A report by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I)
, Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim
, claims that medical staff are failing to report suspicion of torture and ill-treatment, returning detainees to their interrogators and passing medical information to interrogators.
The issue was revisited in The campaign about doctors and torture in Israel five years on (Derek Summerfield, letter in the BMJ, Jul 2014).
1. Palestinians: The Crisis in Medical Care
Richard Horton, New York Review of Books, 54/4, 15 Mar 2007
“In a survey completed by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, over 90 percent of children below the age of eleven experience severe anxiety, nightmares, and physical expressions of stress, such as bed-wetting. Half fear that their parents will not be able to provide essential family necessities, such as food and a home. Forty percent have relatives who died during the second intifada, which began in 2000…
…During the past twelve months, the health systems in Gaza and the West Bank have begun to disintegrate rapidly.”
An exchange between Yair Amikam of the Israeli Ministry of Health and Richard Horton followed and can be read here.
2. Pregnant Palestinians give birth at Israeli checkpoints
Middle East Online, 21 Oct 2006
“Since the beginning of the second Intifada…in September 2000, 68 pregnant Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, leading to 34 miscarriages and the deaths of four women, according to the [Palestinian] Health Ministry’s September report.” It said “that pregnant Palestinian women are often prevented by Israeli forces from reaching hospitals to receive appropriate medical attention, causing many miscarriages and the deaths of some women”.
[The situation has “improved” since this time. In particular, external donating agencies funded the opening of specialised centres even in big villages and small towns, to decrease the dependency on access to bigger towns; and women went back to home deliveries (after shifting to hospital deliveries as recently as the 80s and 90s).
The problem still persists, not specifically for childbirths, but for all emergency evacuations, in areas of the West Bank around East Jerusalem, where ambulances can’t freely take people from villages to Palestinian hospitals in the city. They still get stopped at checkpoints around the city and there is a complicated process of ‘back-to-back’ transfer to other ambulances which are allowed to be in the city…]
3. Medical ethics, the Israeli Medical Association, and the state of the World Medical Association (see links below)
“Persistent concerns have been raised about the role of the World Medical Association (WMA), the international watch-dog on medical ethics, in respect of their approach to the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) in particular” wrote Derek Summerfield in the letter below. “In 1996 Amnesty International concluded that Israeli doctors working with the security services ‘form part of a system in which detainees are tortured, ill treated, and humiliated in ways that place prison medical practice in conflict with medical ethics.’ Other major human rights organisations, such as Physicians for Human Rights (USA) and Human Rights Watch, published similarly. The IMA did nothing, although when challenged tended to dismiss criticism as ‘political’ and point to their membership of the WMA as evidence of their probity.”
The letter triggered off a robust debate in the British Medical Journal in 2003. Here are links to the indictment by Derek Summerfield; responses by Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities of the BMA and by IMA president and now chairman of the WMA, Yoram Blachar; and finally the author’s response to both Blachar and Nathanson. (You need to register for access the full texts, and get a two-week free trial.)
Letter from Derek Summerfield
BMJ 2003;327:561 (6 September)
Reply from the BMA
BMJ 2003;327:561-562 (6 September)
IMA president’s response to open letter to the BMA
BMJ 2003;327:1107 (8 November)
Author’s response to allegation and to BMA
BMJ 2003;327:1107-1108 (8 November)
Contents of this section
2. THE OCCUPATION
a) Maps of the occupation
b) Occupation and the Fourth Geneva Convention
Israel’s human rights violations – an introduction
Settlement building and land issues
Restrictions on movement
House demolitions, forced displacement, denial of residency rights
The Green Line
The economics of the occupation
c) Gaza under occupation
d) Living under occupation