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Why medicine is a political act

Israel/Palestine
Welcome to Jewish Voice for Peace’s monthly Health and Human Rights Media Watch. Members of the Health Advisory Council monitor relevant organizations and websites and compile a list of important news and issues which are summarized here. These newsletters will be posted on our website and archived as a resource.  If you wish to join this effort, contact [email protected]. Please feel free to share the newsletter with your colleagues and communities and encourage them to join the JVP Health Advisory Council.

Thanks to all who have contributed!

For those who missed our webinar with Professor Rita Giacaman, here is a link to the extraordinary work of the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University which studies health and disease through the lens of military occupation and colonization. The researchers have developed unique measures for the “wounds inside,” which impact “ease” and “dis-ease” such as suffering and humiliation. 


A Monologue with the ‘Other’: the inauthenticity of discourse under occupation
Middle East Eye 8 March  Following up on the protest regarding the scheduling of the International Association of Relational Psychotherapists and Psychoanalysts, psychiatrist Dr. Samah Jabr examines “the dialectical relationship between the psychological and political.” She exposes the arrogance and elitism that lies behind the arguments offered by the IARPP to hide its “subtle support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” Dr. Jabr challenges the powerful who assume “ownership of the virtuous language of ‘dialogue’ and ‘empathy’ while asserting that Palestinians who decline their invitation might be indulging in the reprehensible language of ‘splitting,’ ‘non-inclusiveness’ or ‘acting out.’” Dr. Elizabeth Berger reviews the history of the protest and explains, “protest initiatives of a professional nature do not silence dialogue, as has often been argued in criticism of cultural and academic boycotts. The process and the goal of such protest actions, on the contrary, bring to the surface in creative ways latent disagreements so that they can be discussed openly.” For more information on the USA Palestine Mental Health Network, see website. Read more here: The Psychoanalytic Activist

Why medicine is a political act
Physician’s for Human Rights Israel 4 October 2014 — In the same vein, to mark World Health Day, Physician’s for Human Rights Israel released a video of volunteers explaining how their medical service is a political act

  • By refusing to comply with policies of structural violence toward Palestinians and by their “struggle to correct the wrongs.”
  • By challenging “implications of corporations and governments that cause distorted distribution of budget, that prefer profit over health.”
    Read more and watch the video here.

Here is a selection from a broad range of sources re: the Great March of Return in Gaza, and the silence of much of the international community
“Israeli forces are using live ammunition for crowd control to disperse protesters in Gaza, ignoring their obligation under international law to only resort to intentional lethal force when a direct, mortal threat to life or of serious injury exists,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP, last April, “The cost of systemic impunity is that willful killing of civilians is now routine, putting Palestinian children at higher risk of death and critical injury.” Read more from Human Rights WatchThe InterceptWashington PostGlobal MinistriesMiddle East EyeOCHA OPT, and Haaretz.

On Monday May 14, at least 60 Palestinian were killed and 1,300 injured with live-fire according to OCHA.

PHRI Emergency Delegation to the Gaza Strip
Physicians for Human Rights Israel 12 April 2018 — A delegation of Physicians for Human Rights Israel entered Gaza for an emergency visit to provide what little help they could to the local health system faced with a massive influx of injured demonstrators. PHRI volunteers in the Gaza emergency delegation report that the horrific conditions of the healthcare system in Gaza, are the result of:

  • An 11-year siege imposed by Israel
  • The severe crisis in the relations between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resulting in the denial of funding and deliveries of medical supplies and medicines by the former – at the expense of the civilians in Gaza.
  • PHRI concludes:
    “As an NGO, we do the best we can, but we are well aware that this is a drop in the ocean, and that what is required is real change on the leadership level – Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Egypt, and the international community – if we want to protect and respect the lives and human rights of all those living in the region, in Gaza as in Israel.”

Medical care for children in Gaza headed for the dark ages
+972 Magazine 5 April 2018 — Children in the Gaza Strip today are more likely to develop health problems than ever before but less likely to access medical care. And as the need surges, Israel is granting a diminishing percentage of Palestinians permission to exit Gaza for medical treatment and Gazan facilities fall into a worsening state of crisis. This is having a disastrous impact on Gazans needing high level emergency care. See more: Defense of Children International – Palestine and Electronic Intifada.

Sign up for weekly water facts
The Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine  Every week the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine sends out a new succinct fact, via email and social media, about Israel’s use of water as a weapon in its occupation of Palestine. Here is an example: Israel controls all the water in the Gaza Strip, using water in its arsenal of weapons against Palestinians.

In the Gaza Strip,

  • Poor access to water and poor water quality contribute to 26% of all reported disease.
  • The prevalence of chronic malnutrition is driven by the lack of safe drinking water.
  • 140,000 of the 274,000 children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunting.
  • 40,000 children suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Untreated chronic malnutrition can lead to debilitating, impaired physical growth and cognitive development.

More from Al Jazeera on the water crisis.

Dreams Deferred The impact of the closure on women in the Gaza Strip
Gisha 7 March 2018 — The impact of the long siege of Gaza with its closure, severe restrictions of movement, and repeated military operations has a disproportionately large impact on women in the economy, family life, and civil society. This is exacerbated by a patriarchal society that preferentially favors men.

Palestine: MSF teams in Gaza observe unusually severe and devastating gunshot injuries
Médecins Sans Frontières 19 April 2018 — There are a growing number of reports on devastating and unusually severe gunshot injuries in Gaza, from some form of exploding bullet that causes massive damage to the tissues.
Medecins Sans Frontieres

It is important not to look at those killed and injured in Gaza as a blur of rising numbers of dead and wounded, but to see and name those human beings destroyed in these attacks.

15-year-old boy among 4 killed by Israeli snipers during Friday protests in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 21 April 2018  As the fourth Friday of popular protests in the besieged Gaza Strip came to a close, Israeli forces had killed four Palestinians, including a 15-year-old who was shot in the head.  The Palestinian Ministry of Health declared that a Palestinian child, identified as Muhammad Ibrahim Ayyoub, 15, was killed by Israeli forces during protests east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip.  Videos of Ayyoub’s killing circulated Palestinian social media on Friday, showing the boy, hundreds of meters away from the border fence with Israel, being shot in the head by a sniper.

Deaf teenager is latest Palestinian to die of wounds sustained during Gaza protests
Ma’an News Agency 23 April 2018  Two Palestinians, including a deaf teenager, succumbed to wounds sustained during the ongoing “Great March of Return” protests in the besieged Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 18-year-old Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, who is deaf, died on Monday morning, after being shot with live ammunition by Israeli forces.  According to the Ministry of Health, the deaths of Wahba and al-Shamali brought the total death toll in Gaza since the “Great March of Return” began on March 30, to 41 Palestinians, including at least three minors and a journalist.

Hussein Mohammad Adnan Madi, 13, Aladdin Yahiz Ismail Zamili, 15, and Ibrahim Abu Sha’er, 17, all died after Israeli forces shot them during two weeks of Friday“March of Return” protests that took place on the Gaza side of the border.  Defense of Children International also documented three serious injuries to children in Gaza on March 30, both by live ammunition.  Under international law, all individuals below 18 are children.

Palestinian children live life of hardship in Israeli lockup
Al Jazeera 21 April 2018  Thus far in 2018, Israeli forces have arrested more than 353 children, and at least 102 – most of whom are from occupied East Jerusalem – were placed under house arrest between December 2017 and February this year.

Israel halts refugee deportation plan, UN to help with resettlement
+972 Magazine 2 April 2018  After major public campaigns inside Israel and abroad, pressure on the Rwandan government not to accept refugees deported by Israel, and ultimately effective legal challenges, Israel announced it will scrap its mass deportation plan and work with the UN to resettle African asylum seekers in Western countries. Then Netanyahu suspended the plan in response to right wing opposition. See more from Haaretz.

Clinical care and complicity with torture [With audio]
British Medical Journal 20 March 2018 — Good review of the mounting incriminating evidence of physician and psychologist involvement in torture of prisoners at the hands of security services in Israel and the U.S. and the inadequate role played by the World Medical Association.

US Human Rights Report Whitewashes Israel’s Abuses Against Palestinians
Human Rights Watch 24 April 2018  The U.S. is complicit in the white washing of Israeli human rights abuses as revealed in a newly released report from the U.S. State Department which has numerous problems and omissions, starting with dropping the phrase “Occupied Territories.” See more from the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

About Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council

The Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council (JVP-HAC) is a network of JVP members who work in health, including physicians, nurses, mental health workers, social workers, public health workers, allied health professionals, complementary health practitioners, as well as others interested in human health.

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