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Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

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    Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes BMJ.com (an online version of the British Medical Journal) Does the death of an Arab weigh the same as
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2004
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      Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

      BMJ.com (an online version of the British Medical Journal)


      Does the death of an Arab weigh the same as that of a US or Israeli
      citizen? The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more
      unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number
      of people who died on September 11, 2001. In conducting 238
      extrajudicial executions the army has also killed 186 bystanders
      (including 26 women and 39 children). Two thirds of the 621 children
      (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on
      the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire,
      directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chestâ€"the
      sniper's wound. Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot
      to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat. These
      statistics attract far less publicity than suicide bombings,
      atrocious though these are too.

      Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the
      killing of Asma al-Mughayr (16 years) and her brother Ahmad (13
      years) on the roof terrace of their home in Rafah on 18 May, each
      with a single bullet to the head. Asma had been taking clothes off
      the drying line and Ahmad feeding pigeons. Amnesty noted that the
      firing appeared to have come from the top floor of a nearby house,
      which had been taken over by Israeli soldiers shortly before.
      Amnesty suspects that this is not "caught in crossfire," this is
      murder.

      Israeli military reoccupation of the West Bank and Gazaâ€"a system
      of military checkpoints splitting towns and villages into ghettos,
      curfews, closures, raids, mass demolition and destruction of houses
      (more than 60 000), and land expropriationsâ€"has made ordinary life
      impossible for everyone, and is driving Palestinian society and its
      institutions towards destitution. Moreover, Israel has been
      constructing a grotesque barrier that, when completed, will total
      over 400 milesâ€"four times longer than the Berlin Wall. Extending
      up to 15 miles into Palestinian territory, the real purpose of the
      wall is permanently to lock more than 50 illegal Israeli settlements
      into Israel proper. This is expansive, aggressive colonisation, in
      defiance of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the
      United Nations General Assembly resolution of last July.

      Last year a UN rapporteur concluded that Gaza and the West Bank
      were "on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe." The World Bank
      estimates that 60% of the population are subsisting at poverty level
      (£1.12; $2; 1.6 per day), a tripling in only three years. Half a
      million people are now completely dependent upon food aid, and
      Amnesty International has expressed concern that the Israeli army
      has been hampering distribution in Gaza. Over half of all households
      are eating only one meal per day. A study by Johns Hopkins and Al
      Quds universities found that 20% of children under 5 years old were
      anaemic, 9.3% were acutely malnourished, and a further 13.2%
      chronically malnourished. The doctors I met on a professional visit
      in March pointed to a rising prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women
      and low birthweight babies.

      The coherence of the Palestinian health system is being destroyed.
      The wall will isolate 97 primary health clinics and 11 hospitals
      from the populations they serve. Qalqilya hospital, which primarily
      serves refugees, has seen a 40% fall in follow up appointments
      because patients cannot enter the city. There have been at least 87
      documented cases (including 30 children) in which denial of access
      to medical treatment has led directly to deaths, including those of
      babies born while women were held up at checkpoints. The checkpoint
      at the entrance to some villages closes at 7 pm and not even
      ambulances can pass after this time. As a recent example, a man in a
      now fenced in village near Qalqilya approached the gate with his
      seriously ill daughter in his arms, and begged the soldiers on duty
      to let him pass so that he could take her to hospital. The soldiers
      refused, and a Palestinian doctor summoned from the other side was
      also refused access to the child. The doctor was obliged to attempt
      a physical examination, and to give the girl an injection, through
      the wire.

      There are consistent reports of ambulances containing gravely ill
      people being hit by gunfire, or detained at checkpoints while
      drivers and paramedics are interrogated, searched, threatened,
      humiliated, and assaulted. Wounded men are abducted from ambulances
      at checkpoints and sent directly to prison. Clearly marked clinics
      are fired on, and doctors and other health workers shot dead on duty.

      Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) have lambasted the Israeli
      Medical Association (IMA) for its silence in the face of these
      systematic violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which
      guarantees the right to health care and the protection of health
      professionals as they do their duty. Remarkably, IMA president Dr Y.
      Blachar is currently chairperson of the council of the World Medical
      Association (WMA), the official international watchdog on medical
      ethics. A supine BMA appears in collusion with this farce at the
      WMA. Others are silenced by a fear of being labelled "anti-semitic,"
      a term used in a morally corrupt way by the pro-Israel lobby in
      order to silence. How are we to affect this shocking situation, one
      which to this South African-born doctor has gone further than the
      excesses of the apartheid era.



      Derek Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer

      Institute of Psychiatry, London derek.summerfield@...

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