Israelis try to help in the Congo - and get treated like shit by aid workers...
This is beyond disgusting...
Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo - Having never visited Africa before, Israeli burn specialist Dr. Eyal Winkler was apprehensive about what was in store for the delegation of five medical specialists which he led this week to Congo. The locals turned out to be good hosts - but working with Western volunteers proved more complicated.
“I came to save lives, but also because it’s important to me to show that Israel is not the Flotilla Country that it is painted out to be,” said Winkler, deputy director of the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Sheba Medical Center.
On Tuesday Winkler arrived at the city of Uvira to treat 50 Congolese who were severely burnt in a fire that claimed more than 230 lives in the nearby village of Sange, where an oil truck had overturned and caught fire. Winkler’s five-man squad was the first team of specialists to arrive in the district of South Kivu to treat the injured.
They were there with Daniel Saada, Israel’s ambassador to Congo, as an official delegation of the Israeli foreign ministries Mashav aid agency. The team crossed remote border crossings with ease under the supervision of South Kivu’s governor, Jean-Claude Kibala. The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, telephoned the delegation to thank them.
But the relationship with the volunteers of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Netherlands, who arrived at Uvira the previous week, began on a sour note, according to Winkler and the other Israeli specialists.
Winkler said he got the impression that some volunteers for MSF - which has accused Israel of war crimes and obstructing medical care for Palestinians - did not want to be around him or the other team members, Drs. Shmuel Kalazkin, Gil Gragov Nardini and Ariel Tessone, and nurse Noa Anastasia Ouchakova.
“This is the reality today: Doctors from international aid organizations treat a delegation of volunteer Israeli doctors to Congo as though we were occupiers”, Winkler told Nati Harush, the foreign ministries deputy chief security officer who accompanied the delegation.
Inevitably, perhaps, this lead the eight Israelis seated around the breakfast table at a hotel situated on the shores of Lake Tanganyika to engage in that popular Israeli pastime: Arguing loudly about politics. Some of the participants in this political discussion - surprisingly, the first to break out since the group left for Africa 72 hours earlier - blamed the occupation for the perceived situation. Others said it was unrelated.
“This is an emotional time, and there are obvious political sensitivities,” Dr. Geert Morren, a doctor from Belgium who arrived at Uvira with MSF Netherlands, said after meeting the Israeli delegation. MSF has accused Israel of "devastating disregard" for civilians during its 2009 Gaza invasion.
"Unfortunately, it's true. International aid organizations here are very pro-Palestinian and not too friendly to Israelis," said Gila Garaway, an American training specialist who immigrated to Israel in 1983 before leaving for Congo in 1997. She has worked in cooperation with the Israeli foreign minister on various aid projects over the past 15 years.