This is a guest post by Yochanan Visser of Missing Peace.
Last week the Dutch Christian daily ‘Trouw’ reached a new low when it published a vicious article about prenatal care in Israel entitled: “The chosen people have to be perfect”.
The writer, Ilse van Heusden, gave birth to a healthy baby boy while temporarily living in Israel.
She succeeded in portraying the prenatal care in Israel as a government instigated ‘military operation’ aimed at the production of babies as perfect as possible.
Apart from distortions and lies the article contained many accusations and insinuations which are reminiscent of classic anti-Semitic rants.
After the publication of the article we [Missing Peace] contacted ‘Trouw’ with a request to allow the publication of an op-ed in which we could debunk the false claims and lies in Van Heusden’s article.
‘Trouw’ did not even bother to respond, nor did the editors respond to a similar request by the Dutch branch of the Likud party.
Here is a prime example of the anti-Semitic content of the article:
To be pregnant in Israel is comparable to a military operation. Countless echos and blood tests should produce the perfect baby, nothing can be left to the luck of the draw. The state demands healthy babies and a lot of them too.
This was later followed by an outrageous lie about child allowances in Israel.
What makes things even more emotionally charged is the Israeli demand to produce many children. The state promotes the birth of children by supplying, among other things, a considerable child allowance.
To support these outrageous claims, she misused a quote made by former Minister of the Interior Shlomo Benizri in 2002. At the time Benizri declared: “the fear of losing Israel’s unique character obligates us to take action so as not to become a minority in our own country.”
Of course Van Heusden knew very well that Benizri was not talking about more Jewish babies, but about the influx of illegal immigrants and foreign workers.
She then suggested that the way Israel promotes having children is comparable to Arafat’s policy of using the womb of Palestinian women as a weapon.
It is also a lie that the state promotes child birth with considerable child allowances.
In fact, since 2002, the Israeli government has considerably reduced the level of child allowances. This reduction rose to as high as 70% for a family with 8 children.
An average child now receives 35 Euros ($44) per month.
That is far below the Netherlands where child allowance is an average of 120 Euro ($152) per month for children born before 1995, and roughly 75 Euro ($95) for children born since then.
Furthermore, this summer thousands of Israelis demonstrated against the fact that parents themselves had to pay for daycare of their children up till the age of five years (The Israeli government recently reduced the age to three years).
After writing that she was diagnosed with the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) virus and as a result was requested to conduct an additional test, Van Heusden exclaimed:
I was surprised about the spasmodic attitude about this test and the previous one. After all children are loved and honored here and Israel is a paradise when it comes to having children … But the flipside of the story is that having children is a demand and a discussion about that demand is not possible.
In actual fact, the prenatal program in Israel consists of recommendations only; a woman can refuse to conduct any test at all stages of pregnancy.
Van Heusden then compared the Israeli prenatal care to the Dutch system which she holds in high esteem:
Every time I had to undergo such a test (diabetes blood test) it caused distress. In the Netherlands my first pregnancy was without problems and it was dealt with by the obstetrician accordingly. I was boring but ‘boring was good’, explained the obstetrician.
I am healthy and not in the category of the Ashkenazi Jews … yet I had to experience twelve echo tests and four blood tests”.
Writing about the birth of her sonVan Heusden said:
finally we held this little baby boy in our arms that went through all those tests. When we admired his little fingers and toes we saw that one of his toes was too small. His personal revenge on the Israeli health system.
It is obvious that Van Heusden twisted everything that was done to safeguard her health and that of her child into an attempt to prove that Israel is a racist state which has a system to produce perfect babies.
Her claims are so outrageous that rebuttal seems beyond the pale.
However to understand the viciousness of the claims in her article it is nevertheless useful to provide some basic facts about Israeli prenatal care and the health system in general.
First of all, prenatal care in Israel is organized according to World Health Organization recommendations and is now on a higher level than that in the Netherlands.
Furthermore, Van Leusden was diagnosed with the CMV virus, which is the sole explanation for the many tests she had to undergo. In her article she admits that CMV can cause severe damage to the fetus.
Several Israeli women wrote us that on an average, 4 to 5 echo (ultrasound) tests are usual and not 12 as in the case of Van Leusden. Another woman from northern Israel claimed that her twins owed their lives to these echo tests.
Van Leusden’s criticism about the diabetes blood test is completely unjustified. This test – standard procedure in all modern medical systems – is designed to detect gestational diabetes; a disorder which can have serious and even fatal consequences for mother and child.
Through this type of advanced prenatal care, Israel has managed over the last 35 years to reduce the infant mortality rate by almost 70% (24.6 per 1000 infants in 1973 compared to 3.8 per 1000 in 2008).
A similar figure was reached among the Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank (now the lowest in the entire Middle East: 11 per 1000 compared to 58 in 1968 and 61 in Iraq nowadays).
It is also the reason Israel now has a lower infant mortality rate than the Netherlands, which has one of the worst rates in Western Europe.
High quality care
The high quality of Israeli health care is in part due to prevention programs such as prenatal care. There are nationwide population examinations for breast and colon cancer. Blood tests are almost standard during visits to a doctor.
As a result people are living longer (81.6 years in Israel compared with an average of 79.5 in the OECD). Israel has one of the highest cancer survival rates in the world (84% breast cancer survival rate in 2009). The same applies to the survival rate after a stroke (CVA) and Myocardial Infarction.
All this was achieved with a health budget which is approximately 60% lower than in the Netherlands ($2,165 per person per year compared with $5144 in the Netherlands) and a number of hospital beds that is far below the OECD average (2 per 1000 compared with 3.5 in OECD countries).
Of course all of this data was also at Van Heusden’s disposal.
However, she chose to write a libelous article where care for an unborn child in Israel was deliberately presented as a military operation and as a political weapon born out racist motives.
When an Israeli caretaker finally had enough of her complaints about the excellent prenatal care in Israel and made a sarcastic joke about the need for ‘the chosen people to be perfect’, she used it to make her point.
One ‘Trouw’ reader summarized the article as follows:
Subtle article by the way, it even manages to bring good infant care in Israel in the vicinity of “eugenics” and thus comparing it to Nazism.
Indeed such articles can normally be found on the websites of white supremacists such as David Duke or on anti-Semitic sites such as Jew Watch.
The fact that a Dutch Christian mainstream paper published it should sound alarms in The Netherlands.
The paper should issue an apology and dissociate itself from writers like Ilse van Heusden.
Trouw’s article deserves to be exposed to a wider non-Dutch speaking audience. Here’s your chance to let Trouw know how appalling this is. Send your considered comments to Trouw’s editorial team – firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/Bruce Berrien, flickr/juanktru.