Volunteer medic group rejects treating terrorists and victims equally
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Volunteer medic group rejects treating terrorists and victims equally

ZAKA organization says it will always treat Jewish injured from attack first before attending to attackers

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Members of the independent emergency service ZAKA wait for permission to begin cleaning blood and remains from the scene of a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction on November 22, 2015. (Judah Ari Gross/ Times of Israel)
Members of the independent emergency service ZAKA wait for permission to begin cleaning blood and remains from the scene of a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction on November 22, 2015. (Judah Ari Gross/ Times of Israel)

The ZAKA voluntary emergency service organization said on Thursday that it would not abide by a directive from the Israel Medical Association instructing doctors and medics to triage all casualties at a terror scene according to the severity of their wounds — including the terrorists who carried out the attack.

In a statement, ZAKA chairman and founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav made it clear that the organization’s medics would turn their attention to the victims first, regardless of the injuries sustained by their attacker.

“We direct ZAKA volunteers to first treat the Jewish victims of a terror attack — without blinking an eye,” he said. “Only after they have been given medical assistance, should they begin treating the murderous terrorist who carried out the attack.”

Earlier this week, the Ethical Bureau of the Israel Medical Association issued a directive saying doctors should treat the most severe casualties in an attack first without differentiating between attacker and victim.

Chairman of ZAKA, Israel’s voluntary emergency response organization, Yehuda Meshi Zahav (ZAKA/Lydia Weitzman Communications)
Chairman of ZAKA, Israel’s voluntary emergency response organization, Yehuda Meshi Zahav (ZAKA/Lydia Weitzman Communications)

ZAKA’s mostly ultra-Orthodox Jewish volunteers are often on the scene of terror attacks and deadly road accidents, collecting body parts and blood for Jewish burials according to Jewish law. The group also provides first aid and search and rescue services.

“In spite of the ethical code that says one should treat the most severely injured first, one should know that even morality has its boundaries,” Meshi-Zahav added. “If we do not make this distinction, we lose our direction. Even in Jewish law it says, ‘He who is merciful to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful.'”

The IMA’s new rules replaced an earlier 2008 directive based on the principle of “charity begins at home,” which enabled medical professionals to treat victims first.

The decision to change the guidelines came after the Physicians for Human Rights group appealed to the bureau claiming the previous rules contradicted accepted medical ethics and international humanitarian laws.

While Israeli doctors and medical staff see it as an ethical duty to attend to the injuries of terrorists and treat them the same as victims, until the recent change they could give priority when doing triage to victims rather than perpetrators.

The Ethics Bureau is the only body that decides ethical standards for Israeli medical staff and its rulings apply to doctors, paramedics, emergency services and nurses.

There have been a number of cases of innocent people being attacked amid the chaos in the aftermath of a terror attack. In October, an Eritrean national was mistakenly shot, beaten and only later attended to after a terror attack in Beersheba. Doctors said the delay may have contributed to his death.

Palestinians have alleged that Israeli medics often ignore wounded assailants after attacks, which sometimes leads to their deaths.

More than 20 Israelis have been killed in three months of near-daily stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming terror attacks by Palestinians targeting civilians and security forces.

More than 100 Palestinians have also been killed, a large proportion of them assailants shot as they carried out attacks, including some who were teenagers.

Other Palestinians have been killed during violent clashes with Israeli security forces.

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