December 28, 2018: Statement on Dr. Ruchama Marton
We wish to express our dismay at the news that Dr. Ruchama Marton, founder of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, has not been invited to speak at the 30th anniversary of the founding of the organization. We have worked with Dr. Marton over many years, both on our health and human rights delegations to Israel/Palestine and on her visits to the U.S., some of which we have co-sponsored. This collaboration has been essential to our ability to inform and educate the U.S. public and health care professionals and to understand the impact of occupation. Dr. Marton is a voice of conscience in challenging times. She has been critical in linking health outcomes with human rights, in exploring the dangers to Israeli society of claiming permanent victimhood status to justify policies towards Palestinians, and in exploring physician behavior and allegiances and mental health issues in the Israeli prison systems. We have tremendous respect for her work, speaking out for the human rights of prisoners in Israeli prisons and for her brave support for the boycott, divestment, sanction movement. We view Dr. Marton as a seminal figure in the struggle for health and human rights in Israel/Palestine and cannot understand how she could have been excluded from addressing this important meeting.
Amy Alpert, speech pathologist, Sonia Dettman, MSW, Maxine Fookson, NP, Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH, Seth Kramer, public health graduate student, Alan Meyers, MD, Alice Rothchild, MD, Rachel Rubin, MD, Peter Sporn, MD
Jewish Voice for Peace, Health Advisory Council
November 26, 2018: Congressional hearing with Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei of Gaza
CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON MENTAL HEALTH IN THE GAZA STRIP
Thursday, November 29, 2018
12:00 noon-1:30 p.m.
Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2203
lunch with RSVP as below
For the last decade, the socioeconomic situation in the Gaza Strip has been in steady decline. Unemployment is over 46%, nearly 65% among youth. The blockade on land, air and sea imposed by Israel following the Hamas takeover of the Strip in 2007 has devastated markets, with the overwhelming majority of residents now dependent on humanitarian assistance. Daily electricity has not averaged more than 8 hours, often less. Ingress and egress from Gaza are severely restricted. Three wars have led to thousands of deaths, scores of thousands injured, and widespread destruction of homes and property. All of these conditions have led to an exploding mental health
The panel discussion will highlight the social and psychological suffering, how the population copes with these conditions, and the ways in which NGO’s and other international organizations are attempting to address this catastrophe. There will be time for questions and answers. The event is open to the press.
* Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, General Director, Gaza Community Menta
* Elizabeth Campbell, Director, UNRWA’s Representative Office, Washington, D.C.
* Bill Slaughter, Trustee, US Gaza Mental Health
* Brian K. Barber, Fellow, New American and Institute for Palestinian Studies
* Khaled Elgindy, Brookings Institution
Sponsored by the US Gaza Mental Health
Please RSVP to Info@GazaMentalHealth.org
August 21, 2018: The Weaponization of Health Care
The JVP Health Advisory Council condemns the increasing use of the denial of permits and access to medications and therapies for residents of Gaza by the Israeli government. Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Al Mezan, Gisha, and Adalah have recently petitioned the High Court of Justice to revoke the ruling made by the Political-Security Cabinet in 2017 and more strictly applied in 2018 to deny putative relatives of Hamas members the ability to leave Gaza for medical treatments. Israel officials claim the increase in denials is in response to the “incendiary kites and balloons. An additional reason given recently for exit visa refusals is as collective punishment to Hamas extended family members as a bargaining chip for the return of the body of an Israeli soldier killed in the 2014 war.
A recent inquiry by Gisha noted that 833 requests to leave Gaza in the first three months of 2018 were denied due to a first-degree relationship to a Hamas member, as opposed to 21 denials in all of 2017. These denials include patients suffering from cancer who cannot get treatment in the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s refusal to allow the entry of chemotherapy medications, radiotherapy, molecular therapy, PET scans, and isotope scans. The al-Rantisis Pediatric Hospital in Gaza reported 45 of 60 chemotherapy medications out of stock.
Al Mezan noted that in 2017 the World Health Organization documented an approval rate for medical permits at 54%, the lowest since they began monitoring the numbers in 2008. They reported 54 Gazans, 46 of whom had cancer, died as a result of these policies. Al Mezan reported that Gazans missed at least 11,000 medical appointments in 2017 due to the Israeli authority’s refusal to issue permits in a timely fashion or at all. The numbers in 2018 are more dire, 10-15 % of permits are approved, often after months of waiting and bureaucratic delays. The crisis is compounded by the Palestinian Authority’s decision to reduce essential services to the Gaza Strip in its ongoing battle with Hamas.
We support the statement by the director of Al-Mezan, Issam Younis: “The Israeli government’s restrictions on movement are directly connected to patient deaths and compounded suffering as ill patients seek permits. These practices form part of the closure and permit regime that prevents patients from a life of dignity, and violates the right to life. The closure system must be abolished so that patients have safe access to healthcare in Palestinian hospitals in the occupied Palestinian territories and elsewhere. The victims and their families must have their right to justice and redress upheld.”
The JVP HAC urges all members of the U.S. Congress to oppose the violation of human rights and international law inherent in restricting access to life-saving medical treatments. Clearly, increasing human suffering and death in the Gaza Strip will not make Israelis safer. The kites and balloons are a symptom of a larger disease, the imprisonment of two million Gazans in an increasingly desperate humanitarian catastrophe.
August 5, 2018: Report by Dr. Swee Ang from the Freedom Flotilla al-Awda, stormed by Israeli forces on approaching Gaza
Events from 29 July when the Israeli Navy stormed the Freedom Flotilla al-Awda hijacked and diverted it from its intended course to Gaza to Israel.
By Dr Swee Ang, medical doctor on board the al-Awda, 4 August 2018
The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with USD 15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.
Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent 2 days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group.
The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of 2 persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.
Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.
They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away. Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being lifted up. They attacked the second row by picking on Emelia the Spanish nurse and removed her thus breaking the line. They then approach the door of the wheel house and tasered Charlie the first mate and Mike Treen who were obstructing their entry to the wheel house. Charlie was beaten up as well. Mike did not give way with being tasered in his lower limbs so he was tasered in his neck and face. Later on I saw bleeding on the left side of Mike’s face. He was semi-conscious when I examined him.
They broke into the wheel house by cutting the lock, forced the engine to be switched off and took down the Palestine flag before taking down the Norwegian flag and trampling on it.
They then cleared all people from the front half of the boat around the wheel house and moved them by force and coercion, throwing them to the rear of the deck. All were forced to sit on the floor at the back, except Gerd, Lucy and the vulnerable people who were seated around the table on wooden benches around her. Israeli soldiers then formed a line sealing off people from the back and preventing them from coming to the front of the boat again.
As we entered the back of the deck we were all body searched and ordered to surrender our mobile phones or else they will take it by force. This part of search and confiscation was under the command of a woman soldier. Apart from mobile phones – medicines and wallets were also removed. No one as of today (4 August 2018) got our mobile phones back.
I went to examine Mike and Charlie. Charlie had recovered consciousness and his wrists were tied together with plastic cable ties. Mike was bleeding from the side of his face, still not fully conscious. His hands were very tightly tied together with cable ties and the circulation to his fingers was cut off and his fingers and palm were beginning to swell. At this stage the entire people seated on the floor shouted demanding that the cable ties be cut. It was about half an hour later before the ties were finally cut off from both of them.
Around this time Charlie the first mate received the Norwegian flag. He was visibly upset telling all of us that the Norwegian flag had been trampled on. Charlie reacted more to the trampling of the Norwegian flag than to his own being beaten and tasered.
The soldiers then started asking for the captain of the boat. The boys then started to reply that they were all the captain. Eventually the Israelis figured out that Herman was the captain and demanded to take him to the wheel house. Herman asked for someone to come with him, and I offered to do so. But as we approached the wheel house, I was pushed away and Herman forced into the wheel house on his own. Divina, the well known Swedish singer, had meanwhile broken free from the back and went to the front to look through the window of the wheel house. She started to shout and cry “Stop –stop they are beating Herman, they are hurting him”. We could not see what Divina saw, but knew that it was something very disturbing. Later on, when Divina and I were sharing a prison cell, she told me they were throwing Herman against the wall of the wheel house and punching his chest. Divina was forcibly removed and her neck was twisted by the soldiers who took her back to the rear of the deck.
I was pushed back to the rear of the boat again. After a while the boat engine started. I was told later by Gerd who was able to hear Herman tell the story to the Norwegian Consul in prison that the Israelis wanted Herman to start the engine, and threatened to kill him if he would not do so. But what they did not understand was that with this boat, once the engine stopped it can only be restarted manually in the engine room in the cabin level below. Arne the engineer refused to restart the engine, so the Israelis brought Herman down and hit him in front of Arne making it clear that they will continue to hit Herman if Arne would not start the engine. Arne is 70 years old, and when he saw Herman’s face went ash colour, he gave in and started the engine manually. Gerd broke into tears when she was narrating this part of the story. The Israelis then took charge of the boat and drove it to Ashdod.
Once the boat was on course, the Israeli soldiers brought Herman to the medical desk. I looked at Herman and saw that he was in great pain, silent but conscious, breathing spontaneously but shallow breathing. The Israeli Army doctor was trying to persuade Herman to take some medicine for pain. Herman was refusing the medicine. The Israeli doctor explained to me that what he was offering Herman was not army medicine but his personal medicine. He gave me the medicine from his hand so that I could check it. It was a small brown glass bottle and I figured that it was some kind of liquid morphine preparation probably the equivalent of oromorph or fentanyl. I asked Herman to take it and the doctor asked him to take 12 drops after which Herman was carried off and slumped on a mattress at the back of the deck. He was watched over by people around him and fell asleep. From my station I saw he was breathing better.
With Herman settled I concentrated on Larry Commodore, the Native American leader and an environmental activist. He had been voted Chief of his tribe twice. Larry has labile asthma and with the stress all around my fear was that he might get a nasty attack, and needed adrenaline injection. I was taking Larry through deep breathing exercises. However Larry was not heading for an asthmatic attack, but was engaging an Israeli who covered his face with a black cloth in conversation. This man was obviously in charge.
I asked for the Israeli man with black mask his name and he called himself Field Marshall Ro…..Larry misheard him and jumped to conclusion that he called himself Field Marshall Rommel and shouted how can he an Israeli take a Nazi name. Field Marshall objected and introduced himself as Field Marshall ? Ronan. As I spelt out Ronan he quickly corrected me that his name is Ronen, and he Field Marshall Ronen was in charge.
The Israeli soldiers all wore body cameras and were filming us all the time. A box of sandwiches and pears were brought on deck for us. None of us took any of their food as we had decided we do not accept Israeli hypocrisy and charity. Our chef Joergen had already prepared high calorie high protein delicious brownie with nuts and chocolate, wrapped up in tin foil to be consume when captured, as we know it was going to be a long day and night. Joergen called it food for the journey. Unfortunately when I needed it most, the Israelis took away my food and threw it away. They just told me ”It is forbidden” I had nothing to eat for 24 hours, refusing Israeli Army food and had no food of my own.
As we sailed towards Israel we could see the coast of Gaza in total darkness. There were 3 oil /gas rigs in the northern sea of Gaza. The brightly burning oil flames contrasted with the total darkness the owners of the fuel were forced to live in. Just off the shore of Gaza are the largest deposit of natural gas ever discovered and the natural gas belonging to the Palestinians were already being siphoned off by Israel.
As we approached Israel, Zohar our boat leader suggested that we should start saying goodbye to each other. We were probably 2-3 hours from Ashdod. We thanked our boat leader, our Captain, the crew, our dear chef, and encouraged each other that we will continue to do all we can to free Gaza and also bring justice to Palestine. Herman our Captain, who managed to sit up now, gave a most moving talk and some of us were in tears.
We knew that in Ashdod there will be the Israeli media and film crews. We will not enter Ashdod as a people who had lost hope as we were taken captive. So we came off the boat chanting “Free Free Palestine” all the way as we came off. Mike Treen the union man had by then recovered from his heavy tasering and led the chanting with his mega-voice and we filled the night sky of Israel with Free Free Palestine as we approached. We did this the whole way down the boat into Ashdod.
We came directly into a closed military zone in Ashdod. It was a sealed off area with many stations. It was specially prepared for the 22 of us. It began with a security x-ray area. I did not realise they retained my money belt as I came out of the x-ray station. The next station was strip search, and it was when I was gathering up my belongings after being stripped when I realised my money belt was no longer with me. I knew I had about a couple hundred Euros and they were trying to steal it. I demanded its return and refused to leave the station until it was produced. I was shouting for the first time. I was glad I did that as some other people were parted from their cash. The journalist from Al Jazeera Abdul had all his credit cards and USD 1,800 taken from him, as well as his watch, satellite phone, his personal mobile, his ID. He thought his possessions were kept with his passport but when he was released for deportation he learnt bitterly that he only got his passport back. All cash and valuables were never found. They simply vanished.
We were passed from station to station in this closed military zone, stripped searched several times, possessions taken away until in the end all we had was the clothes we were wearing with nothing else except a wrist band with a number on it. All shoe laces were removed as well. Some of us were given receipts for items taken away, but I had no receipts for anything. We were photographed several times and saw two doctors. At this point I learnt that Larry was pushed down the gangway and injured his foot and sent off to Israeli hospital for check-up. His blood was on the floor.
I was cold and hungry, wearing only one teeshirt and pants by the time they were through with me. My food was taken away; water was taken away, all belongings including reading glasses taken away. My bladder was about to explode but I am not allowed to go to the toilet. In this state I was brought out to two vehicles – Black Maria painted gray. On the ground next to it were a great heap of ruqsacks and suit cases. I found mine and was horrified that they had broken into my baggage and took almost everything from it – all clothes clean and dirty, my camera, my second mobile, my books, my Bible, all the medicines I brought for the participants and myself, my toiletries. The suitcase was partially broken. My ruqsack was completely empty too. I got back two empty cases except for two dirty large man size teeshirts which obviously belonged to someone else. They also left my Freedom Flotilla teeshirt. I figured out that they did not steal the Flotilla teeshirt as they thought no Israeli would want to wear that teeshirt in Israel. They had not met Zohar and Yonatan who were proudly wearing theirs. That was a shock as I was not expecting the Israeli Army to be petty thieves as well. So what had become the glorious Israeli Army of the Six Day War which the world so admired?
I was still not allowed to go to the toilet, but was pushed into the Maria van, joined by Lucia the Spanish nurse and after some wait taken to Givon Prison. I could feel myself shivering uncontrollably on the journey.
The first thing our guards did in Givon Prison was to order me to go to the toilet to relieve myself. It was interesting to see that they knew I needed to go desperately but had prevented me for hours to! By the time we were re-x-rayed and searched again it must be about 5 – 6 am. Lucia and I were then put in a cell where Gerd, Divina, Sarah and Emelia were already asleep. There were three double decker bunk beds – all rusty and dusty.
Divina did not get the proper dose of her medicines; Lucia was refused her own medicine and given an Israeli substitute which she refused to take. Divina and Emelia went straight on to hunger strike. The jailors were very hostile using simple things like refusal of toilet paper and constant slamming of the prison iron door, keeping the light of the cell permanently on, and forcing us to drink rusty water from the tap, screaming and shouting at us constantly to vent their anger at us.
The guards addressed me as “China” and treated me with utter contempt. On the morning of 30 July 2018, the British Vice Consul visited me. Some kind person had called them about my whereabouts. That was a blessing as after that I was called “England” and there was a massive improvement in the way England was treated compared to the way China was treated. It crossed my mind that “Palestine” would be trampled over, and probably killed.
At 6.30am 31 July 2018, we heard Larry yelling from the men’s cell across the corridor that he needed a doctor. He was obviously in great pain and crying. We women responded by asking the wardens to allow me to go across to see Larry as I might be able to help. We shouted “We have a doctor” and used our metal spoons to hit the iron cell gate get their attention. They lied and said their doctor will be over in an hour. We did not believe them and started again. The doctor actually turned up at 4 pm, about 10 hours later and Larry was sent straight to hospital.
Meanwhile to punish the women for supporting Larry’s demand, they brought hand cuffs for Sarah and took Divina and me to another cell to separate us from the rest. We were told we were not going to be allowed out for our 30 minutes fresh air break and a drink of clean water in the yard. I heard Gerd saying “Big deal”
Suddenly Divina was taken out with me to the courtyard and Divina given 4 cigarettes at which point she broke down and cried. Divina had worked long hours at the wheel house steering the boat. She had seen what happened to Herman. The prison had refused to give her one of her medicines and given her only half the dose of the other. She was still on hunger strike to protest our kidnapping in international waters. It was heart-breaking to see Divina cry. One of the wardens who called himself Michael started talking to us about how he will have to protect his family against those who want to drive the Israelis out. And how the Palestinians did not want to live in peace…and it was not Israel’s fault. But things suddenly changed with the arrival of an Israeli Judge and we were all treated with some decency even though he only saw a few of us personally. His job was to tell us that a Tribunal will be convened the following day and each prisoner had been allocated a time to appear, and we must have our lawyer with us when we appear.
Divina by the end of the day became very giddy and very unwell so I persuaded her to come out of hunger strike, and also she agreed to sign a deportation order. Shortly after that possibly at 6 pm since we had no watches and mobile phones, we were told Lucia, Joergen, Herman, Arne, Abdul from Al Jazeera and I would be deported within 24 hours and we would be taken to be imprisoned in the deportation prison in Ramle near Ben Gurion airport immediately to wait there. It was going to be the same Ramle Prison from which I was deported in 2014. I saw the same five strong old palm trees still standing up proud and tall. They are the only survivors of the Palestinian village destroyed in 1948.
When we arrived at Ramle prison Abdul found to his horror that he his money, his credit cards, his watch, his satellite phone, his own mobile phone, his ID card were all missing – he was entirely destitute. We had a whip round and raised around a hundred Euros as a contribution towards his taxi fare from the airport to home. How can the Israeli Army be so corrupt and heartless to rob someone of everything?
We, the six women on board al-Awda had learnt that they tried to completely humiliate and dehumanise us in every way possible. We were also shocked at the behaviour of the Israeli Army especially petty theft and their treatment of international women prisoners. Men jailors regularly entered the women’s cell without giving us decent notice to put our clothes on.
They also tried to remind us of our vulnerability at every stage. We know they would have preferred to kill us but of course the publicity incurred in so doing might be unfavourable to the international image of Israel.
If we were Palestinians it would be much worse with physical assaults and probably loss of lives. The situation is therefore dire for the Palestinians.
As to international waters, it looks as though there is no such thing for the Israeli Navy. They can hijack and abduct boats and persons in international water and get away with it. They acted as though they own the Mediterranean Sea. They can abduct any boat and kidnap any passengers, put them in prison and criminalise them.
We cannot accept this. We have to speak up, stand up against this lawlessness, oppression and brutality. We were completely unarmed. Our only crime according to them is we are friends of the Palestinians and wanted to bring medical aid to them. We wanted to brave the military blockade to do this. This is not a crime. In the week we were sailing to Gaza, they had shot dead 7 Palestinians and wounded more than 90 with life bullets in Gaza. They had further shut down fuel and food to Gaza. Two million Palestinians in Gaza live without clean water, with only 2-4 hours of electricity, in homes destroyed by Israeli bombs, in a prison blockaded by land, air and sea for 12 years. The hospitals of Gaza since the 30 March had treated more than 9,071 wounded persons, 4,348 shot by machine guns from a hundred Israeli snipers while they were mounting peaceful demonstrations inside the borders of Gaza on their own land. Most of the gun-shot wounds were to the lower limbs and with depleted treatment facilities the limbs will suffer amputation. In this period more than 165 Palestinians had been shot dead by the same snipers, including medics and journalists, children and women. The chronic military blockade of Gaza has depleted the hospitals of all surgical and medical supplies. This massive attack on an unarmed Freedom Flotilla bringing friends and some medical relief is an attempt to crush all hope for Gaza. As I write I learnt that our sister Flotilla, Freedom, has also been kidnapped by the Israeli Navy while in international waters.
BUT we will not stop, we must continue to be strong to bring hope and justice to the Palestinians and be prepared to pay the price, and to be worthy of the Palestinians. As long as I survive I will exist to resist. To do less will be a crime.
April 24, 2018: Emergency statement: Gaza protests and Israeli military response
first published in Mondoweiss
Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council: Emergency Statement
Gaza Protests—Israel’s Military Response: Human Rights Under Assault
The Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council (JVP HAC) issues this statement out of grave concern about the Israeli Military’s use of excessive force, including live ammunition and tear gas against protesters in Gaza. For the past four Fridays, demonstrators within Gaza were met by the Israeli military firing live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, and teargas across the border fence. The disproportional response of the Israeli military to a mostly unarmed civilian demonstration reflects a disregard for the basic human rights of Palestinians and for the safety and health of the people of the besieged Gaza Strip, where dire humanitarian conditions exist. This military response violates international law. Of further concern is the obstruction by the Israeli and the United States governments to the United Nations’ issuing a statement condemning these actions.
According to the New York Times, the Israeli military response to these protests has resulted in 37 deaths (4 people under the age of 18) and over 3000 wounded.
Over 1000 of the wounded were hit by live ammunition, 300 by rubber-coated bullets, and 1000 by large doses of tear gas. Among those targeted were journalists (wearing identifying vests)—1 was killed and at least 6 have been wounded, and medics. Those with lethal wounds were shot in the chest, the back, and abdomen. Many also had been shot in the legs, pelvis, and hands. There have been no Israeli injuries.
The Israeli military response violates international law, which requires that lethal force only be used when there is the threat of bodily harm. Given the well-fortified barrier fence, electronic surveillance, and inhospitable terrain, there is no justification for this response. Israeli snipers inflicting life-threatening wounds from considerable distance from the fence constitute violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Eric Goldstein, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch stated, “Israeli soldiers were not merely using excessive force, but were apparently acting on orders that all but ensured a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations.” The Israeli military tweeted that, “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
We speak out as health workers concerned about this ongoing impunity of the Israeli military to use lethal and harmful force on those demonstrating for an end to the brutal occupation and conditions they endure. The context for the weekly protests by the Palestinians is the political reality under which the population lives and suffers— an intransigent and harsh military occupation and siege. In Gaza, over half the population consists of refugees and their descendants forced from their lands when the State of Israel was founded. The Great March of Return, as this protest is called, represents the Palestinian yearning to exercise the right of all refugees to return to their homes—a right guaranteed by international law. The Gaza protests are also demanding an end to Israeli occupation and a lifting of the siege that has devastated the Gaza infrastructure and caused severe shortages and hardships on the 2 million inhabitants of that tiny area of land.
Those wounded in the protests face a health care system that lacks adequate medications and supplies. Electricity restrictions require the use of backup generators to maintain critical services. Patients with wounds beyond the capacity of the Gaza medical system are being denied exit visas to receive care in Israel or on the West Bank. As in past assaults on Gaza where medical facilities and personnel have been targeted, on Friday April 13 an emergency medical clinic near the encampment in Khan Yunis was hit by teargas, causing severe illness symptoms in some of the personnel. Physicians for Human Rights Israel stated “The Palestinian health care system (is) ‘one of the major victims’ of Israel’s blockade.”
The JVP HAC calls for the following:
- A full and impartial investigation of the Israeli military’s actions since March 30 in response to the Gaza protests. The investigation must be conducted by an international human rights body such as the United Nations. The investigation should look at not just the actions of the soldiers at the Gaza border, but the orders from commanding military and government officials.
- An end to the siege on Gaza. This is creating a humanitarian crisis as restrictions are imposed on: basic human services and goods including health supplies and services, food, and the economic infrastructure, leading to massive unemployment, poverty and aid dependence, and the obstruction of the right to movement, thus restricting and delaying transfer of patients for essential medical care outside of Gaza.
- Lethal force must always be a last resort and used ONLY when there is a threat to bodily harm. International law stipulates the conditions under which lethal force can be used. Such conditions are clearly not present and Israeli military preemptive planning including the positioning of “military sharpshooters” at the border fence is a clear violation of international human rights standards.
April 17, 2018: Please read the full report from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel Emergency Delegation to the Gaza Strip.
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel’s delegation returned from the Gaza Strip after providing medical treatment to 380 patients and operating on 15 of them: “In the most advanced hospital in Gaza it felt like the 1970s. If things remain this way, most gunshot casualties will have to undergo amputation.”
March 9, 2018: Social workers are demanding the release of Munther Amira, a Palestinian social worker and human rights activist from Aida Refugee Camp, arrested by Israeli authorities during a protest re: Palestinian children incarcerated for political activities.
Please sign the petition demanding his release.
February 2018: Palestinian Mental Health Workers who are citizens of Israel and Members of Psychoactive- Israeli Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights – issue individual statements protesting the IARPP Conference in June 2019 to be held in Israel
Palestinian Mental Health Workers Statement regarding IARPP Conference June 2019
This letter has been sent by Ms. Abu Haq and her colleagues to Steven Kuchuck, IARPP President, Chana Ullman, IARPP Past President, and Jessica Benjamin, IARPP Board Member
February 6th 2018
Dear IARPP Board Members,
We, the undersigned, are Palestinian mental health professionals, citizens of Israel, mostly psychodynamically oriented, we have studied relational approaches and appreciate them deeply.
We are contacting you with regards to the international conference scheduled to take place in Israel in June 2019. We feel compelled to state our position concerning the request, made by Dr. Samah Jabr, East Jerusalem-based Palestinian psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and other international colleagues, for the Board to reconsider the conference location.
We have been exposed to the key relational concepts, such as intersubjectivity and mutual recognition, and appreciate the way that the relational theory and practice make room for thinking about the mental health impacts of social and political conditions. In this light, we were surprised to discover that IARPP chose to hold its international conference in Israel, despite its longstanding history of human rights abuses, notably the violent occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. In our minds, not taking these ongoing assaults on Palestinian lives and human rights into account when choosing the conference location could be translated as their quiet acceptance by IARPP.
We wish to express our solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues in the Occupied West Bank and Besieged Gaza, who suffer daily from oppression, denial of freedom and chronic violence, including frequent killings of civilians by the Israeli Army, which largely go unpunished. We assert that our Palestinian colleagues have a right to resist the Occupation.
In addition, we would like to point out that holding the conference in Tel Aviv will make it impossible for many of our Palestinian colleagues, who are working hard to try and alleviate our people’s suffering and boost their resilience, to attend this important professional conference. This we see as unjust and unjustified.
Therefore, we propose to hold the conference in another location in the region, such as Cyprus or Jordan, where both Palestinian and Israeli participants can travel. While the Palestinians’ freedom of movement is restricted no matter where they wish to travel, it is easier for those of us trapped in Occupied West Bank and Besieged Gaza to obtain the necessary permits required for traveling to the said countries then to be allowed to enter Israel.
We are full of hope that the IARPP Board will take our appeal seriously and make an ethical choice to side with the oppressed, enabling as many Palestinian colleagues as possible to attend the conference that is about to take place in our region. We are certain that obtaining access to relational ideas and training will enhance Palestinian mental health professionals’ ability to support our people in their daily coping and their struggle for justice.
Manal Abu Haq Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist, IARPP member
Dr Mustafa Qossoqsi, Clinical Psychologist
Hanan Khamis-Zoabi, Developmental Psychologist
Fatima Birro, Clinical Psychologist
Dr Caesar Hakim, Clinical Psychologist
Maya Rabea, Clinical Psychologist
Tony Haddad, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Manal Assi, Clinical Social Worker
Fatina Nabulsi, Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Yoa’d Ganadry Hakim, Clinical Psychologist
Rana Azaiza, Clinical Social Worker
Rana Shehab Naara , Clinical Psychologist
Suzan Ukasha, Clinical Psychologist
Dr Adnan Abu El Hija, Clinical Psychologist
Najla Asmar, Clinical Psychologist
Dr Sfaa GH Naser, Clinical Psychologist
Amira Shahla, Clinical Psychologist
Laila Baransa Farah, Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Amany Ayad, Social Worker, Arts therapist
Ali Jaber Abu-Gosh, Clinical psychology Intern
Maha SakallahTali, Social Worker, Couples And Family Therapist
Rana Shawahdy Social Worker, Psychotherapist
Raed Armaly, Educational Psychology Intern
Gawdat Aslih, Educational Psychology Intern
Public statement by members of “Psychoactive: Mental health professionals for human rights” regarding the 2019 IARPP annual conference
The 2019 annual IARPP conference, due to be held in Israel, has become a matter of fierce controversy following a call to the IARPP board by a group of mental health professionals, headed by psychiatrist Dr Samah Jabr (henceforth, “the Reconsideration Call”). The Reconsideration Call protested the decision to hold the conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, in view of Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territories and lives. The call asks the Board to reconsider this location. The IARPP response to the Reconsideration Call suggested that the conference could address the Occupation by way of a pre-conference, tours of the Occupied Territories and the incorporation of designated panels that would discuss psychoanalytic aspects of the Occupation, but reiterated the Board’s decision concerning the location of the conference.
We, the undersigned members of Psychoactive**, have discussed this matter. In the past, we organized a number of conferences that engaged with mental health aspects of the Israeli Occupation. We appreciate the IARPP’s response to the Reconsideration Call, but find it problematic that the Board was not willing to engage in a more thorough way with the plea of the Palestinian and international professionals.
Holding the annual international conference in Israel is not a technical matter. An international conference held in Israel will be very difficult for Palestinian professionals to access. International professionals who actively support the Palestinian struggle for freedom are also likely to face problems gaining access to the site. Moreover, in the eyes of many, holding an event of this nature in Tel Aviv implies a political position that accepts the Israeli Occupation as a reality with which we/people can live. The Israeli establishment traditionally sees such events as expressions of acceptance of Israel’s policy and the fierce debate in the IARPP network also attests to the political and ideological significance that is ascribed to the conference location.
Some of us have already written to persons on the IARPP Board asking that the Reconsideration Call seriously be taken into account. We now reiterate this in a more formal manner. We suggest that the IARPP Board reconsider its planned location for the 2019 conference – Tel Aviv, Israel – and use the Reconsideration Call as a platform for a genuine, respectful conversation with Palestinian mental health professionals, as well as with the international professionals who support the struggle against the Israeli Occupation.
Manal Abu Hak, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Noga Ariel-Ganor, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Ruth Ben Asher, member of Psychoactive
Varda Blum, member of Psychoactive
Tova Buksbaum, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Yvonne Deutsch, member of Psychoactive
Efrat Even Tsur, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Edna Gam, member of Psychoactive
Chani Glick, member of Psychoactive
Sunny Gordon-Bar, member of Psychoactive
Dorit Gurny, member of Psychoactive
Uri Hadar, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Neta Hemo, member of Psychoactive
Elana Lakh, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Tamar Lavi, member of Psychoactive
Naomi Lippin, member of Psychoactive
Ruchama Marton, member of Psychoactive
Anat Mendelson-Machnes, member of Psychoactive
Maya Mukamel, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Tamar Peleg, member of Psychoactive
Esther Rapoport, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Perle Rine, member of Psychoactive
Asaf Rolef Ben Shahar, member of IARPP
Lirona Rosenthal, member of Psychoactive
Dan Schachter, member of Psychoactive
David Senesh, member of Psychoactive
Nava Sonnenschein, member of Psychoactive
Bella Sosevski, member of Psychoactive
Leora Sotto, member of Psychoactive
Yael Tal Barzilai, member of Psychoactive
Daniel Tsur, member of Psychoactive
Kim Yuval, member of Psychoactive
Effi Ziv, member of IARPP and Psychoactive
Yitzhak Mendelsohn, member of IARPP
* IARPP – International Association for Relational Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
** Psychoactive – Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Elizabeth Berger, MD USA PalMHN
Phone: (215) 740-3090
Over 1000 signatures protest mental health group’s decision to meet in Israel
New York, NY February 12, 2018
Over one thousand mental health workers and professionals have signed a petition protesting the decision of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) to hold its 2019 international conference in Tel Aviv, citing human rights abuses by the state of Israel and discriminatory practices which render full participation of local and international clinicians an impossibility.
Holding the conference in Israel inevitably severely limits conference participation by Palestinian clinicians because of the longstanding imposition of movement restrictions, curfews, and checkpoints by Israel as well as its targeting of community leaders in Palestine–such as the arrest in January 2018 of Munther Amira, a former Secretary General of the Palestine Union of Social Workers and Psychologists. What’s more, the state of Israel has announced in January 2018 its redoubled effort to blacklist international persons suspected of criticism of Israel, who will not be permitted to enter the country. Members of the Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, and members of many other non-violent political action groups have been singled out by the Israeli government. Mental health workers belonging to these and other forbidden organizations will be blocked from entering Israel and deported. In addition, clinicians from a number of neighboring countries in the Middle East are prevented from entering Israel and thus cannot attend the conference.
The leadership of IARPP has responded to the protest with reassuring promises to create a forum for open debate at its Tel Aviv conference. But it is clear that open debate cannot take place in Israel, because of the ongoing human rights violations that preclude open debate. The IARPP accuses the protest of limiting “academic freedom,” but this claim is disingenuous. It is the state of Israel that limits academic freedom.
The choice of Israel as a conference location is a vote of support of the Israeli
government and its apartheid policies.
The petition itself is here:
The petition was launched through the organizations USA-Palestine Mental Health Network and Jewish Voice for Peace, with support from the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network. Their websites are here:
The IARPP website is here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 8, 2018
Contact: Elizabeth Berger MD (215) 740 3090 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alice Rothchild MD (617) 512 3249 email@example.com
Doctors urge mental health group not to meet in Israel
International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) urged to reconsider international meetings in Israel in 2019
American mental health clinicians and renowned psychiatrist Samah Jabr call 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 and the current escalation of attacks on the Palestinian people following President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The clinicians cite the inappropriateness of Israel as the host because of Israel’s state policies of land seizures, restriction of freedom of movement, control over natural resources, extrajudicial assassination and the torture of Palestinian children. They assert that as mental health workers familiar with the impact of violence on the well-being of children, families and communities, and dedication to humanitarian values, they have “an added responsibility to make our voices heard.”
The letter to the Board of IARPP states that locating international conferences (especially for a profession associated with individual and public health) in Israel represents a tacit acceptance of such Israeli state policies and normalizes current policies regarding Palestinians in the occupied territories. The letter goes on to note “It is particularly ironic and painful to see Israel chosen as the site of an international conference when the central theme of the particular organization is the in-depth understanding of human relationships.” By holding the conference in Israel it glosses over the behavior of the State of Israel towards its occupied population and the nearly two million Palestinians living under siege in Gaza. “To object to the choice of Israel as the location of international conferences is a way of bringing the conduct of the state of Israel into the foreground as a subject of discussion and debate, so that the extent of the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people can be acknowledged.”
Clinicians are urged to sign the petition that will be sent to the IARPP. Sign here.
- More on the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy here: http://iarpp.net/
- Read the full letter to the IARPP Board here:
About The USA Palestine Mental Health Network:
The network of American mental health professionals aims to make known the impact of the Israeli occupation of Palestine on the mental health and well being of both Palestinians and Israelis. USA PalMHN is a sibling organization of the well established UK Palestine Mental Health Network.
For more information please visit: https://ukpalmhn.com/usa-palestine-mental-health-network/usa-about-us/ or https://ukpalmhn.com/
About the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council:
A network of JVP members who work in the field of health and use equity and social justice as the lens through which to view the conditions of populations living under occupation and blockade. The work is guided by the World Health Organization’s definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” as well as by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For more information please visit: https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/jvp-health-advisory-council/#mission
The USA Palestine Mental Health Network and the UK Palestine Mental Health Network are co-sponsoring a trip in the spring of 2018 for mental health workers.
From March 25th – April 3rd, learn about:
- life today for the Palestinians living under a brutal military occupation
- trauma within families and how it affects women and children
- violence against children, including imprisonment
- perspectives from our Palestinian and Israeli counterparts
This ten-day tour follows the success of the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network’s study tours in 2016 and 2017.
The aim is to develop close links of equality and solidarity with Palestinian mental health professionals to ensure that the work of the USA and UK Networks reflect their experiences and priorities.
During the 2018 mental health study tour, participants will have unique opportunities to meet with their colleagues and other key organisations and institutions that focus on Palestinian heritage, dignity, and culture. Participants will be provided with analysis about the political realities created by Israeli government policies and how they affect Palestinians who live in the occupied territory as well as within the state of Israel. A broad range of perspectives is gained, with the focus on the agencies of peace in both societies grounded in universal human rights and international law.
Tour participants will also hear stories from local people who share their experiences, hopes and aspirations for the future.
The tour is being facilitated by a small UK company with nearly twenty years of experience in providing alternative tours to the Occupied Palestine Territory (OPT) and Israel. Hotels used will be in Bethlehem and Nazareth and field trips will extend into the surrounding areas such as Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Jaffa/Tel Aviv and Haifa. Visiting the different geographical regions of the deserts, plains, mountains, and the Mediterranean coast add additional interest to the tour itinerary. Travel will be in a private comfortable coach with an expert local driver from a licensed bus company. The group will be kept to a maximum of 18 participants and debriefing sessions will be held most evenings.
The cost of $1400 per person includes the full tour program staying at three-star hotels with half-board (bed, breakfast and evening meal), sharing a twin-bedded room with ensuite facilities, guidance from the tour leader, other day-guides and tips.
Flights, lunches and travel insurance is not included. The cost for those requiring single room accommodation is $1700. The tour price includes a non-refundable registration fee of $300.
All interested applicants should be in good health and able to climb steps and walk over rough terrain. An application form must be completed and a reference will be obtained. When places are confirmed, participants are given a detailed information pack which covers all aspects of the tour including the itinerary. Personal assistance is available to answer any questions and to help participants make the most of this unique opportunity.
As places are limited, don’t delay. We invite those in the US and North America, Central America, and South America to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an application form.
Those elsewhere internationally are invited to contact email@example.com
“Thank you for an extraordinary and valuable experience. There is no other way I could have got access to such a range of people and organisations or seen so much in such a short period of time. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who is interested in knowing the facts behind the political rhetoric.” S Farrant, spring 2017
“The tour provided a superb mix of in-depth encounters with mental health practitioners and overviews of the political and social conditions within which mental health services operate and – without which it would be impossible to understand their dilemmas, struggles and triumphs.”
G Daniel, spring 2016
- PRESS RELEASE: Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)
September 27, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Six Gaza cancer patients die after being denied access to treatment
Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is deeply concerned that five female cancer patients died in August after being prevented from attending hospital appointments outside of Gaza. According to MAP’s information, the deaths of at least five such patients in one month is the highest number of monthly fatalities on record. MAP knows of one further cancer patient death since then. The charity has information on 30 people dying already this year after being prevented from attending treatment outside of Gaza – indicating that 2017 will be the worst year on record. Fourteen of the deaths were of cancer patients.
“Denying women access to potentially life-saving treatment is indefensible”, said Aimee Shalan, CEO of MAP, “and underlines both the severity of the humanitarian emergency in Gaza and the urgent need for man-made barriers to accessing healthcare to be lifted.” [This link includes a petition you could sign]
According to the monthly Gaza healthcare access report of the World Health Organization, the five women who died in August were aged between 26 and 53 years old. Two of the women suffered from colon cancer, one from ovarian cancer, one from breast cancer and one from a rare cancer known as a primitive neuroectodermal tumour.
Since August, a 53-year-old woman with breast cancer- who attended a MAP-supported health centre- also died after she was prevented from accessing treatment outside Gaza. There are very likely additional deaths not recorded by the WHO or MAP.
MAP has persistently highlighted barriers to healthcare in Gaza and across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) for Palestinian patients in general and for cancer patients in particular.It has documented how challenges posed by restrictions on the right to movement for patients and doctors, shortages of essential medicines, and the shortcomings of the health system in the oPt all constitute obstacles to continuous and effective treatment and care for Palestinian women with breast cancer.
This week, a MAP-supported multi-disciplinary breast cancer care team is in Gaza and the West Bank undertaking surgeries, assessing current levels of care provision, and providing training. The specialist team includes surgeons, a clinical oncologist, a radiologist, a clinical nurse and a palliative care specialist.
“The work of this fantastic breast cancer team is an important step towards strengthening the ability of the Palestinian healthcare system to improve treatment pathways and the lives of breast cancer patients, but it can only do so much” added Aimee Shalan. “Israel as the occupying power and all other duty-bearers must remove barriers to accessing medical treatment. As these tragic deaths emphasise, this should begin with ending the decade-long blockade and closure of Gaza.”
The six women cancer patients known to have died after being prevented from accessing treatment outside of Gaza are Faten Ahmed, Kaenat Jaa’rur, Nadia Hamad, Itimad Rabi’e, Muna al-Aila and Ibtesam Nabhan.
MAP encourages the UK and other governments to demand an end to Israel’s closure and blockade of Gaza, deemed “collective punishment” by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross. MAP also encourages the UK and others to support the long-term development of human resources and infrastructure of the Palestinian healthcare system in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
Neil Sammonds, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Medical Aid for Palestinians
E: firstname.lastname@example.org // T: 0207 288 7342
For more information on barriers to access to healthcare in the occupied Palestinian territory:
- Important analysis by Dr. Mads Gilbert
Is “Palestine” the target of an academic boycott in major US medical journals? Publication patterns on occupied Palestine in four key medical journals 1990-2016
Mads Gilbert, MD PhD
Clinic of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital of North Norway and Institute of Clinical Medicine, Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway. Mail: email@example.com
Political influence on public and individual health and health care delivery are key to the manmade preconditions for human rights and development – or destruction – of ‘the human condition’. A deeper understanding of social determinants of health (water, food, human security, sanitation, work, shelter, human rights etc.) is the responsibility of health workers, researchers and editors of medical journals and politicians. These factors lie beyond traditional curative medicine, but still determine inequalities and negative developments of population health. Discussions of ‘political determinants of health’ for Palestinians seems irrelevant or out of bounds for leading medical
journals. The current crisis in Syria is frequently described, and the suffering of civilians, attacks on health care and violent breeches of key international and humanitarian laws are discussed and condemned. Violations of the immunity of health care in Syria are rightly condemned by leading medical journals. This study used relevant key words to explore if similar questions pertinent to
Occupied Palestine territories (oPt) and Palestinian healthcare is a ‘no-go-zone’ for four major US and European medical journals.
Searches were conducted in four major medical journals’ for occurrences of the keywords ‘Gaza’, ‘West Bank’ or the stem ‘Palestin*’ and ‘Israel*’ for the period January 1990 to September 2016, using each journal’s search engine. This study examined the four highest-ranked, peer-reviewed international medical journals: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The New
England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), The Lancet (Lancet) and The British Medical Journal (BMJ). Searches were conducted September 2016.
This study based on key word-searches shows a significant disparity of editorial attention and publication policies on the situation in occupied Palestine and the medical conditions for the Palestinian people. The two European based journals have published significantly more, engaged in
discourses and discussed responsibilities for the dire health condition of the vulnerable Palestinian populations. The US-based journals have published next to nothing on the same critical issues. The medical conditions and deterioration in health care in oPt is currently ignored if not actively
boycotted by the US journals studied. Unlike the situation in Syria, the medical situation in oPt represents longstanding violations of basic human rights and international laws with clear responsibilities on the governments of Israel and USA. The destructive, US-backed Israeli siege of Gaza’s two million inhabitants is in its 9th year and ongoing. The siege combined with repetitious,
disproportionate and indiscriminate military attacks on Gaza and health care infrastructure are the main reasons for the decay in public health and innumerable avoidable deaths.
The seemingly partisan silence of two top US medical journals in response to this Israeli destruction and dislocation of health services in Palestine is biased and unacceptable for scientific medical journals. Medical leaders, including journal editors, who remain inactive and silent, are ‘complicit in a
preventable tragedy that may have long-lasting public-health consequences not only for Gaza, but also for the entire region’, The Lancet stated in 2009 (Editorial, Jan 17, 2009)
- Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council Statement
Impact of the 10 year Siege and the Electricity Crisis on Health in Gaza
June 29, 2017
Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council issues this urgent statement to raise awareness and concern about the life-threatening and dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The situation has been made more critical in recent days by a 40% reduction of the already severely limited supply of electricity by Israel. This catastrophic situation is largely the result of long and short term Israeli policies manipulated and exacerbated by the cynical power struggle between the leadership of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
June 2017 marks the ten year anniversary of the Israeli imposed siege on Gaza and the 50th year of the occupation of Palestinian lands. The two million people of Gaza have born the heaviest brunt of this political situation. Israel’s total control of the air, sea and land is responsible for devastating the economy, destroying the health, environmental, educational and social services network in Gaza. In a land flanked by the Mediterranean Sea, graced with fertile ground and a highly educated population, the political situation has left Gaza without adequate water, electricity and health services. Over 80% of the population is dependent on international aide for basic food supplies. Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world—at 44% overall and for young people coming out of the universities, it is as high as 60%.
The recent reduction of electricity and fuel required for the operation of the sole power plant and for back-up generators deepens the already existing deterioration of life and health for the people of Gaza. The electrical shortage threatens all aspects of public health infrastructure. Due to power shortages, water desalination plants are running at 15% of capacity, the typical family in Gaza receives running water for an average of 12 hours per week. According to the World Health Organization, over 90% of that water is not safe for drinking or cooking. Due to lack of power to sewage treatment facilities, over 108 million liters of untreated waste is piped into the Mediterranean Sea every day and the risk of raw sewage backup into living areas is great.
Under the current power and fuel cuts, the people of Gaza have about three to six hours of electricity per day—coming at totally unpredictable times. This affects every aspect of life and well being.
Hospitals and medical facilities, operating largely on back up generators are facing an imminent lack of fuel to enable these machines to continue functioning. Vital health services such as all but the most critical surgeries and emergency services have been cancelled. Sanitation and sterilization of equipment has been cut back, patients are being discharged prematurely from hospitals, essential machinery such as neonatal incubators, ventilators, imaging and dialysis machines that depend on a constant flow of power are breaking down as a result of frequent, intermittent power outages.
This current situation compounds the deterioration of the Gaza health care system that comes as a result of the long years of active policies of de-development and siege that has curtailed the import of essential medications (including such things as chemotherapy and other cancer treatments) and of equipment and parts to repair medical and hospital machinery. In each of the major wars on Gaza, medical facilities were targeted by the Israeli military. The siege also greatly restricts travel by patients for lifesaving and specialized care not available in Gaza. The restrictions on travel by Gaza health professions results in their isolation and gaps in training and consultation.
The situation is critical now. On June 1, 2017, Al-Jazeera reported the following:
“At al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, 50 babies lie crowded in 30 beds in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Outside, the yard resembles a factory as massive generators roar and hum, turning fuel into electricity, supplying the babies with oxygen through ventilators.
Due to the electricity shortage in Gaza, the generators are the only lifeline for these newborn babies, but even this may be cut soon as Gaza’s fuel reserves are expected to be depleted in a month, placing patients’ lives at risk.
“Most of the babies are connected to mechanical ventilation. If the electricity is cut, most of these babies will die within a few seconds; we cannot support them,” said Dr Allam Abu Hamida, director of al-Shifa’s NICU.
As health workers, our professional ethics and core human values motivate us to act in demanding that the U.S. Government use its leverage with Israel to end the Gaza Blockade and assure that electricity, water and health services are fully and adequately provided.