Doctors on IsraHell’s Forty-Four Year Occupation



by Stephen Lendman



Under international law, Israel’s 44 year occupation is oppressive and illegal for having:

  • – attacked a nonbelligerent state;

  • – annexed it forcefully;

  • – exploited its resources and people;

  • – stolen their land and property;

  • – violated their human rights by collective punishment, war and numerous crimes against humanity; and

  • – failed to recognize Palestinian self-determination under provisions of the December 1960 UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and all UN resolutions before and thereafter affirming Palestinian self-determination, including:

  • – the UN Partition Plan (GA Resolution 181, 1947) granting Jews (with one-third of the population) 56% of historic Palestine, the rest to Palestinians with Jerusalem designated an international city under a UN Trusteeship Council;

  • – GA Resolution 2131 (1965): Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty, “reaffirming the principle of non-intervention,” calling it “aggression;”

  • – SC Resolution 242 (1967) calling for an end of conflict and withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories;

  • – SC 338 (1973) repeated the same demand;

  • – the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;

  • – SC Resolution 298 (1971) affirming “acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible,” calling Israel’s failure to observe previous resolutions deplorable;

  • – GA Resolution 3236 (1974) recognizing Palestinian self-determination and expressing “grave concern” that they’ve been “prevented from enjoying (their) inalienable rights (to) self-determination….national independence and sovereignty….without external interference….;”

  • – GA Resolution 3314 (1974) on the Definition of Aggression in accordance with the UN Charter and Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and its judgment, calling it the supreme international crime against peace;

  • – numerous other SC and GA resolutions affirming the principles of international law, including Geneva’s Common Article 1 obliging all nations to enforce them, stating specifically: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances;” and

  • – Lisbon Treaty (December 2009) principles affirming fundamental freedoms, peace, democracy, human rights and dignity, justice, equality, the rule of law, security, tolerance, solidarity, mutual respect among peoples, the rights of the child, strict adherence to the UN Charter and international law, environmental protection, and sustainable development, and to prevent conflicts and combat social exclusion and discrimination.

Failing also to:

  • – comply with the provisions of the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (the Apartheid Convention), defined by the Rome Statute to include murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, denial of the right to life and liberty, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and other abusive acts imposed by one group on another, as well as:

  • – not observing international laws with regard to:

  • – illegal acts of aggression, including inflicting mass deaths, injuries and destruction during Operation Cast Lead, mostly affecting civilians;

  • – free movement, expression and right of assembly

  • – imprisoning Gazans under siege;

  • – denying the universally acknowledged right of return;

  • – refusing Palestinians the right to their own resources “such as watercourses within their land;

  • – annexing East Jerusalem in July 1980 despite SC Resolution 478 a month later declaring the Jerusalem Law null and void and requiring its immediate rescinding;

  • – constructing the Separation Wall on expropriated Palestinian land (ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice);

  • – denying Palestinians access to their own land, air space and coastal waters and control of their borders;

  • – violating Fourth Geneva by building illegal settlements on expropriated land, dispossessing protected persons, and transferring its own civilian population to the territory it occupies;

  • – using torture, abuse and degrading treatment, illegal at all times, under all conditions with no allowed exceptions;

  • – employing targeted assassinations and other willful killings of non-combatant civilians and others; and

  • – numerous other systematic violations of fundamental international laws.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) Responds

PHR-Israel “promote(s) a more fair and inclusive society in which the right to health is applied equally to all.” It opposes Israel’s occupation, standing resolutely for human rights and social justice “in (their) broadest sense,” including:

  • – free movement;

  • – equal access to medical care;

  • – clean water;

  • – modern sanitation;

  • – proper nutrition;

  • – adequate housing;

  • – education;

  • – decent employment; and

  • – nonviolence.

Several PHR-Israel members commented on life in Occupied Palestine today, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Dr. Rafik Masalha. After visiting Gaza, he wrote about:

“standing in front of the concrete walls and the enormous iron doors that exemplify the severe blockade policy” imposed since June 2007. There two years earlier, it felt like time had stopped. “The same grey houses, old black walls,” many decorated with inscriptions “praising and commemorating those who died” during Cast Lead and other conflicts.

In neglected gray streets, donkeys and horses substitute for cars because of cost and scarce gas. People also “were wandering in the streets without purpose, desperate, not in a hurry to get anywhere.” Israel prevents import of construction materials, and high unemployment contributes to despair for many.

At the Health Ministry, he heard about harsh blockade conditions and unbearable problems for many. “We were left with a strong feeling of uneasiness.” Everything is in short supply or unavailable. As a result, patients and staff both experience frustration, suffering and pain.

Moreover, trained staff is lacking, “particularly specialized doctors in various fields, such as neurology, neurosurgery, nephrology, oncology, and other specialties because of the blockade policy and the restrictions on medical personnel” going abroad for training.

In Gaza City and Khan Yunes, “(w)e saw buildings with partially destroyed walls and marks of shells (with) no way to repair them.” He heard many complaints. “We felt deep frustration and helplessness.”

Many patients aren’t properly treated for lack of equipment, trained staff, or permission to travel elsewhere for what Gaza can’t provide. Many “could have been saved were it not for the severe and unbearable conditions that the harsh blockade over the Strip causes. This is inconceivable and does not suit the conditions of the free world in the 21st century.”

Gazans, however, live it daily, suffering because world leaders won’t intervene.

Dr. Abdul Shafi, Jerusalem surgeon and vice president of the Patient’s Friends Society wrote about health care under occupation, saying:

Jerusalem has five major hospitals, including three general ones, one maternity and an eye hospital. They “depend largely on referrals from other Palestinian cities.”

Forty-four years of occupation “greatly affected health care in East Jerusalem.” Numerous obstacles exist, including movement and security clearance requirements, resulting in many doctors “leav(ing) the country (for) employment (and) careers abroad. This has contributed to further impoverish the hospitals (and) community as a whole.”

A combination of understaffing, underfunding, and occupation restrictions makes practicing medicine difficult to impossible for patients needing specialized care. Many can’t travel for security reasons. Others can’t afford treatment at Israeli hospitals. Palestinian ones do what they can, but too often it’s not enough.

Dr. Skafi from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society discussed Israeli human rights violations, including the right to health, especially for Palestinians near settlements, isolated and vulnerable between them.

Dr. Ruchama Marton, PHR-Israel’s founder and president called occupation a “violation of human rights,” saying pressuring Israel publicly is vital to exert pressure for change.

A psychiatrist, she sees many PTSD patients, including Israeli soldiers themselves occupation victims. “As for myself,” she said, “my waking up was clearly in the army, both about the relations between Jews and Arabs and about the ‘other’ Israel.”

At age 18, “it was really shocking, and that shock was powerful.” It shows “people are capable of doing many bad things, and they adhere to authority” and indoctrination to commit crimes, taught to believe they’re doing the right thing when it’s wrong.

The struggle goes on, PHR-Israel allied with other human rights groups, activists, and millions of Palestinians for justice long denied.

A Final Comment

Although Egypt opened Gaza’s Rafah border on May 28, it was conditional for people only (not goods), excluding Palestinian men under age 40, except students enrolled in Egyptian institutions of higher learning with proper visas.

Initial elation, however, now is dissatisfaction and frustration after Egypt imposed new restrictions, Haaretz Service and Reuters saying on June 1:

“Hamas said on Wednesday that Egypt was limiting the number of people allowed to enter the country from Gaza, undermining” the Rafah opening announcement days earlier.

As a result, crossings have “fallen dramatically over the past two days.” Egypt said only up to 350 a day could enter. Hamas responded, saying:

“Following the joy that has swept most of our people, movement at the crossing yesterday was disappointing.”

On Saturday May 28, 565 entered Egypt (300 in the first hour), 404 on Sunday, and 631 Monday. However, only 227 crossed Tuesday and another 100 by late afternoon Wednesday.

In fact, Egyptian security is refusing entry to many, Hamas saying:

“We have told them we cannot accept the reinstatement of restrictions,” including persons wanting to cross needing clearance a day in advance.

On June 1, however, Ma’an News said both sides agreed to limit daily crossings to 400 maximum and release names a day in advance. Students and persons needing medical care will be prioritized. However, 5,000 or more Gazans have been blacklisted for alleged security reasons, an issue still unresolved.

At the same time, Israel’s siege remains, Egypt on its side of the border enforcing it illegally. Lebanese authorities also acting lawlessly, declaring a shared Israeli border a closed military zone, preventing a planned June 5 Naksa Day mass march.

As a result, organizers plan strikes across all 12 Lebanese refugee camps, protesting their legal right to march and demonstrate against Israel’s illegal occupation on its border. “Our aim is to reach (it), regardless of the date,” said Yasser Azzam, an organizing committee member.

They’ll be back. So will others, including humanitarian aid ships until Gaza’s illegal siege is ended, 15 scheduled to arrive in late June

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