Letters to the Editor: Don't Put Israeli Democracy in Self-imposed Quarantine

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An emergency worker disinfects the Knesset during the coronavirus outbreak, March 15, 2020.Credit: Adina Wolman / Knesset

False, outrageous on Italy’s treatment of aged

In response to “In Italy’s Coronavirus Crisis, the Elderly are Left to Die. Will Trump let America follow?” (Jonathan S. Tobin, Haaretz.com, March 18).

First of all, the title of the article, besides being at least outrageous, states something which is simply not true. Elderly patients in Italy are receiving medical treatment just like any other citizen. Our health system, which is known to be among the most advanced in the world, doesn’t make any distinction according to age, and the current emergency is in no way an exception to this approach.

The figures of our intensive care units, which by the way have been increased by 26 percent since the outbreak of the pandemic, confirm this. At the national level, ICU “saturation” stands at 54.5 percent, with many regions well below this figure. This means that at the moment, half of our ICU beds are still available. Considering that we have a specific system, established by the National Civil Protection, for the rapid transfer of sick people from one region to another, there is no reason to leave anybody to die without ensuring emergency care, as affirmed by Mr. Tobin.

Secondly, while fully respecting the freedom of expression and the right of opinion that each journalist has, we expect that before writing on such a complex and delicate issue on the basis of “reports” and “assumptions,” journalists would also contact us to gather official data and accurate information from the Italian authorities that are dealing with this emergency. In this regard, I take this opportunity to ensure that both my staff and I are ready to get in touch with all the journalists wishing to have a factual picture of the situation in Italy and of the Italian response to the emergency.

Gianluigi Benedetti

Italian ambassador to Israel

If academics can do it, so can politicians

As academics, we at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are committed to transforming society through teaching the next generation of scientists, professionals, and public leaders, and through carrying out cutting-edge research which affects all aspects of our lives. In the face of the coronavirus crisis, we rapidly transitioned to 100 percent online teaching – and we have put aside our individual research interests to pursue research programs that can lead to solutions to the coronavirus crisis. It would have been far easier, cheaper and more convenient to shut down the university, to retreat into our shell. But that would have been an immoral choice.

If it is important to maintain academic teaching and research, then it is more important 10-fold to maintain our democracy. At this time of national crisis, I expect the Knesset to demonstrate leadership and to find creative ways to keep the legislative branch of our democracy active, just as Israel’s university presidents have done in keeping academia functioning.

I recognize the complexity of the issues, the difficulties and the costs, but these are only excuses for not doing the right thing. I implore the speaker of the Knesset, and all party leaders: please, remember the spirit of David Ben-Gurion who said, “The moment we do not have the will or perseverance to stand in the gate, then we will begin to fall down the slope that leads to the abyss.” Please, do not put Israeli democracy in self-imposed quarantine.

Prof. Daniel Chamovitz

President, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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