February 2018 Media Watch – JVP Health Advisory Council
February 1, 2018
Welcome to the sixth edition of the monthly Health and Human Rights Media Watch. Members of the Health Advisory Council monitor relevant organizations and websites and compile a list of important news and issues which are summarized here. These newsletters will be posted on our website and archived as a resource.
If you wish to join this effort, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to share the newsletter with your colleagues and communities and encourage them to join the JVP Health Advisory Council. Thanks to all who have contributed!
American mental health clinicians and psychiatrist Samah Jabr called on the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) to reconsider its decision to hold its 2019 international meeting in Israel due to Israel’s long-standing human rights violations. Coalitioning with the USA Palestine Mental Health Network, JVP Health Advisory Council launched a petition campaign in early January that now has over 960 signatories. Please consider signing here. This effort has provoked a reply from the IARRP and heated discussion and pushback in Israel.
The Human Rights Center of the UC Berkeley School of Law published NoSafeSpace, an examination of the medical and psychological consequences of repeated and frequent tear gas exposure on Palestinian refugees. Working with residents of Aida and Dheisheh Camps they documented frequent, wide spread, indiscriminate and primarily unprovoked exposures as well as high levels of exposure to stun grenades, skunk water, pepper spray, rubber bullets, live ammunition, and direct canister hits indoors and outdoors. There were testimonies relating to the acute respiratory, skin and eye impacts as well as fainting, seizures, miscarriages, and other concerning chronic conditions, but no documented medical findings. High levels of anxiety and depression, including sleep disruption, acute stress responses, and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder were documented. There was wide spread concern that the tear gas currently being used is more potent than in the past and thus more dangerous acutely and chronically.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights issues a detailed weekly report on human rights violations in the OPT which are largely ignored by the US media. As an example, the week of January 11-17, 3 civilians including 2 children were killed, 112 civilians were wounded from live bullets, rubber coated bullets, and tear gas canisters, 12 demonstrators were arrested, Israeli warplanes targeted a tunnel in southern Gaza, and Israeli forces conducted a total of 80 incursions into Palestinians communities with 101 arrests, 38 of them in Jerusalem. There were several shooting incidents targeting Gaza fishing boats, the closure of Gaza persisted, Israeli settlers began a road between Nablus and Qalqilya, and dozens of temporary checkpoints were set up and others were re-established in the West Bank.
The Israeli Knesset intends to vote on Wednesday, 03 January 2018, to amend the Penal Code in order to legalize the use of the death penalty against those involved in murders while carrying out “terrorist operations”. This provides legitimacy to the practice of extrajudicial executions. It should be noted that the policy of assassinations and extra-judicial executions has been adopted by the Israeli forces as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights has monitored the implementation of hundreds of assassinations that claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinian civilians.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is concerned that the Gazan health sector is at risk for imminent collapse due to shortages of medications. Medical Aid for Palestinians reports that severe restrictions of electricity and medical supplies are having a profound negative impact on the individual health of Gazans as well as on public health. Public health is impacted by the inability to operate sanitation and water purification facilities. The ability to provide hospital and office based medical care is severely curtailed by daily prolonged electricity blackouts, Medication and supply shortages, and damage to electronic equipment such as laboratory and radiology equipment which is subject to frequent power surges. Neonatal ICU’s are dangerously overcrowded and frequent power outages require manual ventilation of intubated neonates.
GISHA, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement reports that restrictions on travel to and from Gaza have been even further restricted. For the year 2017, passage at the Erez Crossing was 50% less than in 2016. A detailed report entitled “50 Shades of Control” reveals the extent of interference with daily life by IDF agents and includes, among other aspects of the question, the devastating effects on health.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono visited the Palestinian Al-Quds University on Dec. 27th, where he pledged to work to strengthen the working relationship between the Palestinian university and the Government of Japan. Japan has been contributing financial and technical support to Al-Quds University since the establishment of the Medical Complex in 1998, when Japan provided the Medical Complex with equipment. President of the University Dr. Abu Kishek told the Japanese Foreign Minister that Japan’s contribution has allowed Al-Quds University Medical Complex to “play a pivotal role in the improvement of the quality of healthcare in the occupied territories, which has for long been underserved and neglected.”
Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the funeral of Hussein Atallah, 57, who died from cancer inside Israel’s Ramla prison, in what his family is calling a case of medical neglect. Atallah was sentenced to 35 years of jail of which he served 23. He was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. Prisoners’ rights groups accused the Israeli Prison Services of medically neglecting Atallah and not providing him with necessary and adequate treatment, which they say led to his death.
Addameer adds this information to the extensive coverage about the dire situation of Palestinian political prisoners–especially Palestinian children in prison. The arrest and imprisonment of 16 yr-old Ahed Tamimi is helping to shine the international lens on the issue of Israel’s flagrant human rights abuses of Palestinian children held in detention for acts such as hitting or throwing stones at soldiers or military vehicles. As this article states, the number of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons has more than doubled in the past three years. Currently there are about 350 children in detention. Israel is obliged by international law (the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Convention on the RIghts of the Child) to respect the human rights of all children in their custody.
In a related article, the US State Department denies information about this.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is the major source of health care, food security, shelter, water and sanitation, and education for 5 million Palestinian refugees. The total US contribution in 2017 was more than $350 million; the Trump Administration has announced it will be giving only $60 million this year. In this Lancet comment, UNRWA calls “on the good will of people all over the world to stand with us in solidarity and help #FundUNRWA to protect human welfare and dignity.”
UNRWA also released an official statement on the devastating impact this will have.
Here is a sample of the wide range of commentary on the impact of the US withholding of UNRWA funding.
In Israel, Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers lack legal status and access to basic services and rights. They do not have healthcare, employment, freedom of movement, higher education, and other basic services that Israeli citizens and legal residents enjoy. Most work under the table in low-paying and often dangerous jobs. They are not granted refugee status and are now being threatened with deportation to countries where they are at great risk. There are now Israeli voices in academia and in the religious community opposing the deportations and calling for the hiding of refugees in the spirit of Anne Frank.
B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories reveals Israel is exploiting the West Bank to process waste produced in Israel. It is less expensive than constructing processing plants in Israel and pollution and safety regulations go largely unenforced.
B’Tselem focuses on restriction of movement and its effects on Palestinians. One incident reported involves an IDF soldier who struck a Palestinian youth in the head with his heavy gun, resulting in bleeding from the boy’s ear and gradual decrease of consciousness. This is consistent with a basilar skull fracture. An Al-Jazeera documentary reveals the health consequences of IDF restriction of ambulance movements in the West Bank and Gaza. Deaths occur on a regular basis when ambulances attempting to take critically ill patients to hospitals where advanced medical care can be provided.
The health of Palestinians who are injured by IDF or settler actions is endangered further by the refusal of the courts to hold the offending party financially responsible. This is contrary to international law.