A few days ago, Physicians for Human Rights began soliciting $700,000 in donations for hospitals in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli humanitarian organization also provided a detailed list of the medical equipment Gaza lacks, including portable monitors, respirators, ultrasound and X-ray machines, wheelchairs, needles, dressings, catheters, oxygen, medical gases, endo-tracheal tubes, screws and plates for shattered limbs, and surgical gloves. According to PHR, Gaza also has a severe shortage of intensive-care beds, which cost about $50,000 apiece. Moreover, many Palestinian ambulances are out of commission.
As of Tuesday, dozens of people had responded to the call. Some NIS 400,000 has been raised, mainly from Palestinian-Israelis. However, the campaign is still about $600,000 short. And every day, the needs are growing. Every day, Palestinian doctors are forced to operate on wounded Palestinians without surgical gloves, without anesthesia and without other basic medical and sanitary equipment.
What Israel's government should do, this very morning, is give PHR the missing $600,000. However, the government should not make do with that. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak must double, triple and quadruple the donation. The defense establishment must immediately provide a fund of $10-20 million that will inject new life into Gaza's collapsing hospitals.
Money alone, however, is not enough. The Israel Defense Forces must seize the humanitarian initiative and erect a field hospital at the Kerem Shalom or Kissufim or Erez border crossings. The army should announce that first, the hospital will care for children: Any wounded Gazan child who is not receiving appropriate treatment in Gaza will receive excellent treatment at the Israeli hospital. If the experiment proves successful and is not abused, it can be expanded to offer emergency treatment to women, the elderly and anyone else not involved in terror.
The Israeli offensive in Gaza is justified. It was launched following incessant and intolerable provocations by Hamas. Nevertheless, the fighting in Gaza is causing humanitarian disasters. However unintentionally, it is nevertheless also hurting innocents. Therefore, the Israeli government has an obligation to complement the aerial operation and the ground operation with a humanitarian one. Israel must offer support from afar to Gaza's nurses, doctors and clinics. It must offer support from up close to every bleeding innocent in Gaza. It must immediately rescue the wounded families, ensure freedom of movement for ambulances and grant absolute immunity to clinics, medical warehouses and hospitals.
Only a bold and sweeping humanitarian initiative can show the world, and also ourselves, that we are indeed committed to universal moral values. Only an immediate and generous humanitarian initiative will prove that even during the brutal warfare that has been forced on us, we remember that there are human beings on the other side.
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