Why are supporters of occupation running a Jerusalem hospital?

A drone made by Israel Aerospace Industries, which received EU grants overseen by Herbert von Bose. (Alan Lebeda/Wikimedia Commons)

Why is a man who oversaw grants to Israel’s weapons-makers helping to run a key medical service for Palestinians?

Before joining the board at the Saint John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, Herbert von Bose was head of research on industrial technologies in the European Commission. In that capacity, he was in charge of projects benefiting Israeli arms companies and other profiteers of occupation.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a leading supplier of drones to the Israeli military, was among the recipients of the grants he administered. The declared aims of those projects included reducing pollution.

That may be a noble objective. But it is unlikely to comfort those families in Gaza whose loved ones were killed by missiles dispatched from IAI’s drones.

Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics firm headquartered in the occupied West Bank, has also taken part in projects for which von Bose was responsible.

Controversial

The allocation of taxpayers’ money to that company has proven controversial. Following complaints by Palestine solidarity activists, the European Commission’s hierarchy promised in 2013 that it would cease awarding subsidies to firms or institutions based in the settlements Israel has built in the West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.

Ahava, which plunders Palestinian resources from the Dead Sea, has been the target of an international boycott campaign that has damaged its brand image. In September, it was reported that the damage had been so severe that Ahava’s owners decide to sell a majority stake to a Chinese investor.

Von Bose has been involved, too, in enabling the greater involvement of the arms industry in the EU’s scientific activities. From 2004 to 2007, he headed a division of the Brussels bureaucracy dedicated to “security research” — a euphemism for developing future weapons.

Israel has proven adept at milking the security research program that von Bose helped to prepare.

Curious

Considering his strong connections to Israel, I was curious about why von Bose was deemed suitable for a hospital that mainly serves Palestinians. So I sent a query by email to Tom Ogilvie-Graham, the hospital’s CEO.

His reply was curt: “I shall look into some of the points you make but I am extremely busy at present, focusing on providing the best service in difficult times for our Palestinian patients, and shall not be able to respond in the near future, let alone by the deadline that you have tried to impose.”

For the record, I did not try to impose any deadline. Rather, I had stated that I would be grateful for a reply to my three questions within a three-day period. Two of those questions were so simple that they could have been answered with either a “yes” or a “no.”

Ogilvie-Graham’s own career might offer some clues as to why he was in no hurry to address important, if simple, questions. He is a retired brigadier-general in the British Army, whose first posting was in the north of Ireland. He later participated in the Anglo-American attack against Iraq in 1991.

Ogilvie-Graham appears to have swallowed quite a lot of propaganda during his three decades of military service. On the 10th anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, he wrote: “Anyone who questions why we went to Afghanistan or Iraq, I refer back to 9/11. The world changed on that day. I have done everything in my power to help the UK effort in dealing with the bad guys since then and with some success.”

No doubt, the doctors and nurses at the Saint John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital do excellent work. One Palestinian source told me that its services are “indispensable.”

According to its website, the hospital is the only charitable provider of expert eye care in Gaza and the West Bank. As charities depend on donations from ordinary people, they must be held to the highest ethical standards.

The board of this hospital has a great deal of explaining to do. A hospital treating Palestinians should not be run by someone who thinks that military occupations are defensible.

For that is what Ogilvie-Graham appears to think. He has suggested that atrocities committed by extremists in New York and Washington provide a justification for the US and UK to occupy and destroy Afghanistan and Iraq.

And why should Herbert von Bose, an enabler of Israeli terror, now be considered as charitable to Palestinians?

Update: Shortly after the publication of this article, I received a statement from Tom Ogilvie-Graham. It argued that the “security research” activities which Herbert von Bose oversaw in the European Commission were “purely civilian” and “without any military aspect, dealing for example with technologies for border control, crisis management in case of natural disasters and communication between fire brigades and police forces.”

The statement added: “After retirement in 2013, Mr. von Bose has become involved in voluntary activity within the Johanniterorden in Germany, a charity organization with focus on hospitals, homes for the elderly, ambulance services etc. Through the close relationships of these organizations he was invited to be a member of the board of St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group.”

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David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War (Pluto, 2013). His earlier book is Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation (Pluto, 2011).