Founded in Paris in 1971 by a group of 13 physicians and journalists, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, a.k.a. Doctors Without Borders) is an international, nonprofit, humanitarian aid organization that provides emergency medical and mental-health assistance to needy people in dozens of countries, without regard to their race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. This aid is directed toward populations affected by such things as armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, and “exclusion from healthcare.” In some instances, MSF sets up drinking-water and sanitation systems to supplement its medical aid efforts.
At its inception, MSF consisted of some 300 volunteers including doctors, nurses, other staff, and the founders. The organization’s first mission was to assist the victims of a 1972 earthquake that killed many thousands of people in Managua, Nicaragua. Two years later, MSF established a relief mission to help the people of Honduras recover from the deadly effects of Hurricane Fifi. And in 1975, it provided medical care for the waves of Cambodian refugees seeking sanctuary from Pol Pot’s murderous Communist regime.
As the 1970s progressed, MSF began to shift its focus away from merely dispatching doctors to various crisis zones on an ad hoc basis, and toward creating a more structured organization. One of its co-founders, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, opposed this evolution. Thus he left MSF and proceeded to help start another group called Médecins du Monde.
Today, MSF is a worldwide movement consisting of 21 sections, 24 independently run associations, and a number of other offices. All of these entities are bound together and coordinated by the Geneva-based MSF International. In total, MSF currently employs more than 35,000 people across the globe, and it has treated over 100 million patients since its founding.
Though MSF describes itself as a politically “neutral” organization that does “not take sides in armed conflicts,” NGO Monitor points out that “in practice,… MSF consistently abuses its status as a humanitarian organization to launch venomous anti-Israel political campaigns.” Indeed, MSF commonly employs rhetoric that accuses the Jewish state of inflicting “collective punishment,” “indiscriminate bombings,” and “wholesale massacres” on the Palestinian people.
In April 2006, MSF 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 aid payments to the latter. By MSF’s calculus, this suspension of aid was “unacceptable,” given “the [bleak] socio-economic future of this [Palestinian] population already sorely tested by years of conflict and occupation.” As NGO Monitor observes: “MSF’s statement did not acknowledge the security concerns of the Israeli population, and the dangers inherent in funding the Palestinian Authority led by Hamas…. [Further, the] statement notably fails to call for an end to Palestinian violence and the dismantling of terrorist organizations.”
During Operation Cast Lead, a 2008-09 military operation by which Israel sought to degrade the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas and other Islamic extremists in Gaza, MSF falsely charged that the Jewish state was guilty of “indiscriminate bombings” and of exhibiting a “devastating disregard” for Palestinian civilians. MSF-France executive director Felipe de Ribeiro, turnining a blind eye to the fact that many Gazan terrorists were deliberately choosing to station themselves in densely populated civilian areas and near medical facilities, impugned Israel for subsequently attacking some of those same sites. And MSF-France president Marie Pierre Allie claimed that Israel’s alleged attacks against civilians in Gaza were worse than the violence against civilians that was occurring in Somalia, Congo, and Darfur.
In July 2014, Jonathan Whittall, MSF’s head of humanitarian analysis, accused Israel of consigning the entire Palestinian population to “what is essentially an open-air prison.” On a later occasion, he characterized Hamas rocket attacks against Israel as the desperate actions of veritable “prisoners” who were trying only to “resist their indefinite detention.”
In a similar vein, a July 2015 opinion piece by MSF-USA executive director Jason Cone stated that “Israeli fears of rocket fire from Gaza” and “the ongoing threat of tunnel-enabled attacks … cannot justify the devastating medical and psychological consequences for Palestinians of the [Israeli] barriers, checkpoints, bombing campaigns, blockades, and incursions.”
In a 2015 promotional video depicting Israeli military operations in Gaza as “wholesale massacres” that subjected Palestinians to “humiliation and oppression” on a daily basis, MSF program manager Mathilde Berthelot asserted that Israel was secretly delighted to exploit Palestinian violence “as an alibi” for implementing a purportedly retaliatory “policy which is repressive and expansionist.”
In September 2015, MSF-Spain produced a video lionizing a 14-year-old Palestinian teenage girl named Ahed Tamimi, who had engaged in numerous acts of provocation against the Israeli Defense Forces. In that video, Tamimi refers to some of her family members – one of whom belonged to the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – as “martyrs.”
Though a substantial number of Palestinian patients leave Gaza in order to receive top-flight medical care in Israeli hospitals virtually every day, MSF in September 2015 falsely stated that Israel did not permit the Palestinians to seek treatment outside of Gaza. It also stated – in contradiction to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism’s explicit provision permitting Gaza to import building materials under United Nations supervision – that Israel’s military “continues to starve the territory of desperately needed supplies, including building materials.”
In December 2015, MSF-France launched an exhibition titled “In Between Wars,” whose purpose was to pay tribute to the “martyrs” who had died as part of “the Palestinian resistance against [Israeli] occupation,” and to show “the haunting and recurrent side of the violence of daily life under occupation.” Roger Cukierman, head of the Council of Jewish Institutions in France, described the MSF display as “an apology for terrorism … that could inflame antisemitic violence.”
In August 2016, MSF sponsored a theatrical play whose purpose was to dramatize the ongoing “struggle” of Palestinians in Hebron, and a photo exhibition “showcasing,” as the Palestine News Network put it, “the psychological effects of occupation and violence on Palestinians.”
For additional information on MSF, click here.