or Foot-and-mouth syndrome in Gaza, as initial tests were negative for either disease (if that is the right word). But there is no question that conditions in Gaza have deteriorated quickly with the lack of money coming in from Israel and the US. Gaza could be a breeding ground for both these diseases, and a germ doesn’t recognize politics, it attacks whoever it comes into contact with.

Israel should be looking at this as a humanitarian issue, an issue that endangers the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of them innocents, many of them against the violence that haunts the region. Instead, Israel only sees the dangers presented to Israelis and the leverage they can gain from the situation.

"It is in Israel's interest to ensure that agricultural standards in Gaza are maintained," Uri Madar, head of the agricultural division at the Erez District Coordinating Office told The Jerusalem Post, as he prepared to transport the samples and dead fowl to Israel's veterinary service laboratories in Beit Dagan.

Madar recognizes that a bird flu or foot and mouth disease epidemic in Gaza will soon spread to Israel, and he is citing this as his reason for working with the PA to provide help. But this is a humanitarian issue, and politics has no business playing a role. But later Madar pointed to that exact situation, and said that politics comes first.

"It is our job to separate between political and humanitarian issues and professional needs. We exchange information, and assist the Palestinians if problems arise and supply them with vaccines when needed," he said. In the future, if the government decides to halt all contacts with the PA, he has no recourse but to comply. "I am a government employee and will abide by all decisions issued by the top government echelon," said Madar.

If Israel leaves the people of Gaza without vaccines for this epidemic, it will be as bad as leaving the Sabra and Shatilla camps to be slaughtered. We can’t allow this to happen. Many of these people are innocent victims, and Israel must find its humanity and protect them. If we want good neighbors, we have to be good neighbors to, and good people. And right here, in a basic issue like this, is where it begins.

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Posted by Scottage at 4:57 PM / | |