PROJECT ROZANA ACHIEVES MILESTONE DESPITE MALEVOLENT CAMPAIGN


Project Rozana has been granted Interim Full membership of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).

The decision was announced this week. Membership of ACFID, currently limited to 130 members working in 90 developing countries, sets up Project Rozana to progress its accreditation with DFAT and put it in line to receive significant Australian Government grants.

The Australian-based NGO, promoting healthcare among Israelis and Palestinians, joins a select group of Australian organisations actively working in the international aid and development sector.

ACFID is the peak body for Australian NGOs involved in international development and humanitarian action. It plays a key partnership role with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

However, the process to ACFID membership was far from smooth.

Project Rozana’s history as a ‘child’ of Hadassah Australia has drawn the ire of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), which lobbied hard to have the application rejected. Once news broke that Project Rozana was seeking ACFID membership, APAN issued a scathing rebuke, describing its work as “neo-colonial at best (and) a cynical use of Palestinians for the Israeli cause at worst.”

In response, the Chair of Project Rozana International, Ron Finkel AM (pictured right), together with Deputy Chair, Dr Jamal Rifi AM (pictured left), rejected the criticism. They regarded it as “misplaced and a poorly conceived attack on many passionate Palestinian doctors, nurses, therapists and educators” who have lauded the work of Project Rozana since it was established in Melbourne in 2013.

Mr Finkel said that,

“Project Rozana enjoys the full support of the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel.

 

Our Mission was embraced by former PA Minister of Health, Dr Hani Abdeen, his successor, Dr Mai al-Kaila, the first woman to hold that office, and Dr Riad Malki, the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

 

We also enjoy the support of senior Palestinians including, Walid Nammour, CEO of East Jerusalem-based Augusta Victoria Hospital, and Izzat Abdulhadi, Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia.”

On the Israeli side, the Government has thrown its support behind the wide-ranging programs that have been developed and delivered by Project Rozana.

Among the endorsees are…

  • Israeli Minister of Health, Nitzan Horowitz,
  • Minister for Regional Development, Issawi Frej, only the second Muslim minister in the history of Israel.
  • Israel’s former Ambassador to Australia, Mark Sofer who said,

“We have established a respected position in the region with strong support and ‘buy-in’ from both sides at the highest levels, and from active partners in the region. It would be very difficult to provide the range of training and services we do without being independent or carrying ‘baggage’ that would cause concern among Palestinians or Israelis.”

Mr Finkel said acknowledgement of the bona fides of Project Rozana from The Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), one of the most respected NGOs operating in the Middle East, had proven to be a game-changer for its standing across the political and national divide.

In a letter to the Sydney Peace Foundation in June 2020, John Lyndon, ALLMEP’s Executive Director, said,

“At a time when many in the Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding field are struggling to relate to the dual crises of COVID-19 and the potential for West Bank annexation, Project Rozana is delivering measurable results, positively impacting lives, and demonstrating the gains that can be achieved via cooperation and partnership, rather than unilateral actions.”

Dr Jamal Rifi, whose work in southwest Sydney to vaccinate vulnerable people against Covid-19 was cited in the media and in the NSW Parliament, said,

“Project Rozana is viewed as an apolitical entity and a neutral player with an acknowledged track record.

 

Our focus is the health and wellbeing of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza. We work tirelessly to train Palestinian health workers in Israel in order to build Palestinian self-sufficiency in its health network.

 

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians volunteer to drive these children from their homes to hospitals in Israeli, via the checkpoints on the border of Gaza and the West Bank. Without this support, many Palestinian families would be unable to afford to high cost of commercial transport.

 

It is the critically and chronically-ill Palestinian children who would suffer if organisations like APAN were successful in disenfranchising us,” he said. “The wellbeing of children should be the guiding principle, not their nationality, religion or gender, but some prefer to play politics with their lives.”

Dr Rifi also acknowledged the support of organisations like World Vision Australia whose seed funding in 2016 allowed for the establishment of a pilot program that became the Binational School of Psychotherapy (BSPT) at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

The BSPT, which was founded by Project Rozana, is the leading agency in the Middle East training Palestinian and Israeli child psychologists. It received a €750,000 grant from the European Union Partnership for Peace program in July, 2020.

Mr Finkel said,

“It could not have come at a more critical time for Israeli and Palestinian children. Many children are grappling with mental health issues caused by COVID-19 and exacerbated by the challenges of living in a regional conflict zone.”


Both Ron Finkel and Jamal Rifi agree that acceptance into ACFID is a milestone for the organisation and recognition that Australia, a minnow on the global stage, is a giant in the world of humanitarian aid and advocacy.

This positive news supports our Mission of building bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health.