Cancer is the enemy.
Cancer kills. It kills Jews, it kills Arabs. It kills the elderly and it kills the young. I know. It killed my wife.
It also killed a Palestinian mother whose case the Washington Post chose to highlight. The Post could have reported on the nature of this terrible illness. The reporters could have described the toll it takes on thousands of Palestinian and Israeli families every year. If they wanted a human interest story, they could have told about the husbands left without wives, the children left without mothers or fathers.
They could have also written about the positive steps Israel is taking in the fight against cancer. They could have chosen to describe the extraordinary Israeli (both Jewish and Arab) oncologists in Israel, the companies developing cancer-fighting drugs, the thousands of “medical tourists” who travel to Israel from all over the world to avail themselves of Israel’s top quality care.
They could have focused on the thousands of Palestinian cancer patients who seek treatment in Israel because neither the Palestinian Authority or the Hamas rulers of Gaza believe in devoting resources to medical care. In Gaza, tunnels and rockets and luxury homes for Hamas terrorists take precedence to chemo wards. Is there any other country on earth that opens up its hospitals to the people it is fighting?
Yet they chose to focus instead on one specific aspect of this poor woman’s story. They wrote about the fact that only her husband and not her extended family could travel with her to Jerusalem when she went for her final treatment. She passed away far from home without her children. Several times, the article mentions the “occupation” as the culprit.
Cancer patients whose disease is in end-stage often face agonizing choices. Some want to travel one last time. Others leave home looking for one last treatment. But they know that they are taking a chance that they will end up dying without the comfort of being in their own home, surrounded by their own family. It is a terrible choice that no one should have to make.
Yet neither the cancer patients nor anyone else is to blame for their situation. No matter how many family members were with her, Saleh would have still passed away long before her time. That is the real tragedy that the Post should have focused on.
When my wife was going through chemo, the ward was full of Arabs and Jews, religious and secular. No one cared. Politics ended at the doors of the oncology department. She decided to forgo any additional treatment when it was clear that the only real impact of the treatment would be to extend her suffering.
When she passed away, the only thing to blame was the disease itself.
By making Saleh’s story about Israeli travel restrictions imposed because of the security situation, the Post takes a story of human suffering and politicizes it.
The pictures that accompany the story are moving. I know the look in Saleh’s eyes as well as her husband’s heavy expression too well. These pictures, tragically, are not unique. They were my wife’s eyes, and my own. They are the eyes of millions of cancer patients around the world and the people who love them.
Cancer kills. Cancer kills husbands and wives, parents and children. Every day, in hospitals in Jerusalem and throughout Israel, Israeli doctors do their best to try to save the lives of patients with cancer. Where life cannot be saved, they try to ease the suffering of the final stages.
The Post’s articles cheapens their work. Israel should be praised for trying to save the life of this Palestinian wife and mother and thousands of others like her. Instead, it is blamed because of a minor detail in an immense tragedy.
This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel.