September 2018 Media Watch – JVP Health Advisory Council
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.
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- Important series of articles published by the British Medical Journal on Gaza:
More than a thousand people in Gaza have been left with life changing injuries after being shot by Israeli soldiers at demonstrations in the past few months, doctors have said, leading to a medical emergency.
Gazans since 30 March 2018, have gathered to protest the siege. Essential medicines and equipment have been restricted and hospitals are depleted, patients are dying while waiting for permits to leave, elective surgery has been cancelled, travel abroad for training has been denied. This is a strategy of de-development of health and social services.
Over 12,00 injured, almost 7000 hospitalized. Many injured “with bullets causing fist sized wounds of ‘unusual severity’” which have created an orthopedic and mass disability crisis.
- Report by GISHA on restricted areas in Gaza
This report by GISHA provides a current account of the impact of Israel’s control over the “access restricted areas” it enforces inside Gaza on land and at sea, particularly as concerns the economic implications of the policy. It concludes by calling on Israel to refrain from its destructive and disproportionate actions which violate the fundamental human rights of Palestinians, including the right to life and the right to livelihood.
For fuller report, link here.
- Report by GISHA on Israel’s policy of denying medical permits to patients who are first-degree relatives of “a Hamas operative.”
On August 21, 2018, the state of Israel defended in court its policy of restricting the freedom of movement of anyone who is a “first-degree relative of a Hamas operative.” As a result of this policy, hundreds of Palestinians in need of medical care that is not available in their community are denied such care. The court hearing was prompted by a lawsuit brought by GISHA, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and Al Mezan in order to help seven women travel from Gaza to a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem for specialty treatment. The court appeared to be sympathetic to the plight of the plaintiffs but withheld its decision pending more documentation from the attorney general. Meanwhile the women continue to suffer and drift closer to the risk of death from their untreated conditions.
- Israeli restrictions and the impact on Gazan cancer patients
There have been numerous articles on the disastrous impact that Israeli restrictions are having on cancer patients in Gaza and on the immense barriers patients face when attempting to obtain permits. On August 12, the Gaza Ministry of Health announced that it would no longer be able to treat cancer patients.
“Colon and lung cancer, as well as lymphoma patients, cannot be provided with the necessary therapy now,” said Dr. Mohammed Abu Silmiya, director of Abdulaziz Al-Rantisi Hospital for Children.
Gaza has been under siege for more than 11 years and a hermetic-like blockade has punished ordinary Gazans, who in addition to lacking clean water and electricity, now will no longer have chemotherapy available. From the outset, the blockade has been conducted by Israel with U.S. support. Under the current administration, the US has done everything possible to isolate and punish Gaza.
The war on the Palestinians has been a joint venture right from the start. The U.S. has stood by Israel for many years and, as of late, it has taken measures to financially punish international organizations that extended any support to Gaza and Palestinians. Over several months, the U.S. has attacked several U.N. agencies including the Palestinian Refugee Agency In the course of a few months, the U.S. took on the United Nations culture agency, UNESCO, pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council and has cut aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
- The collapse of critical care services in Gaza as fuel runs out
Critical care services in the hospitals of Gaza are threatened as stocks of fuel to run emergency generators during 16-20 hour daily blackouts are exhausted and not being replenished due to restrictions on importation by the Israeli government. Patients on life-support systems must be ventilated manually, premature babies in incubators are at risk of fatal hypothermia. Care of premature neonates is one of the primary missions of Medial Aid for Palestinians in Gaza. There are further health ramifications as sewage pumping stations fail due to fuel exhaustion creating unsanitary conditions. Availability of fresh water is also threatened for the same reason.
- Increase in attacks on Gaza
There has also been an under reported uptick in Israeli attacks on Gaza which is further stretching the hospitals that are running out of fuel. Palestinian groups also fired dozens of rockets towards Israel, claiming response to Israeli strikes.
A Palestinian physician desperately tries to save his son.
This report concerns three Palestinians killed and many others severely injured due to the continuous Israeli airstrikes carried out over the besieged Gaza Strip. The spokesperson of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza confirmed that among the three killed Palestinians was a 23-year-old pregnant mother along with her 18-month-old toddler.
- B’Tselem report on open fire policy
B’tselem reports on the IDF’s open fire policy against participants in the Great Return Marches and details how this led to the deliberate targeting and murder of volunteer paramedic Rozan a-Najar on June 1, 2018. Much of the information in the report came from Rami Abu Jazar and Mahmoud ‘Abd al-‘Ati, fellow volunteer paramedics who were also wounded in the same sniper attack. Particularly chilling in their accounts is that they were standing away from the demonstrators and saw two soldiers get out of a jeep and take direct aim at them even though they were clearly identified as medical personnel.
- Summary from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on humanitarian issues in Palestine, especially Gaza and two personal stories.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA oPt) issued this report on humanitarian issues affecting Palestinians covering July 15-July 30, 2018.
The report summarizes direct injuries by the military as well as other measures taken by the Israeli Government that adversely affect the lives of civilians. The data and graphics are excellent resources on issues of human rights violations by the Israeli government.
Of note is the severe restrictions of goods and services being allowed into Gaza by Israel. On July 16, the Israeli government instituted a ban on fuel and cooking oil, the ban on these items was lifted a few days later, but on Aug 2, was reinstated. Civilian injuries included children in many circumstances.
On a very personal note, this tragic story of a Palestinian boy who was shot by an Israeli sniper, neglected in an Israeli hospital, and then sent home to Gaza for amputation is an example of an incredible disregard for basic human rights and medical neutrality.
And this story documenting the killing of another paramedic, Abdullah Al-Qattati.
And a third paramedic: On Friday, August 10, five healthcare workers providing assistance to wounded demonstrators were injured by gunfire in five separate attacks. One died from his wounds. So far there have been 166 deaths resulting from IDF sniper attacks on demonstrators and medical workers participating in the Great March of Return. On Friday, August 24 an additional 189 were wounded including 50 by bullets. MAP has been speaking our against these atrocities since the beginning of the demonstrations in May, 2018.
· Keeping it personal, notes from journalist Sandy Tolan on Gaza and water crisis:
Journalist Sandy Tolan (The Lemon Tree, Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land) reports on the human consequences of Gaza’s water crisis, “One, from the health ministry, told me that he’s seen dramatic rises in kidney failure, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, salmonella and severe diarrhea in the children of Gaza – between a 30 and 50 percent rise. A pediatrician, “doubling cases of gastroenteritis, renal failure, and thyroid cancer, and the rise in a previously rare disease: Blue Baby Syndrome, related to the elevated nitrate levels in the Gaza wells.” “Bluish lips, bluish face, bluish skin,”…Now he is seeing cases of marasmus, the result of severe malnutrition in infants: “just bone and skin.”
- Israeli investigation clears the IDF of wrong doing in Gaza
Despite strong evidence for war crimes, Israel has cleared itself of wrong doing in the 2014 assault on Gaza. More than 2,250 Palestinians, including nearly 1,500 civilians, were killed and a further 11,000 were wounded, at least 18,000 Palestinian homes were completely destroyed, and 73 medical facilities were severely damaged. Most of the destruction resulted from more than 6,000 Israeli air attacks in less than two months on heavily populated areas. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians died.
- Good background on the March of Return and Gaza
GISHA website has an FAQ concerning the Return protests which began in May 2018. It includes many points that can be useful in explaining the Palestinian point of view to people who have been influenced by other sources of information.
- Most recent Gaza flotilla
Armed with $15,000 in antibiotic and bandages, the latest members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were attacked, beaten, and robbed by Israeli soldiers who captured the boat in international waters.
- Palestinian communities are negatively impacted by IDF forcibly transferring residents to use their land for firing zones.
The military exercises involve temporary displacement, property damage, disruption to life and new access restrictions. In recent years the areas have witnessed increasing settlement activities, including violence and intimidation, alongside a reduced Palestinian presence.
- B’Tselem report: Israel’s plan for Khan al-Ahmar, between garbage and sewer
Since the mid-1970s, Israel has been trying to drive Palestinians out of Ma’ale Adumim, the occupied West Bank area east of Jerusalem. Israel has been trying to force Palestinian Bedouins out of the village of Khan al-Ahmar. In its response before the High Court to the petition against demolishing the village, the Israeli government used a legal sleight-of-hand (accusing the residents of building illegally, and living too close to Route 1, even though they were there years before the road was built) to make a case that avoided explicitly stating what was really going on: Israel wants to cleanse that area of Palestinians. In its response to the petition before the Court, Israel has given the residents two choices: 1) they can all move to a site next to a wastewater treatment center, or – in a cynical move that ties the future of Khan al-Ahmar to three neighboring but unrelated Palestinian communities that are on the state’s list for demolition, affecting a total of more than 400 people – obtaining the residents’ agreement to leave Khan al-Ahmar and move with the unrelated communities to another site near a garbage dump.
OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
- Reports from various academic journals
Humanitarian Health Digest No. 2 was published in August 2018. This quarterly bibliographic journal, a joint project of the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health and The Lancet, covers peer-reviewed journal articles on humanitarian health. Each issue provides links to the original articles along with new editorial commentary.
Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease (via Humanitarian Health Digest No.2)
Irrational use of antibiotics among Palestinian refugees in Jordanian refugee camps is increasing, as is bacterial resistance. One-third of expenditures at UNRWA primary health care centers in Jordan are attributed to antibiotics. In the study, 63% of patients shared antibiotics at home, 38% used leftover antibiotics, and 60% purchased antibiotics directly from the pharmacy without a prescription. Knowledge of antibiotic side effects, resistance, and target agent was low. Long hours spent waiting for care prevents many from seeking medical advice, which significantly increases self-medication. More public education about antibiotics, shorter waiting hours, and stricter regulations regarding prescription are needed to combat bacterial resistance.
Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome (via Humanitarian Health Digest No.2)
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a major contributor to elevated cardiovascular morbidity and mortality around the world. This cross-sectional study aimed to establish gender-adjusted prevalence figures in Palestinian refugee camps. The overall prevalence of obesity and overweight was high, at 63.1%. Obesity prevalence was 42% in women and 29.2% in men. Overweight prevalence was 25.8% in women and 28.9% in men. The prevalence of MetS varied by clinical definition used and by age and obesity level, but there was no significant difference by gender. Prevalence of some individual MetS components (elevated blood pressure, decreased HDL, elevated triglycerides) did not vary by gender, but waist circumferences and elevated FBS were significantly higher in women. Low physical activity was significantly associated with MetS prevalence, but no other risk factors, (gender, smoking, TV watching, family history of hypertension or diabetes).
Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal (via Humanitarian Health Digest No.2)
Scant information about health risk behavior among Middle Eastern youth is available to public health authorities. The Palestinian Youth Health Risk Study was established to investigate risk behavior patterns among Palestinian youth; their perceptions of these risks and the benefits of these behaviors; and the relationship between exposure to violence, mental health, and risky behaviors. The study looked at 2500 youth aged 15-24 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Among youth aged 20-24 years, 22.4% of males and 11.6% of females reported trying alcohol; 10.5% of males and 4.3% of females reported trying drugs. Almost one quarter of unmarried youth aged 20-24 years reported any sexual experience. Tobacco use is high, even among younger youth (45.4% of males and 21.2% of females aged 15-19 smoke). Risk behaviors are higher among males, older youth and in urban areas and refugee camps.
The Palestinian territories rank 121st out of 233 countries and dependencies by population (2017 estimates: 4,543,126 people total; 2,155,743 in the West Bank and 1,795,183 in Gaza.) Despite major political, economic and social challenges for the region, health care in Palestine is one of the best among Arab countries in terms of life expectancy and maternal, infant, and child mortality rates. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Palestine at 14%, exceeded only by heart disease at 30%. The cancer burden in Palestine is expected to increase, reaching levels that further challenge the financial and infrastructural resources of the current health care system. This review discusses the current state of cancer care in the Palestinian territories, including epidemiology, screening, and prevention efforts, and infrastructural and workforce issues for the region. It also discusses examples of some encouraging progress that has been made for health in the region and the enormous challenges that the Palestinian health care system still faces.
- Israeli attacks on Palestinian children, response from the UN and Defense of Children International Palestine:
UNOCHA press release declares that “children should never be the target of violence and must not be put at risk of violence nor encouraged to participate in violence.” This essay claims that the introductory paragraph puts Palestinian and Israeli children on a par with regard to the violation of their rights, without taking into consideration that Israeli colonialism is the culprit.
At the same time, a report published Defense of Children International Palestine said that between January and July, the number of slain Palestinian children was three times higher than during the same time period in 2017.
- B’Tselem documents impact of restrictions of movement
Severe restrictions on freedom of movement continue to be a major issue in the health of people living in the occupied territories and Gaza. Access to health is hindered when access to health care facilities and ability to import medical supplies is hindered. B’Tselem has composed a list of checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza that restrict the ability to obtain healthcare for all residents of Gaza and the West Bank. An additional chart lists roads which are forbidden to vehicles with Palestinian license plates. This video demonstrates the daily harassment which results from having to pass through check points just to go to and from school. One can imagine that for someone living in these conditions only a severe illness will prompt them to seek medical attention and that routine medical care is a rarity.
- The defunding of UNRWA
Many sources documented the weaponization of humanitarian assistance, the existential threat facing UNRWA and the millions of refugees it serves.
The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees will cut more than 260 jobs and curtail mental health services and mobile health clinics. UNRWA was established in 1949 to address the basic humanitarian needs of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who became refugees in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. Its mission was centered on providing relief rations, basic healthcare, education and employment opportunities for the Palestinian refugees.
The United States and Britain have been the biggest contributors to UNRWA’s budget until the recent decision of Trump to drastically cut US contributions to UNRWA. In spite of some of its shortcomings including its susceptibility to political maneuvering by the Big Powers, UNRWA has been able to provide badly needed services and it has become an important source of employment for many skilled refugees.
Trump’s desire to have the Palestinians accept the “deal of the century,” led to the US’s drastic cuts of its annual contribution to UNRWA from about $350 million to $65 million.
US cuts on services and employment have a huge impact, as well as serving as one additional source of frustration and hopelessness.
Detailed review by NPR of the impact of cutting >$200 million in aid to Palestinians
Historically, the US has given more development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Territories than any other country. However, early in 2018 — even as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsened — the Trump Administration froze most of the $251 million earmarked for direct aid to Palestinians, following the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) announcement that it would boycott the Trump Administration and its peace efforts because of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The US has also withheld $300 million from the UN agency that provides food and schools for Palestinian refugees. These amounts are, of course, a tiny fraction of the $3.8 billion that the US gives to Israel annually; Israel has received more US aid than any other country since World War II (data from Congressional Research Service, 4/10/2018). During August, the US released funds to the PA for security forces, and considered what other projects it might unfreeze, but the end-of-fiscal-year deadline looms at the end of September, and the appropriated funding would vanish if not unfrozen. The funding freeze directly impacts projects serving Palestinians, including: surgical equipment and surgery subsidies for cataract surgeries at the St. John Eye Hospital in Gaza; NGOs such as International Medical Corps, which bring ophthalmic surgeons to Gaza to perform surgeries and train surgeons; NGOs such as Catholic Relief Services, which provide food vouchers to Palestinians (about 50% of Gazans live under the poverty line); aid projects that provide jobs for Gazans (about 50% of Gazans are unemployed); youth projects; and water projects (97% of Gaza’s water is contaminated). On August 24, the Trump Administration announced it was cancelling and redirecting over $200 million, nearly all of the money that had been previously appropriated for Palestinian aid.
- Latest on prisons
Article documents failure to treat for hepatitis C within Israeli prison population.
The Israeli authorities released a Palestinian prisoner who had been on a 20-day hunger strike, along with his father, from the Israeli prison of Ashkelon. His open hunger strike lasted for 20 consecutive days, causing his health to deteriorate and forcing the Israeli Prison Services to release him. Following his and his father’s release, the prisoner was immediately transferred to a hospital in Ramallah, where he received the necessary medical treatment to help improve his health.
The wife of a Palestinian prisoner gave birth today after she had conceived from smuggled sperm from her husband in Israeli jails. Doctor Ghusoun Badra, from the Razan Medical Center for Fertility and IVF, said that more than 50 women, wives of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails, have given birth to 66 babies through smuggled sperm. Palestinian prisoners are denied conjugal visits by the Israeli Prison Service.
As of June 30, 2018, Israel was holding about 5,300 Palestinian residents of the West Bank as security detainees or prisoners, according to the Israel Prison Service. With only one exception, all of the facilities are located inside Israel. This is in violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of civilian prisoners from occupied lands to the territory of the occupier. West Bank residents who want to visit immediate family members face many obstacles to obtaining permission to see a relative, and their applications are frequently denied. Once they receive a permit, Palestinian visitors must arrive with transportation provided by the Red Cross only on scheduled dates. The journey takes a full day and includes many indignities, including: 2-hour delays at the border checkpoint because of Palestinian workers crossing; traveling from the Israeli border to the prison on a Red Cross vehicle that is not permitted to open its doors until arrival at the prison; another security check and long lines at the prison, including a body search; inadequate visitor rest rooms; the requirement that they see their relative through a glass partition and communicate through an intercom; and a strict limit of 45 minutes, after which the intercom is disconnected.
- Nation State Bill
Hundreds of Israeli intellectuals criticized the nation state bill
The Nation State Bill is designed to prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from family unification in Israel when the spouse is Palestinian and not an Israeli citizen.
Since Israel’s passage in July of the Jewish Nation-State Law, many are asking what harm it actually causes and upon what rights it actually infringes. In early August, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced how the law would be impacting Palestinian citizens of Israel who are married to, or who are immediate relatives of, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza. It is clear that one of Netanyahu’s primary motivations in passing the Jewish Nation-State Law was to prevent more Palestinians from moving into Israel. Non-Palestinian, non-Jewish family members of Israeli citizens (for example, family from Russia or Mexico) can apply to enter and obtain residency and citizenship; the process is challenging for non-Jews although routine. However, if the family member of the Israeli citizen is Palestinian, they are now prohibited from entering Israel due merely to demographic reasons because of the new law (up to this point, the reasoning for barring reunification had been “security concerns”, otherwise the courts would have ruled the ban unconstitutional). The new law “means that one group of Israeli citizens is entitled to the right to family, and another group, one in five Israeli citizens, is not.”
Critics say the Nation State Bill discriminates against religious minorities uncluding Druze who have been protesting.
The Jewish Nation-State Law discriminates not only against Palestinians, but against religious minorities which include Muslims and Christians who make up 20% of Israel’s population. One group affected by this law (who have historically been staunch supporters of Israel and many of whom hold high-ranking positions in the IDF) are Druze, ethnic Arabs who follow a religious movement that broke away from mainstream Islam. The Druze community in Israel held a protest in Tel Aviv against the new law in early August, and they were joined by former military and defense officials, including some from the Mossad and Shin Bet. They are advocating for amended language in the new law that ensures equality for all minorities, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected.
Even US Jewish intellectuals are finding this crossed a line.
- Analysis of Israeli security apparatus, nationally and globally
While Israel considers itself a democracy, it is actually a national-security state. Its military-intelligence apparatus is ubiquitous in the everyday affairs of its citizens and its tech firms are also available for hire as global agents of repression.
- New Israeli medical school opens in the West Bank settlement of Ariel
Financed by Sheldon Adelson, Israel has opened a medical school in the illegal West Bank settlement of Ariel. This school and its graduates must be boycotted by academics as it is built on stolen land and will admit almost exclusively Jewish Israeli students.
- Palestinian refugees in camps in Lebanon face similar challenges to those in Gaza.
Palestinian refugee communities living in camps in Lebanon face many of the same challenges as residents of Gaza. Limited electricity, unemployment, long distances to services and education, and access to medical care are constant issues in their daily lives. Medical Aid for Palestine’s partner organization Naba’a provides free gynecological services to women in the the Ein el Helweh camp. These services include screening for early detection of breast and cervical cancer.
UPDATE ON BDS
- The article compiles a list of 70 moments in 2018 demonstrating solidarity with BDS and for Palestine.
The 70 moments mark the seventieth anniversary of Nabka, or “Catastrophe,” wherein Palestinians faced mass expulsion from their homes to establish a Jewish-majority state. The growing movement supporting BDS and opposition to Israeli occupation has extended to governments, city councils, members of Parliament and political parties in several countries, many of whom are working to impose a military embargo on Israel and/or revise or stop arms sales and training with the Israeli military.
CONTRADICTIONS RE: HUMAN RIGHTS AND JEWISH PRIVILEGE
- Important reflections in the NY Review of Books on the historical tradition of support for human rights in the Jewish community and the contradictions within Israel of supporting Jewish rights at the price of violating Palestinian rights.
“One can’t help but notice how the Jewish fight for rights as a national minority within rabidly nationalist Central and Eastern Europe merged, after an unthinkable catastrophe, with the struggle for a Jewish nation-state in Palestine that now, seventy years later, discriminates against its own Arab minority within the Green Line (the pre-1967 border) and savagely persecutes millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories.”