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A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza

Israel saves its enemies; Hamas endangers its friends

- - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

If you want to judge a nation, look at how it treats its most vulnerable civilians. Hospitals are a good place to start.

Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, is housed in a converted British army barracks. Some 126 miles north is Israel's Ziv Medical Center in Zefat.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, is using the civilian population as human shields. The terrorist group has placed its missiles in schools and mosques and, even more deplorably, burrowed its command center underneath the al-Shifa hospital.

Hamas' activities are taking place in plain sight. Just two weeks ago, The Washington Post described al-Shifa as "a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders." These terrorist facilities are of course well known not only to the foreign journalists who interview Hamas fighters there, but also to the Israelis, who would by necessity consider such a location a legitimate target for any action against Hamas. However, the terrorist group has tried to immunize their headquarters by digging it under a hospital, leaving Israel no option but to target al-Shifa if they want to get rid of the Hamas terrorist leadership.

Hamas sees no downside in this arrangement. Knowing that Israel prioritizes protecting civilians, the terrorists can be reasonably confident that al-Shifa will not be targeted, and they can continue their murderous activities undisturbed. If the Israelis finally decide that these activities are intolerable and that to destroy Hamas they must target their headquarters, Hamas will have pictures of the quintessentially innocent martyrs — hospital patients unable to flee — to plaster across international media in their ongoing propaganda war to demonize the Jewish state.

The medical care and even survival of the Gazan people are of no concern to these terrorists, for whom casualties are not an unintended consequence of war, but rather a deliberate objective. Like the rest of the population stationed around the many civilian institutions militarized by Hamas, they must either make do with a substandard medical facility being exploited by a terrorist organization, or die in the service of that organization's savage campaign to destroy Israel.

Meanwhile in Israel, Ziv is a center for pediatric and orthopedic medicine. Given its proximity to Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria, Ziv has seen its share of violence, but despite taking direct rocket fire during the 2006 Lebanon war, it has remained in continuous operation.

During the past three years of the Syrian civil war, Ziv has treated more than 1,000 Syrians injured in that conflict — all free of charge.

In a visit to Ziv this spring, I met the social worker whose job it is to explain to the patients who wake up grievously injured and surrounded by Israelis that they are not in hell, but that the people who they have been told from birth are the devil are, in fact, working very hard to heal them.

I met a Syrian child who had lost three limbs but has been fitted with revolutionary prosthetics and will, God willing, walk again.

All of this means that many of Ziv's hospital beds and a substantial portion of its funding are not available for Israelis, but the staff has concluded it is worth it if their work can start to reverse the intractable hate that has been relentlessly leveled at Israel by its neighbors.

The contrast in this tale of two hospitals could not be more clear: Hamas exploits their medical facilities as a human shield to launch terrorist operations against Israel, while Israel uses theirs to provide cutting-edge medical care to people whose government's avowed goal is to destroy the Jewish state. Hamas' actions are a war crime. Israel's are one of the great, unsung humanitarian missions on the planet.

Sen. Ted Cruz is a Texas Republican. He is co-sponsor with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) of S. Con. Res. 41 denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in violation of international humanitarian law.