Established on February 1, 1980, Medecins du Monde (MdM, a.k.a. Doctors of the World) defines itself as an “international humanitarian aid organization that recruits medical and non-medical volunteers who provide healthcare for vulnerable populations around the world.” MdM’s objectives are to: (a) “look after … the populations most vulnerable in situations of crisis, war, natural disaster and exclusion … without distinction [along] ethnic, social, religious or political [lines]”; (b) “help … local speakers to innovate, develop and set up health services”; and (c) “testify [regarding] the obstacles to … access to [healthcare] … [and] the infringements of … human rights.”
The founders of MdM were 15 French physicians who in November 1978 – three years after the fall of Saigon – went to the aid of a shipwrecked cargo liner carrying 2,564 Vietnamese “boat people” suffering from hunger and disease. When the doctors subsequently returned to France, they set up MdM, which has since grown into an international network of organizations based in 14 separate nations.
Through most of its history, MdM has striven to cultivate a reputation as a human-rights group without a political agenda. As one MdM motto puts it: “There are no right or wrong victims.”
But in practice, MdM has in fact taken sides, a number of times, in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Indeed, NGO Monitor wrote in 2003 that MdM is not only “far from a pro-Israel body,” but also “makes every effort to understand the conflict from the Palestinian perspective, and has been scathing [sic] of Israeli policy in the past.” In conjunction with a French NGO called the International Federation for Human Rights, MdM published a May 2002 report that accused Israel of violating international humanitarian law and committing heinous war crimes.
To be sure, some of MdM’s reports in the early 2000s counterbalanced their denunciations of Israel with at least some measure of criticism aimed at Palestinian transgressions. As NGO Monitor notes: “While talking at length of Palestinian casualties as well as Israeli military actions, [the May 2002 report] includes the context of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, and gives voice to the concern of Israeli army commanders.” Similarly, in July 2003 MdM published a report that emphatically denounced Palestinian terrorist bombings as well as the Palestinian Authority‘s failure to bring the perpetrators to justice, and made no attempt to draw a moral equivalence to any Israeli actions.
MdM dramatically changed course in February 2005, however, when it published The Ultimate Barrier: Impact of the Wall on the Palestinian Health Care System. Focusing on the separation wall/fence that Israel had begun erecting in the West Bank two years earlier, this report failed to acknowledge how desperately Israel needed a security barrier against Palestinian terror attacks; made no mention of the fact that the barrier had been highly successful in decreasing the number of such attacks in recent times; and complained that the barrier was taking a great toll on the Palestinian economy, infrastructure, education system, agricultural industry, and healthcare system. Turning a blind eye to the well-documented fact that Palestinian terrorists frequently used ambulances to transport weapons and jihadists, the report also criticized the Israeli Defense Forces for conducting searches of such vehicles. Moreover, the text included 83 unverifiable “testimonies” from Palestinians who otherwise would have had “no voice” under Israel’s allegedly oppressive domination.
In early 2006, MdM criticized the United States, Canada, and the European Union for having decided, in response to the recent political election in which Hamas had seized control of the Palestianan Authority, to suspend further aid payments to the latter. By MdM’s reckoning, this cessation of aid constituted a form of “collective punishment” that was bound to inflict great hardship upon countless innocent Palestinian civilians.
In March 2008, MdM and a number of likeminded NGOs – including Amnesty International, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, CARE, Christian Aid, Oxfam, the Save the Children Alliance, and Trocaire – issued a joint statement entitled “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion.” Charging that Israeli policy in Gaza was “illegal under international humanitarian law” and constituted “a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children,” the statement asserted that Israel was “bound by [its] obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population” in the region. Yet Israel had not exercised any political or military influence in Gaza for quite some time. Indeed, more than two-and-a-half years had already passed since the Jewish state’s complete military and civilian withdrawal from the region, a move to which Hamas responded by using Gaza as a launching pad for subsequent terrorist attacks against Israel.
In May 2008, MdM’s United Kingdom branch joined Oxfam, Christian Aid, and a number of other NGOs in issuing a demand that the “highest diplomatic pressure” be applied to persuade Israel “to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip to avert a humanitarian disaster.” This demand made no mention of the fact that the so-called “blockade”: (a) had been implemented out of necessity, in an effort to prevent Hamas from acquiring additional weapons of war from Iran and other allies abroad, and (b) explicitly permitted the importation of humanitarian supplies and other basic necessities.
MdM’s more noteworthy funders include George Soros‘s Open Society Foundations, the Veolia Foundation, the European Union, the Department for International Development, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the French-based Agence Française de Développement.