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November 5, 2015 7:30 am

Times of London Revives Anti-Israel Smear Over Ethiopian Blood Donations

avatar by Adam Levick

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New Ethiopian immigrants reach Israel during Operation Solomon in 1991.

New Ethiopian immigrants reach Israel during Operation Solomon in 1991.

The November 4th edition of the Times of London includes a review by David Aaronovitch of a new exhibit at the Jewish Museum in London titled Blood: Uniting and Dividing Aaronovitch explains that the exhibit explores the subject of blood through the lens of Jewish religion, culture, history and antisemitism.

Though the review mostly deals with the exhibit’s focus on the way in which blood has been used to demonize and vilify Jews, Aaronovitch also notes the following:

To its credit the exhibition also reminds visitors that in the 1990s the Israeli blood donation services took blood from Ethiopian immigrants, then routinely discarded it for no other good reason apparently than the race of the donors

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However, as my colleague Hadar Sela has demonstrated, the definitive report on that incident by former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon, which was undertaken in 1996, found that the disposal of Ethiopian blood donations during that time was not motivated by race. Rather, it was merely a failure by the blood services administrators (MDA) to update an earlier (medically sound) directive from 1984, which related to the fear of spreading Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

The Navon report concluded that “at the time the health services were worried by findings connected to the prevalence of diseases such as Malaria, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis among the Ethiopian immigrants from ‘Operation Moses’.”

The Commission ultimately concluded that Israeli public health officials acted out of purely professional motivation, “without any trace of racism” toward Ethiopian immigrants.

Sela (who worked for decades as a community nurse) also reminded readers that the risk of the transmission of HIV through donated blood was first recognized in the early 80s and standardized testing of blood donations for HIV (and Hepatitis) began around 1992. Israeli authorities, Sela argued, were motivated by the need to address the very real international problem concerning infectious disease transmission through blood transfusions. To this day, you can’t be a blood donor in Israel (regardless of your skin color) if you’ve lived in a country in which Malaria is endemic until three years have passed by since leaving that country — as well as for a whole list of other reasons.

Of course, it should be noted that other countries, such as the US, have similar prohibitions on donating blood if you were born or have ever lived in some African countries that have a high rate of HIV infection.

Bottom line: there appears to be no evidence to support Aaronovitch’s claim that, in the 90s, Ethiopian blood was discarded due merely to “the race of the donors.”

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  • June Getraer

    Interestingly, the USA guidelines prohibit accepting blood donations from anyone who lived in Great Britain during certain periods of time in the1980s and 1990s due to the spread of mad cow disease there at that time..

  • Edna

    Any returning tourist coming from a country that has a tropical endemic disease is prohibited from giving blood in Canada.

    In fact one is ALWAYS asked BEFORE giving blood, whether one has been to a list of countries that have these diseases.

    NOTHING TO DO WITH EITHER RACE OR RELIGIIN.

    This is a health safety precautionary exercise, and I believe the ruling exists in most other countries as well.

  • David Aaronovitch is not always anti-Israel. In this case it seems he was just plain ignorant, a common failing in the media these days, especially as regards Israel.

  • Of course there’s no evidence to support such a claim – MDA & the other medical services & the Israeli hospitals need blood too often, too urgently, to simply discard any usable blood. Doing so would endanger all who live in Israel – Jews, arabs & Christians.

  • ART

    Before a Jew disseminates negative commentary the facts should be double checked. If the facts are wrong damage is done and the inaccurate comments will be quoted and used to harm Jews. One should remember US blood banks reject blood if one has spent more than a limited amount of time in the UK and Ireland because of possible exposure to Mad Cow disease. Visits to much of Africa is a disqualifier

  • Ephraim

    Just another ordinary day for the antisemitic press.

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