The most famous Michael Harari was a James Bond-style Mossad agent and gun-runner. However the Dr Michael Harari recently in the news is an Australian trained paediatrician (apparently no direct relative to the spy) who helps al Qaeda fighters and their families get back on their feet.
Dr Harari held a speech on 8 May at Sydney University on his treatment of injured children at Ziv, which has taken ‘Syrian’ patients since February 2013. He grew up and practised as a doctor in Australia but has since worked in Israel. His story is a humanitarian one, but with a heavily politicised context.
Here are images of a little girl who has lost a limb, and others who have suffered blast injuries. No doubt they are victims of the war in Syria. Unusually, as the doctor recognises, they have come across the previously ‘impervious’ and heavily militarised border between Syrian and that part of Syria which Israel has illegally annexed for the past 47 years, the Golan Heights.
An Israel Defence Forces (IDF) triage team (the ‘battalion medical aid station’) does assessments along parts of this ‘rebel’ controlled border and, in an operation Dr Harari calls ‘shrouded in secrecy’, delivers patients to several Israeli hospitals, including Safed and Ziv.
While Dr Harari focusses on his patients, the political spin is clear. This is said to be a ‘civil war’ which began after teenagers wrote graffiti on a wall, and which culminated in carnage ‘the most tragic on earth since the Rwandan genocide’. Israel is just doing its humanitarian bit, through Ziv and other hospitals. The ‘humanitarian’ admission of these ‘refugees’ came as a novel initiative for his ‘sleepy country hospital’.
There is little mention of the fighter patients, until a law student asks about the IDF presence in the hospital; then Dr Harari admits that all men of fighter age (the great majority of patients) have soldiers stationed outside their rooms. Their injuries are so serious that, although these ‘Syrian’ patients comprise only 5% of inpatients, they occupy 50% of Ziv’s Intensive Care Unit.
Other reports tell us that these ‘rebel fighters’ pouring across the Golan border from the south of Syria, are mostly from Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda) and many if not most are foreign fighters, not even Syrian.
There is a mystery over the actual numbers of ‘Syrian’ children treated at Ziv. While media reports all accept that the majority admitted from Syria are fighters (including reports from Australian journalists who were hosted by the Israeli lobby), Dr Harari’s figures on children differ from those given by the Director of Ziv Hospital, Dr Oscar Embon.
David King from The Australian acknowledges that he ‘travelled to Israel on a study tour provided by the Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.’ Other Australian Journalists (from The Sydney Morning Herald, Sky News Business, SBS Television World News and Channel Ten News) participated in a NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Journalists Mission to Israel.
Dr Embon told Vic Alhadeff of JWire (a Jewish Australian publication) that between February and November 2013, Ziv Hospital treated ‘177 Syrians, including 2 women and 4 children’. That is, the great majority were fighters, with just a handful of family members.
Dr Harari’s figures maintain the male-suspected-fighter majority but increase the numbers of children. He said that Ziv had taken 266 ‘Syrian’ patients from February 2013 to April 2014, of which 242 were male (91%) and 17% were children. However as ‘children’ means under 18, and as several of these were teenagers, regarded as possible fighters (and therefore held under IDF guard), actual numbers admitted to the Paediatric ward were 32 (12%). When I asked if there had been a recent rise in child admissions, Dr Harari claimed that the data given by Ziv Director Dr Embon was either wrong or that he had been wrongly quoted. He claimed many children had come in from the beginning.
However the ‘shroud of secrecy’ meant that hospital staff did not know where patients had come from or to where they were returning. They might go to Jordan or to Syria. It turned out that they were ‘all going back to Syria’, yet ‘several had returned to Israel for follow-up… I don’t know how they come back to us but they do,’ he added.
Dr Harari said the residents of the occupied Golan and Northern Israel, ‘Arabs, Jews and Druze’, had formed volunteer squads to provide food and toys for the children. He did not mention PM Netanyahu’s recent visit to Jabhat al Nusra fighters at various northern Israel hospitals, nor the ‘gratitude’ expressed by ‘rebel’ commanders for Israel’s assistance, which has been reported widely across the Israeli media (5,6). This was meant to be a ‘humanitarian’ story, with a Syrian villain in the background.
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