Israeli medical humanitarian work along Syrian border deserves U.N. recognition

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A border fence separates the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights and Syria, east of the Israeli settlement of Ramat Magshimim. / Kahana Menahem / Getty Images

Though Syria and Israel share a border, they share little else. Yet the long history of conflict between the two countries is not stopping Israel from doing all it can to save the lives of Syrians.

OPINION

Sometimes the news headlines don’t reflect the reality on the ground. On recent visits we each have taken to Israel, we witnessed both the horrors of war and the compassion of healers. We saw that when it comes to civilians — men, women, children, the injured and the sick — there are no boundaries. Israel sees past its conflict with the Syrian regime and has implemented a good neighbor policy that calls for medical treatment of all. This has been the case since 2013 when the first Syrian civilians in need of help crossed into Israel’s northern border seeking care.

The way Israelis are treating Syrians sheds a light on the complexity of the ongoing civil war in Syria, and Israel’s involvement. Since the war began, more than 4,000 Syrians have been treated in Israel, including 1,000 children. Israel has even opened up a maternity hospital on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Since it opened, more than 200 women have been treated at the hospital, more than 30 of whom have given birth. Beyond the life-saving medical care Syrian children are getting in Israel, they are also receiving necessities to improve their standard of living, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids.

Israel treats any Syrian who needs it, free of charge, regardless of which side they are fighting for. It does not matter to doctors whether you are a Syrian rebel or a part of the Assad regime. Taking care of those in need is in the Israeli DNA.

Dr. Salman Zarka, the General Director of Ziv Medical Center, said it best on a recent visit to Chicago: “we have only one standard of treatment at Ziv hospital. When the patient gets into the emergency room, whether he’s Israeli or Syrian, we’ll provide him our best.”

It does not stop there. The Israeli Army has responded to the overwhelming need for help in Syria with an official program, Operation Good Neighbor. This operation provides food, equipment and medical supplies to 250,000 Syrians.

The official Israeli army program has so far transferred 450,000 liters of fuel to Syrian villages for heating, operating water wells and bakery ovens. It has also transferred generators for power, water pipes to rebuild Syrian infrastructure, and equipment for a temporary school. These supplies are in addition to the basic necessities such as food, baby supplies and clothing Israel continues to provide Syrians.

Unfortunately, the United Nations Human Rights Council — whose goal is to protect human rights — refuses to recognize these humanitarian efforts because they are initiatives of Israel. This is just part of their ongoing campaign in singling out Israel; since its creation, more than 50 percent of the resolutions criticizing other countries passed by the UNHRC have targeted Israel.

We call upon the UNHRC to acknowledge that Israel has saved thousands of Syrian lives during one of the largest human rights atrocities in the world, and stop bashing Israel.

Either way, Israelis will continue to provide aid to Syrians because as the Jewish State, Israel understands the importance and necessity of helping their neighbors all too well. Administering medical care to any injured person, regardless of whom they are, is a standard Israelis and Americans live by — and is who we are as nations.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Republican, represents Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. Aviv Ezra is the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, based in Chicago.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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