The U.S. and Israeli air forces are making headlines in October for painting jet fighters pink to raise awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) October 27, 2016
But not everyone is buying this most literal example of pinkwashing. Here’s Christina Cauterucci in Slate:
Like breast cancer, fighter jets kill women, making these instruments of war perfect on-message vehicles for the deadly weapons of awareness. They will fly through the skies, blasting tumors and lack-of-awareness with their missiles, bringing pink death and pink destruction and pink civilian casualties and pink refugee crises and pink destruction of cultural heritage wherever their noble cancer-aware pilots lead. The U.S. plane happens to be a Cougar—get it?! Women.
And of course there is the context of how Israel treats actual cancer patients if they happen to live in the besieged Gaza Strip. Here are a few reminders:
IRIN (March 2011), “Cancer care crisis in Gaza“:
Gaza is suffering chronic shortages of painkillers, surgical equipment and critical drugs, including for chemotherapy due to delays in the approval of drugs bound for Gaza by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and restrictions imposed by Israel’s blockade.
Radiotherapy is not available at all, according to medical sources. As a result, most cancer patients in Gaza have to be referred abroad for treatment, but this process can be costly, time-consuming and bureaucratic.
The New Arab (February 2015), “Gaza’s cancer sufferers cut off from vital care“:
Salem Abdul Aziz is another Palestinian parent witnessing the slow death of his cancer-stricken daughter. After receiving a referral from the Palestinian ministry of health to treat his daughter in Jerusalem, Salem was unable to take her due to Israeli authorities prolonging procedures, which meant he could not get through the Erez crossing to Jerusalem.
NPR (December 2015), “In Gaza, Kids With Cancer Have ‘Virtually No Care.’ One Group Hopes To Help“:
Most of the kids are referred outside, if they’re able to get outside. There is no free access in and out of the Gaza Strip. You must have a permit from the Israeli army to leave the Gaza Strip.
Now, Israel does issue permits for humanitarian cases to leave and to go to Israeli hospitals for specialized oncological care. It’s an extremely long and bureaucratic process, and it’s also a very challenging one for the patients and for their families, because now, a new order just came down that children cannot travel with anyone under the age of 55. So it’s a big burden for the families. You can imagine that means the grandmother has to go.
Electronic Intifada (February 2016), “Gaza patients battle cancer and Israeli siege“:
Umaimah Zamalat assumed her papers were in order.
The 52-year-old woman from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip had already undergone one radiation session at the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem for her aggressive breast cancer.
But when she got to the Erez checkpoint at the boundary between Gaza and Israel, ready to go for a second treatment, she was stopped.
“My permit allows me to travel to Jerusalem until I finish four [radiation therapy] sessions. But when I tried to cross Erez for my second session they told me I am no longer allowed,” Zamalat told The Electronic Intifada.
The Israeli military authorities at Erez gave no explanation when they turned her back. Patients from Gaza are not allowed to stay in Jerusalem or Israeli hospitals for the duration of their treatment and must return between sessions. This leaves them at risk of sudden, unexplained and apparently inexplicable permit revocations.
That, in turn, has inevitable consequences on patients’ health.
“I am extremely worried. Doctors told me that my case is very sensitive to delays,” Zamalat said.
Al-Jazeera (May 2016), “Siege adds to suffering of cancer patients“:
Palestinian children with cancer are suffering from the siege of the Gaza Strip as the construction of what is meant to be the first public pediatric cancer department has ground to a halt due to import restrictions.
Israel and Egypt’s continued embargo along with the growing political infighting between Hamas and Fatah have made things so complicated for doctors and patients that even diagnosing which type of cancers the children have cannot be done in Gaza.
Al-Monitor (October 2016), “Is Israel banning entry of Gaza cancer patients?“:
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) claims Israel has “dramatically toughened” its policy on granting permits to sick Palestinians needing life-saving treatment in Israeli hospitals, among them many cancer patients. This, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays in full for every patient referred by its Health Ministry for care in Israel.
Attorney Mahmoud Abu Arisha, in charge of the organization’s occupied territories department, told Al-Monitor that over the past six months PHR has received 158 appeals from severely ill Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank whose requests for treatment in Israel were turned down by the Shin Bet security agency.
Middle East Monitor (October 2016), “Gaza cancer patients complain about Israeli restrictions on their treatment“:
While the world increases its efforts to spread awareness about cancer and celebrate new ways to treat it, cancer patients in Gaza have complained about the restrictions placed by Israel on their treatment. In a statement issued on Sunday, a group of patients said that they have been involved in a “humanitarian battle” with the occupation authorities to get the medicines that they need for their treatment to be effective. “This has been an ongoing struggle for ten years,” they pointed out.
Palestinian Information Center (October 2016), “Breast cancer patients in Gaza call for help to end their suffering“:
Breast cancer patients in the Gaza Strip have appealed to the Palestinian government and international groups to swiftly help provide them with their medical needs and facilitate their travel abroad for treatment.
Spokeswoman for the patients Nawal Salloum stated in a news conference held on Monday that the hospitals in Gaza are not prepared for the treatment of cancer conditions and lack medical appliances, including those used for radiation therapy and breast cancer detection.
Salloum also highlighted the acute shortage of cancer medicines in Gaza, warning that the health of many cancer patients in Gaza are exposed to danger as a result of that.
She also talked about the failure of cancer patients to travel abroad to receive medical treatment, saying that they face difficulties to leave Gaza as a result of the blockade, including that their travel requests are either rejected or receive delayed approvals.