No to Politicization of UCSF
EDITOR'S NOTE: This op-ed is in response to UCSF Must Divest!
By Arnold S. Seid, MD
As a graduate of UCSF Medical School (1971), permit me to comment on Nadia Gaber’s op-ed (January 9) calling for boycotts and divestment from the state of Israel. The article was troubling for three reasons.
First, Ms. Gaber uses counterfactual and illogical arguments. She charges that Israel is responsible for the Palestinians’ “dismal” health care system. This accusation is fraudulent. The Palestinian National Authority has been self-governing for almost 20 years, and Palestinian health care is managed by the PA’s Ministry of Health. Any deficiencies are the result of mismanagement, and given that Palestinians receive the highest amount of per capita foreign aid in the world, to their poor allocation of resources.
If Hamas, the Palestinian government in Gaza, spent this largesse on medical care rather than on rockets, and if the PA did not divert 6 percent of its annual budget to pay convicted Palestinian terrorists and the families of suicide bombers, their health care system would be better.
Furthermore, Gaber perversely justifies Hamas’ thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by claiming Palestinians have “no other options.” Certainly one option is that Hamas could choose to make peace, and renounce its charter and frequently stated goal to engage in jihad to murder Jews, “obliterate” Israel and replace it with an Islamist theocracy.
Second, Gaber’s use of data is below professional standards. She claims that Palestinians’ health care is “dismal,” but admits that her data may be 10 years old. Given recent data, either her statistics are wrong or there have been dramatic improvements in health indices, which contradict her thesis.
She wrote that Palestinian infant mortality is 29 per 1,000 people, while 2011 data indicates it is 15.2 per 1,000 (CIA World Factbook), that maternal mortality is 70 per 1,000 when in 2011 it was 28 per 100,000 (World Health Organization), and that there are only nine physicians per 10,000 Palestinians, while 2011 data indicates that the number is 20.8 per 10,000 (World Health Organization), and that the number of PA Ministry of Health physicians almost doubled between 2005 and 2010, rising from 2,363 to 4,093. Gaber’s statistics are old and incorrect, in one case by orders of magnitude.
Moreover, Gaber complains that Israel has far better health care than Palestinians. The comparison is meaningless. Israel is an advanced industrial nation on the forefront of medical research and innovation. The PA should instead be compared with neighboring countries at similar levels of development. In fact, the PA’s health indices resemble or surpass those of other countries in the region.
For example, Palestinians have lower infant mortality rates than Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Algeria and Egypt, and lower maternal mortality than Tunisia, Syria, Egypt and Morocco. Additionally, when Israel administered the West Bank and Gaza between 1967 and 1994, it shared its medical expertise and dramatically improved Palestinians’ health care with inoculation programs that wiped out childhood diseases, construction of 166 health care clinics, and provision of universal health insurance.
Life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 and rose further to 74 in Gaza and 75 in the West Bank in 2011, outpacing most surrounding countries. Furthermore, despite the ongoing enmity of Hamas and other extremist Palestinian groups, Israel continues to share its medical expertise with Palestinians. For example, in 2011, Israel gave medical care to over 100,000 Palestinians, while 2,000 Palestinian doctors attended conferences in Israel, and 100 Palestinian doctors chose to do their internships in Israel.
Third, Ms. Gaber’s effort to politicize the campus is seriously misguided. She has every right to promote her ideology, but she should not try to manipulate UCSF with misleading or false data or by invoking ideals that she applies selectively and only to the one Jewish state in the world, particularly when nearby countries should command our active concern, like Syria, which is wracked with violence and death tolls of over 70,000.
Sadly, Ms. Gaber is attempting to win support for the extremist, self-destructive policies that have plagued the Palestinians and prevented peace. UCSF students and faculty should not be diverted by such partisan conflicts but rather should fulfill their important mission of constructive action to advance health care and research that will benefit humanity.
Arnold S. Seid, M.D., graduated from UCSF Medical School in 1971 and currently practices surgery in Santa Monica, California.