Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israel Kept Out of Egyptian Cancer Conference

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - This week, Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, is hosting a major international conference on breast cancer.

The conference is to be held in Alexandria and great medical minds from all around the world are expected to take part in a march that is geared to raise public awareness about the deadly disease. But not all the great medical minds are welcome. The Egyptian health minister issued last-minute instructions not to include doctors from Israel in the conference.

The event is being organized by Dr. Susan G. Komen, an American doctor considered to be a leader in the war on breast cancer, who runs an agency that funds research, treatment and regional cooperative efforts.

Israeli physicians were supposed to attend the conference. They were to have shared with doctors from around the world Israel’s experience in coping with breast cancer.

But after all of the security arrangements had already been made and after they even had a meeting scheduled with Mrs. Mubarak, the cancellation came down.

Among the Israelis who were boycotted are members of the Tishkofet organization, which treats terminal patients. The organization is founded by Dr. Dvora Koren and her husband, Professor Ben Koren, an oncologist.

Dr. Dvora Koren told the Israeli media about the last-minute boycott.

“At the last minute we received a phone call from Egypt in which we were told that the Egyptian health minister had decided that we weren’t going to participate,” she said.

“It isn’t a security issue,” said Koren, “since the Egyptian authorities approved our arrival and the fact of the meeting at the conference with Suzanne Mubarak. At first, we’d planned on entering with foreign passports, but as soon as they realized that we were Israelis - along came the cancellation.”

What is ironic in this story is the attempt by senior Egyptian officials to praise the regional cooperation evinced in this conference, the boycott notwithstanding.

“This is an excellent example of cooperation among the various governments, survivors of the disease and the rest of the global community. This is proof of the world’s unity in the war on breast cancer,” said Dr. Muhammad Shaalem, who is the head of the Egyptian cancer association.

Israel, at least in the view of the people organizing the conference in Egypt, isn’t part of the global community.

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials are furious about the Egyptian decision.

“If the information is accurate,” said a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry “then, at issue is, without doubt, a very grave refusal by the regime in Egypt to grant visas.”

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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