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Israel sends home Gaza?s doctor of mercy - Scotsman

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  • Zafar Khan
    Israel sends home Gaza?s doctor of mercy ROSS DUNN IN JERUSALEM http://www.news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=682402002 ISRAEL has deported the head of a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 2002
      Israel sends home Gaza?s doctor of mercy



      ISRAEL has deported the head of a charitable fund that
      organised heart surgery and other operations for
      Palestinian children by Israeli doctors.

      Jonathan Miles, a US citizen, who founded the Israeli
      non-profit organisation Light to the Nations, was told
      he was no longer welcome in the country.

      The move has disturbed Christian groups, as well as
      Israelis and Palestinians, who had praised Miles for
      his humanitarian efforts in the midst of a deep
      conflict. He had been working with Save a Child?s
      Heart, the largest programme in the world providing
      free, urgent heart surgery for children in poor and
      developing nations.

      He originally came to the region in 1990 as a
      journalist, before moving into a new role, in which he
      would travel back and forth between Israel and the
      Gaza Strip.

      For two years, he lived with his family in Khan Younis
      in the Gaza Strip but moved to Jerusalem last year,
      following Israel?s repeated military incursions into
      the territory.

      He facilitated the transfer of Palestinian babies from
      Gaza to Israeli hospitals and also brought otherwise
      unavailable medicine back to the territory.

      He raised money abroad for the cause and set up a
      system of referrals for newborn Palestinian babies in
      the West Bank who needed heart surgery in Israel.

      Miles was supported by Israeli doctors, and hospitals,
      which carried out the surgery for Palestinian children
      at a fraction of the normal cost.

      "One of Jonathan?s contributions was the good vibes he
      created with the Palestinian families whose children
      we treated," said Israeli cardiologist, Dr Akiva
      Tamir, one of the volunteers in the programme.

      "It takes a lot for parents from Gaza in an atmosphere
      so full of hate to bring us their children to treat.
      Jonathan really persuaded them that they can trust

      But the Israeli authorities clearly did not trust
      Miles. When he arrived last week from a fund-raising
      trip, he was barred entry, kept in a holding cell and
      then deported.

      The first sign of trouble came in April when he was
      asked to leave the country by the interior ministry,
      along with his wife Michelle, and five of the couple?s
      six children.

      It appears that the ministry was angered by his
      decision to apply for residency status. The ministry
      is known for its strong opposition to granting such
      status to non-Jews.

      A spokeswoman for the interior ministry, said that
      Miles and his family had been asked to leave because
      they had been living in Israel illegally. "They wanted
      a permanent status," she said. "But there is no reason
      to grant them this."

      Miles?s attorney, Ezriel Levi, said that the
      government?s decision was reprehensible. "Perhaps the
      present interior minister believes that helping sick
      Palestinian children is not a worthy aim. As a citizen
      of this country I can only be sorry about that."

      Many Israeli doctors share his view that medicine must
      be kept above politics. Among them are Dr Shmuel
      Yurfest, one of the surgeons who operated to save the
      life of Palestinian teenager, Zayden Zayden, an
      18-year-old, severely injured when his suicide bomb
      went off before he reached his target - a hospital
      near the central Israeli town of Afula.

      Had he succeeded, Yurfest knows he would have been
      treating his victims instead.

      "During the operation, you act professionally and only
      afterwards you think of the consequences," he said.

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