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December 12, 2013 12:49 am
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MDA Blasts Media, Politicians Over ‘Dangerously Misleading’ Story About Rejection of Blood From Ethiopian MK

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Pnina Tamanu Shata. Photo: Wikipedia.

Executives at Israeli ambulance service, Magen David Adom (MDA), bitterly responded to politicians and media outlets Wednesday night, over a story that broke earlier in the day, which they say falsely painted the humanitarian organization as racist.

During a blood drive hosted by the group at Israel’s parliament, Ethiopian Knesset Member, Pnina Tamanu Shata, was told that if she wished to donate, her blood would be frozen. Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot which first published the story said that Shata was told that she had a “special type of blood of the Ethiopian community.” The incident, which was captured by news crews, prompted harsh accusations of racism, and condemnation from local politicians.

Sharply criticizing Yediot, Erik Levis, a spokesperson for American Friends of Maden David Adom (AFMDA) told The Algemeiner that the paper “made a racial issue out of something that wasn’t a racial issue.”

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“This is strictly a health-related story that has degenerated – without merit – into a story about alleged racism and discrimination based on ethnicity,” he said.

Describing the story as “bogus,” “dangerously misleading” and “advocacy journalism gone wrong,” Levis said that the organization was concerned that in the end the report “might cost Israeli lives.”

Explaining that although MDA does reject blood from people born, or who lived in, some sub-Saharan and Caribbean countries Levis made clear that the policy was irrespective of race, ethnicity or color, and that it was in line with international guidelines.

“MDA takes blood donations from native-born Israelis of Ethiopian descent regularly. MDA categorically denies this incident was born out of discriminatory practices,” the group said in an email to The Algemeiner.

“This has nothing to do with a person’s race,” said Prof. Eilat Shinar, MDA’s director of blood services. “If I had lived for several years working as a doctor in sub-Saharan Africa or in Britain, I too would be ineligible to donate blood in Israel or in most countries in the world. The safety of Israel’s blood supply and health of blood recipients is paramount.”

“While the risk of any type of pathogen is relatively small from an Ethiopian Israeli who’s lived in Israel for years, it’s Israeli Ministry of Health policy, based on international protocols, to try to reduce exposure to near zero percent for the safety of blood recipients.”

“Blood donations are also deferred from people who’ve lived in Britain between 1980 to 1996 because of potential exposure to mad cow disease,” MDA added.

Popular blogger, Elder of Ziyon, pointed out that the International Red Cross guidelines for people who wish to donate blood, say that “You should not donate if you are at risk for contracting HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).”

Among the activities that “would cause you to be at risk,” is being born in, or having lived in “Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, since 1977.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration likewise recommends similar guidelines.

In Canada, Elder of Ziyon points out, all potential donors are asked “Were you born in or have you lived in Africa since 1977?”

Ann Lesser, a white South African-born member of AFMDA’s National Board of Directors told The Algemeiner that these same rules apply to her, and she has no objections.

“I have never been able to donate blood when I visit Israel, which I fully understand. MDA told me this 10 years ago and I understand the reasoning behind it,” she said.

Politicians reacted to the incident from across the  political spectrum, expressing solidarity with Shata.

“I am good enough to serve the state and in the Knesset,” Shata told Yediot. “But for some reason to give blood I am not good enough.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “telephoned Shata about the incident and said that there should be a review of the criteria for blood donations by Ethiopians,” The Times of Israel reported.

Calling for a review of Israel’s laws on blood donation Israel’s President Peres said that “It is forbidden that we should differentiate between blood and blood in the State of Israel.”

But Rob Rosenthal, Chief Marketing Officer at American Friends of Magen David Adom, said the comments from the politicians were tantamount to “bullying a kid who you know can’t fight back.”

“There is no reason why any politician should take out or advance their own agendas on MDA which is an apolitical organization,” he said. “MDA’s role in Israeli society is too important and too critical to have these kinds of altercations because it distracts from saving lives.”

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  • Ariel Shalem

    The mud slinging media pulled this off last year when they wrongly hyped a story about Ethiopian women and birth control. They were scolded then for malicious rabble rousing, but apparently didnt learn the important lesson that accurate media reporting and research is critical if you want to affect social injustices. Every time I hear a story like this now, I have to first suspect that there is some blind liberal instinct at work. Anything goes when looking to bash the Zionists! Bash them now and run a small back page correction piece later-its only at the expense of the Jews reputation (which is ruined anyway!)

  • abraham Weizfeld

    If, as stated “Among the activities that “would cause you to be at risk,” is being born in, or having lived in “Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, since 1977.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration likewise recommends similar guidelines.” then why is one from Ethiopia banned from donating blood!

  • Ilana

    I was also disgusted with Ynetnews for posting such a badly distorted article and even put it on fb. Then politicians jumped on the band wagon, including some from Yesh atid.

    Shame on them all for needlessly smearing MDA and Israel

  • Dov Meir

    The Media is ill after race cases. I will suggest that the reporters that are so eager to publish such cases and condemn them should be the first to receive Ethiopians donations of blood

  • Stuart E. Hersh

    Alfred Rosenberg, the former Nazi philosopher, could have written this for Yediot. It implies that MDA has a Blood and Race policy.

    For MDA, I would suggest accepting the donation then test it (in a lab, away from the public and the well-meaning donor). If there is a problem, discard that blood without causing embarrassment or emotional trauma to the donor.

  • Peter buckland

    No racism here clearly the moral and imperative decision by the bloods transfusion system to keep blood safe (something I have been trying to do in uk but not succeeded)

  • SHmuel HaLevi

    Blood know how has vastly increased in the last decades. Many donors, including us, white, American and white South African, are not allowed to donate due to the medications we are required to take. Others gave other deficiencies and the Israeli Ministry of Health I believe has strict protocols mandating all blood banks.
    The MK in question, according to reports in the media, has pulled the same stunt before…
    That did not preclude Lapid from issuing veritable threats against the MDA and many others. Repugnant specimens such as that lurk about. Lapid comes from political line of discriminatory folk. His father associates are on record proclaiming that “there is nothing wrong with being a bit anti-Semitic”.
    Both of them knowingly and again caused terrific harm to us as a people, the State and the MDA.

  • Bernard Ross

    what ignorance

  • EthanP

    It is widely known (by anyone with any knowlege) that native Africans irrespective of race are often carriers of a number of blood born diseases. Tropics not race. I would be equally concerned about the blood of most native Asians as well.

    • Alter

      Ethiopian Tigritian Jews are Jews-Jews. They have Jewish blood and regardless of ethnicity, a transfer of pure Jewish blood can kill only descendants of Western converts.

  • Hermione Du Toit

    Why make a fuss. Black or White if from Africa our blood is always suspect!

  • Alter

    – Shata was told that she had a “special type of blood of the Ethiopian community.- What type of Ethiopian blood?
    Tigrigna blood of Jews-Jews or blood of Amharic speaking Ethiopians. There are Kushites with Edomite blood too, so it has nothing to do with race.

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