Good works done by good people:
A Medical Mission to Palestine
By Bob Simmons / The Rag Blog / December 3, 2009
See Parts 2-4 of A Medical Mission to Palestine, Below.
The hardest part of making this documentary was trying not to come right out and say it. The main problem with health care in Palestine is Israel.
In July of 2009, I took a trip to the country of occupied Palestine, or the West Bank, or, in the words of some Israelis, the “newly acquired lands.” What I saw was not shocking if you have been paying attention. But for me, an American who has rarely been overly concerned about the heated politics of the Middle East, it was a revelation.
I was lucky to have been included as a witness on a recent Physicians for Peace mission to Ramallah on the West Bank. My role was simply to document some of the clinics and seminars that Physicians for Peace conduct while guests of the Ministry of Health of the Palestinian Authority. I had been asked to use video to communicate some of the small victories of the mission — a child who found a new life because of a pharyngeal flap operation, a repair of a hare lip cleft palate, or maybe some other “happy ending” story that would quickly and graphically demonstrate the enormous good that PfP does on these missions to the “troubled areas” of the world.
I was up for it.
Little did I know that what I would find would change my view of the Palestine question forever.
And little did I know how hard it would be not to be “political” with my small story about a mission to make a small difference in the world.
But the truth of the matter is, there is nothing in Palestine now that is not political, from the smallest act of buying a banana, to the issue of whether the Palestinians should be allowed to have radiology machines capable of treating the population with modern techniques, whether the local drug store can carry antibiotics or not, whether they will have simple antiseptics, or whether one can go to the hospital to have a baby or be forced to have it at home with a midwife in a house with no running water. It’s all political. In some places in the world the phrase “Oh, I am not political,” is a luxury that is not a real option. And this is especially true for anyone who lives on the West Bank.
With this video I wanted to tell a story of the good works done by some good people who were trying to make a difference in people’s lives in the Middle East. But I discovered that if I tried to get rid of the politics, I couldn’t tell the story. It’s as simple as a map that shows where people now live, and who used to live where.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
It’s a map that tells a story that no rhetoric can explain away. It’s as simple as the 400 miles of walls being erected by Israel as they disenfranchise a people, and no matter how much they deny it, Israelis “ethnically cleanse” the lands where they plan to live. Not all Israelis of course, but the party in power believes that the “manifest destiny” of Israel requires that they make life as hard as possible for the population of the country that they plan someday to completely occupy.
“The Palestinians can leave, they can go anywhere in the Middle East, they are Arabs. We are Jews, we only have here, our motherland.”
Thus, no story about health care in Palestine can be free of the background of the political issues that surround every act in the West Bank.
Physicians for Peace are the good guys. They go into countries all over the world. They bring skills and relationships and the best wishes and the best impulses on the planet. They bring with them the heart and soul of America.
Some people say “support our troops”; my instincts say, if you want to support America, then do what you can to support the people who win hearts and minds through their generosity and sense of decency. As someone once said, any fool can burn down a barn, but it takes skill and care to build one.
A Medical Mission to Palestine is about building the things that matter.
[Bob Simmons is a veteran broadcaster with over 30 years experience in most aspects of radio. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and presently lives in Austin where he has business interests and pursues his longtime avocations of photography and video production.]
- Occupied Palestine: How the West Was Lost, a Photo Essay by Bob Simmons / The Rag Blog / July 24, 2009