By Larry Gordon
The head of the Israel-founded international rescue organization ZAKA has insisted and reiterated that its volunteers will delay providing emergency medical care to a wounded terrorist at the scene of an attack, so long as there are victims who still need their attention.
In a phone interview with the 5TJT, Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said that it is misplaced for international organizations or world leaders to lecture Israel on morality. “We brought morality to the world. We do not need to be taught or receive instruction from anyone.”
The issue comes to the fore after one of the recent car and knife attacks in Jerusalem, when ZAKA volunteers attended to the wounded victims of the attack, including an 18-month-old child who lost a leg, and neglected to treat the Arab terrorist who was shot by police and died shortly thereafter.
The matter was again highlighted when two knife-wielding attackers were killed by police near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem but were beaten by Israeli passersby while they were immobilized. The issue was aggravated further when several news outlets, including CNN, reported the event with the headline “Israeli Police Kill Two Palestinians After Attack.”
Even the Fox News reporter in Jerusalem reported the matter last Thursday, a full day after the attack, by explaining that tensions are high in Jerusalem because “two Jews were murdered and then Israeli police killed two Palestinians.” This type of reportage is dishonest and unhelpful. The Fox newsman, John Huddy, presented the matter as if they were two unrelated incidents. They were not, and this is damaging to Israel and its international image.
Israel is a civilized society, a country that abides by its own laws as well as those adhered to by most other nations of the world. To that end, the Israel Medical Association has stated that it is incumbent upon ZAKA emergency responders as well as those in Hatzalah to provide medical care to the most seriously wounded at the scene, regardless of who they are.
This position reminds one of the person who has such an open mind that it falls right out of his head. It may not look like it, and on most days it may not feel like it, but Israel is at war with a shrewd and cagey enemy from within. This idea of treating the perpetrator of a terror act on a par with his or her victims is terribly misplaced.
Meshi-Zahav of ZAKA said the other day that his office has received complaints about the fact that they were dealing with the bodies of the terrorists, those eliminated by the police or other security forces. It is a disturbingly unnecessary matter to deal with, especially here in print, but it still has to be addressed.
The ZAKA body bags are white, with the organization’s insignia displayed on them. Until recently, they were using the body bags to hold the remains of the attackers as well as the victims, if needed. The public complained: why were ZAKA bags being used to deal with the remains of an evil and repugnant terrorist?
Meshi-Zahav says that since then they are still dealing with terrorists’ bodies, but are now using black bags for terrorists killed at these scenes; the white ones are reserved for Jewish victims.
I have not spoken to anyone from the Israel Medical Association, but I can project and surmise their thought process. Liberal Israelis have a way of focusing on an issue and disregarding the ramifications.
This is true in how the government deals with returning terrorists’ bodies to their families for burial. Up until the recent terrorist wave of stabbing and car ramming, Israel would immediately return a terrorist’s body to his or her family. A sensible person would think, what’s the rush to return these bodies if their funerals are just rallies and protests that call for more violence against Jews?
Secondly, the Palestinians in Gaza are still holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Their families desperately want their kids back so they can bury them in the proper dignified fashion. The logical thing to do would be to hold on to the Arab terrorist bodies and then trade them.
But Israel, in a display of pathetically poor-minded thinking, would not do that. Israel can only deal with the Islamic custom to bury their dead as quickly as possible once they expire. Jewish customs call for expeditious interment as well, but Israel feels that it reflects poorly on them as a civilized society and they do not view the matter as a quid pro quo situation.
It is not dissimilar to what Prime Minister Golda Meir once said to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. About the wars between Israel and Egypt prior to forging a peace between the two, Meir said to Sadat: “We can forgive you for killing our children, but we cannot forgive you for forcing us to kill yours.”
There is one thing wrong with that pithy little statement. It is unconscionable and unforgivable. No, we do not forgive Sadat, Arafat, Abbas, Haniya, or any Arab leader for killing Jews, in or out of the IDF. And no, we cannot place our humanistic caps on our heads in an attempt to display our openness and liberalism in spite of the fact that Jewish families are suffering and Jewish teenagers are forced to eulogize their parents.
These theoretical or poetic concepts with lines strung together by speechwriters might sound good, but the reality of the situations that they describe is not pretty or a healthy thing for Israel.
ZAKA is a remarkable organization comprising an outstanding group of people. Their mission is a dedication to the sacredness of life and to be there to assist with aspects of death in unusual circumstances, focusing on kavod ha’mes—providing maximum dignity and respect for a person’s body.
Eli Beer, founder and director of the renowned United Hatzalah organization in Israel, says, “There are those who say that they will treat terrorists before they treat victims, if they are more seriously injured. I don’t accept that. I will not accept that. We don’t discriminate between people, but we do differentiate between terrorists and their victims.”
Beer explains that he has been a medic for 27 years and that he has been at the scene of hundreds of terror attacks—bus bombings, stabbings, car rammings, and shootings. “When I run to treat a victim I have never cared if they are Jewish or not, whether they are my family or not. I followed all the accepted treatment protocols. But when I run to the scene of an attack, it is to treat the victims, not the terrorist.”
Arab terrorists, whether in Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Paris, or San Bernardino, are the antithesis of this type of sacredness and respect. Being a perpetrator of terror attacks is not some kind of game like musical chairs where when the music stops, someone wins and another person loses. After a stabbing or bombing, G‑d forbid, it is absolutely wrong to regard all the injured parties as equal from a strictly medical-priority perspective.
I am not at ease with Israeli hospitals treating terrorists in the same emergency room and with the same personnel as their victims, Jewish or otherwise. I am not suggesting necessarily that a terrorist perpetrator be left on the street to die of his wounds, but rather let them be rushed to hospitals in Gaza or Ramallah. Residents of these areas, in some contemporary form of twisted and illogical thinking, view the attackers as the victims forced into carrying out their terror missions.
Israeli officials or medical experts who decry the approach of both ZAKA and Hatzalah to treating injured terrorists are way off base in their criticism. There are times that require that you reel in and inhibit your natural inclination to want to help a person in need. A real red line needs to be drawn when it comes to providing medical care for terrorists. Those who cause this type of awful suffering for others should rightfully suffer. We should not be afraid to say that; there is nothing wrong with that.
As the Talmudic sage Reish Lakish appropriately commented many years ago, those who are merciful to the cruel will one day be cruel to the merciful.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.