As an internationally recognized humanitarian organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, aka MSF) is viewed by many as apolitical, solely concerned with improving the well-being of people in need. In truth, MSF has strayed far from its goal of providing emergency medical aid, and it has violated its own pledge to observe “neutrality and impartiality.” Instead, it is taking advantage of its reputation to engage in anti-Israel political warfare.
Over the summer, a number of MSF publications adopted an extreme anti-Israel narrative. First was a July 7, 2015, opinion piece written by MSF-USA Executive Director Jason Cone that whitewashed Hamas attacks against Israeli — and Palestinian — civilians. In the article, Cone ignored Hamas’ war crimes, which include targeting Israeli civilians for death and using innocent Palestinians as human shields. Incredibly, Cone’s only criticism of Hamas related to its decision to ban painkillers in Gaza.
Cone said that rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are “called acts of resistance on one side and terrorism on the other.” Similarly, Cone casually mentioned the rise in “Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians (mostly settlers),” suggesting that some terrorist attacks are more acceptable than others.
In contrast, Cone showed no nuance or understanding when it came to Israeli policy: “Israeli fears of rocket fire from Gaza… and the ongoing threat of tunnel-enabled attacks… cannot justify the devastating medical and psychological consequences for Palestinians of the barriers, checkpoints, bombing campaigns, blockades, and incursions.” It is unclear what expertise an executive officer of a medical organization has that allows him to weigh military and security strategies in the complicated dynamics of an ongoing conflict.
Another political attack against Israel appeared in a July 2015 promotional video, featuring Mathilde Berthelot, an MSF program manager. Echoing Cone’s propaganda, she charged that Israel uses Palestinian violence “as an alibi for a policy which is repressive and expansionist,” adding, “we are no longer able to accept this alibi. We must take an even bigger stand for the people of Palestine.”
The video also refers to Israeli military operations in Gaza as “wholesale massacres” and decries the“humiliation and oppression they [Palestinians] are subjected to daily.” These vitriolic attacks are further proof that MSF has aligned itself with one side of the conflict in a way that is wholly inconsistent with its humanitarian standards.
This type of antagonism from MSF is not new. During the 2008-2009 conflict in Gaza, Felipe de Ribeiro, Executive Director of MSF-France, argued that Israel used the decision of Palestinian snipers to take up positions near medical facilities as an excuse to attack these sites — with the implication that Israel was targeting civilians. Dr. Marie Pierre Allie, President of MSF-France, claimed that the violence in Gaza was worse than violence against civilians in Somalia, Congo and Darfur.
Recently, MSF’s use of demonizing language has been accompanied by a series of demonstratively false claims, including the accusation that Palestinians are prohibited from leaving Gaza to receive medical treatment – despite the fact that Palestinian patients leave Gaza for medical centers in Israel on an almost daily basis. So too, these doctors-turned-political-activists falsely state that Israel’s military “continues to starve the territory of desperately needed supplies, including building materials,” ignoring the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism that allows building materials into Gaza under UN supervision. Similarly, the group absurdly claims that one “million children still live in bombed out ruins,” despite their own finding that 12,000 homes were destroyed in Gaza during the fighting in 2014.
These distortions and offensive attacks demonstrate that MSF should stick to what it knows best — providing medical aid. Taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a gross violation of MSF’s stated principle of neutrality, and well beyond the organization’s expertise. It is an abuse of MSF’s status as a humanitarian group, and severely undermines the doctors’ credibility. Worse yet, their demonization of Israel, coupled with the free pass they have issued Hamas, emboldens and immunizes terrorists.