Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Restrictions on Mobility of Medical Personnel in the West Bank

As of Sunday, November 2nd, 2008, new Israeli army guidelines are in force, requiring Palestinian medical personnel from the West Bank who work in Jerusalem hospitals to come in only through the Qalandiya checkpoint in Ramallah.  Medical personnel from the West Bank are prohibited from coming to work through other checkpoints, even if these are closer to where they live.

Since November 2nd, 2008, many medical personnel who have been prevented by the military authorities from going to work have contacted Physicians for Human Rights–Israel, the Palestineian Medical Relief Society.  Today, Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, about 100 Palestinian medical personnel held a demonstration at the Qalandiya terminal to protest the new restrictions.

Requiring all Palestinian medical personnel to come to work via the Qalandiya terminal forces them to go through many checkpoints inside the West Bank, spend many hours on the road and on long lines at the Qalandiya terminal, which is more crowded than any of the other checkpoints on the West Bank, in order to get to work.  This, despite the fact that they carry documents authorizing them to travel to their workplaces in Israel.

Not only does this new regulation disrupt the schedules of these medical personnel, delays them and makes them late for work, but it also disrupts the orderly operation of the hospitals in which they are employed, rather than making it easier for this segment of the work force that needs accessible, fast and unrestricted passage through the checkpoints.

This restriction is another addition to the ongoing Israeli policy intended to weaken the connection between Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem and the population of the West Bank, in an attempt to harm their special status as Palestinian institutions operating in Jerusalem. Using “bureaucratic” methods and/or “security” arguments for political purposes is an attempt to deceive everyone involved as well as the international community, and in fact represents a change in the status quo in Jerusalem that Israel has committed itself to preserve.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society demand that this restriction be lifted immediately, and calls upon the Israeli medical community, and the international medical community, to intervene now in order to protect the right of Palestinian medical personnel to travel freely for their work.

For additional information please contact Mr. Ran Yaron, Director of  the Occupied Territories department, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Tel. +972-(0)54-757-7696, e-mail:
Or Ms. Bahia Amra, External Relations Department, Palestinian Medical Relief Society- Ramallah. Tel. +972- (0)59-994-0073, e-mail: 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

International participants in conference on Gaza siege denied entry

Oct. 28, 2008

Jerusalem / PNN - The Israeli administration denied entrance to a major group of international academics, physicians and health professionals seeking to participate in a Gaza Strip conference.

“Siege and Mental Health, Walls vs. Bridges” will now be held via video conference on Monday and Tuesday instead of face-to-face due to the siege it intends to discuss.

Although the 120 slated participants in the Gaza Community Mental Health Program conference had applied for prior permission to pass the Erez Checkpoint, Israeli forces denied all entry permits without offering a reason.

Participants issued a statement reading in part, “We, the conference participants, protest this last-minute decision by the Israeli authorities and regard it as a deliberate attempt to stop professional communication and exchange between the international medical community and Gaza medical professionals.”

At a Sunday press conference in East Jerusalem, Professor Alice Rothschild, Harvard Medical School, USA, Professor Dr. W.H.G. Wolters, the Netherlands, Professor Federico Allodi, University of Toronto, Canada, Dr. Ghada Karmi, University of Exeter, UK, Professor James Deutsch, University of Toronto, Canada, Judy Deutsch, psychiatric social worker, Toronto, Canada, and Dr. Eyyad Sarraj, of Gaza who spoke via telephone today, expressed their protest.

The two-day conference, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization, will cover the impact of the ongoing Israeli siege on physical and medical health in the Gaza Strip. Prepared presentations include work on violence, social stress, poverty and children’s mental health. After being denied entry permits for Gaza the international participants decided to come to the West Bank in a stated show of support for the besieged residents of the Gaza Strip. They will join in the conference via video from Ramallah.

A request for entry for 80 of the international experts from countries such as the US, UK, Canada, Holland and Italy was submitted to the Israeli administration by the WHO Gaza office on 28 September. But on 13 October the Israeli military at Erez informed the WHO that all of the requests were denied without giving any reason.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Mechanisms of Israeli rule in the West Bank include control of the movement of populations along roads through checkpoints, random arrests and detainments, and home demolitions. The occupation also takes on a civilian aspect, as Israeli settlers move into Palestinian areas, a practice that began in 1967 and now amounts to 450,000 settlers in 149 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. While settling civilians into occupied terrorities is contrary to international law, the settlement population continues to grow at a rate of more than double that of the population expansion in Israel; growth rate averages at 5.5% a year between 1987 and 2004 (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), 2007b).

The now more than 149 Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank are an integral component of the Israeli closure policies and practices. Despite the 4th Geneva Convention prohibition on moving civilian populations into occupied territories, the settlement population in Palestine increased by almost 150% between 1987 and 2004, now totaling 450,000 (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), 2007b). The United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice have declared the continued establishment of settlements illegal. These settlements are linked to each other through a comprehensive network of roads and tunnels, on which Palestinians are not allowed to travel.

In the time between last summer and this summer, settlements in the West Bank appear to have increased. In a recent trip with the mobile clinic, I saw many road signs with the Arabic either crossed out or covered with stickers advertising settlements.

News of settler violence has increased sharply. Ha’aretz ran a story this morning about a settler who threw a brick through the car of a Palestinian woman and her smal child. In the evening, Ma’an News reported that Israeli settlers attacked a wedding partyi in Al Khalil (Hebron), and pushed a 15 year old Palestinian boy from his roof, breaking ihis back. (

On the 25th of July Ma’an News reported “three Israeli settlers, one masked and wielding a stick, pursued 14 Palestinian children who were on their way to a summer camp.” Although there had been an arrangement that Israeli military would excort the children, military personeel never arrived to do so. A few days later, there were reports that American solidarity workers from Christian Peacemakers who arrived to escort the children had been attacked by settlers so severely that one had to be taken to the hospital to treat a head injury he sustained. (

In all sorts of settings in Palestine, acts of violence are often extreme and sudden-house invasions, arrests, beatings. But there is another sort of violence that is slower, often more deliberate, and sustained over time. Through research we’ve been working on this summer we’ve heard many stories from women about the unrelenting stressors of occupation that rarely make the news. Settlements, perched on hills surrounding Palestinian villages, connected by roads accessible only to Israelis, suffocate both the tangible resources in Palestine and the ability of one’s mind to relax and simply enjoy a view. There was only one village in Palestine where I had the pleasure of looking at simple hills of Palestine. It’s a valuable and rare memory...sitting on a roof, eating watermelon, imagining what it must have been like before all of this...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ten-year-old boy killed by Israeli forces during clashes in Ni'lin

Maan News Agency
Date: 29 / 07 / 2008 Time: 19:59

Ramallah – Ma'an – Ten-year-old Ahmad Husam Yousef Musa was killed by Israeli forces on Tuesday evening during clashes in the village of Ni'lin, west of Ramallah.

Eyewitnesses reported that the child was shot in the head and died immediately. His body was transferred to Ramallah hospital.

The former mayor of Ni'lin, Muhammad Srour, told Ma'an that while the Israeli bulldozers were finishing their daily work on the separation wall in the village, Israeli troops fired live ammunition directly at demonstrators who had gathered at the wall construction site.

Ni'lin residents have staged daily protests and marches against the separation wall, which is being built on the village's land. Some 77 demonstrations, sit-ins, and protests against the wall have been held in the village so far. The Israeli military frequently responds by shooting tear gas, sound bombs, rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition towards demonstrators and bystanders.

The Israeli wall will confiscate some 2,500 dunams of land belonging to the village, whose residents depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. A dunam is 1,000 square metres or approximately a quarter of an acre.


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli soldiers Tuesday fired shots near a group of Palestinian youths during a demonstration in the West Bank, killing a 9-year-old boy, eyewitnesses told CNN.

The Israeli military released a statement saying it is "conducting a careful and thorough examination" into the reported incident, including a joint medical investigation with Palestinian medical personnel.

The military said the head of Israel's Central Command, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, "is following the investigation closely."

The incident happened during a demonstration against an Israeli security barrier near the village of Nil'in, which is near Ramallah.

There have been numerous demonstrations near the village in recent months against the security barrier that Palestinians say will result in the seizure of their land.

Israel says the security barrier is necessary to prevent terrorists from entering Israel and taking lives. But Palestinians say the barrier is an illegal land grab that also restricts them from traveling to work in Israel.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Wall: Four Years After International Court Decision...

Yesterday, July 9, marked the four-year anniversary of the decision by the International Court of Justice that declared the construction of the Israeli Apartheid Wall illegal. (International Court of Justice, 2004) The 8-meter high, 436-mile long wall is a part of the growing geography of occupation in Palestine, where districts, towns, and even homes themselves, have been severed. The Palestinian Grassroots Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign notes that there are 17 enclaves “walled from three sides and tightly controlled from the fourth side.” (Palestinian Grassroots Anti Apartheid Wall Campaign, 2007) In some districts, the wall includes watchtowers with snipers every 400 meters, while in others there are electic fences, trace paths, barbed wire, cameras and trenches. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2004; Palestine Monitor, 2007)

Israeli occupation measures include stringent physical acts, such as the wall and associated physical measures (checkpoints, tunnels, gates, etc.), but also active economic measures, such as the Israeli control of water and agricultural land. The ruling notes “the wall will effectively annex most of the Western aquifer system (which provides 51%per cent of the West Banks’ water resources).” These measures are part of a program of active impoverishment of the Palestinian population, who suffer from what Sara Roy describes as de-development: “the deliberate, systematic deconstruction of an indigenous economy by a dominant power (Roy, 1995).” 43% of Palestinians fall below the poverty line and 15% live in deep poverty. The national GDP dropped 20% from 1999-2005. Unemployment in 2005 was 23%, and 35% among youth ages 20-24 (World Bank, 2005). The World Bank notes: “The inability of the Palestinian economy to fully use its productive potential is first and foremost the result of restrictions on the movement of people and goods (UNICEF; World Bank, 2006).”

Here in Palestine, communities have organized nonviolent protests against the continued construction of the wall. In the town of Ni’lin, ordinary citizens have been protesting since May. 26 people have been arrested, 160 have been injured by rubber coated steel bullets, and a PMRS ambulance was shot at. Live ammunition has been used on citizens who were peacefully protesting.

Many of us around the world work on issues dear to us that reflect the sacredness of human rights, self-determination, and international law. Some take exceptionally determined stands, compelled to extinguish the silence that atrocities require. I have been lucky enough to know some of these people...from an Army Lieutenant at Fort Lewis, Washington all the way to community organizers, educators, health workers, and citizens in Palestine. Knowing of their acts has made me wonder in the past few years what international law means to us all-especially those of us from occupying powers-and what we can do to burn its importance back into our collective memory.

The text of the decision:

“[By fourteen votes to one]:
The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated rĂ©gime, are contrary to international law; Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with paragraph 151 of this Opinion; Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.”

Yours in struggle from occupied Palestine~

(for a primer on the wall:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Launching research on mental health impacts of occupation

I'm back in Palestine for the second summer! I feel so incredibly lucky to work again with PMRS. While writing up the research I did last summer, I had the opportunity to reflect on the strength, hospitality and ingenuity of PMRS, as well as their awesome spirit to, in the face of continual assaults of the occupation, persist in promoting human rights, justice, empowerment & engagement in civil society.

This summer, I will focus on working with PMRS as a research partner to examine the relationship between the violence of the occupation and family violence, mental health and well-being. Most importantly, I will attempt to understand more the potential for resilience; factors that may help people and families to overcome the trauma of war and occupation. To this end, we will look at family cohesion, individual problem solving, and community capacity. I arrived to PMRS ready to begin work, and have an awesome research team who have translated all the materials, and are facilitating focus groups and helping to coordinate the collection of quantitative data.

We began the field work this week in Biddo, a town I visited last summer, a place that's landscape is carved up by the wall, settlements,and Israeli only roads. The clinic graciously hosted us, and recruited participants for both the surveys and the focus groups.

It was a powerful morning, with both a sense of accomplishment for beginning, and a sadness that comes with collecting and analyzing data on trauma and pain. Below is a picture of the new research team after finishing the first focus group.
I feel like this year I've come with a sharper focus, one that both seeks a greater understanding of the conditions here but that also searches to discover what people, families and communities do to mobilize internal and external resources. This focus is helping me to view Palestine more holistically, as a society that, in addition to a history of pain, injustice and struggle, also has a powerful history of growth, dignity, education and joy.

“Palestinian survival abilities and resiliency have been learned over a period of almost 100 years of trauma and conflict, not only recently, and have been handed down from generation to generation (R. Giacaman, 2005).”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Press Release: Amnesty International

For immediate release:
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Contact: AIUSA media office,
202-544-0200 x302

Israeli Army Denying Cancer Patient Vital Treatment, Charges Amnesty International

(Washington, DC)--The Israeli army must allow chronically ill cancer patient Karima Abu Dalal to leave the Gaza Strip and obtain desperately needed medical care in Israel, Amnesty International said today.

"Karima Abu Dalal's life now hangs in the balance because of the Israeli army's failure to grant her a permit to leave Gaza to obtain specialized cancer treatment not available there," said Amnesty International.

More than 40 people are reported to have died in the Gaza Strip in recent months because they were refused passage out of the area in order to obtain urgent medical treatment that could not be provided to them there.

Karima Abu Dalal, 34, suffers from Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer which can be cured if appropriate, timely treatment is provided. Her condition has deteriorated recently and she now has difficulty breathing and walking. Her doctors in Gaza consider that her survival depends on her being removed urgently to Israel for treatment at an advanced medical center.

Since the Israeli authorities tightened their blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, closing the border between Gaza and Egypt, each of the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants has to obtain the permission of the Israeli military authorities to leave the Gaza Strip for Israel. This is almost always refused. While some exceptions are made on a "humanitarian" basis, the Israeli military has denied permits for scores of ill patients saying they cannot allow them to leave the Gaza Strip because of unspecified "security" reasons.

Medical facilities in Gaza lack the specialized staff and equipment to treat a range of conditions, such as some forms of cancer and cardiovascular illnesses. Hospitals and medical facilities are also increasingly short of drugs, disposable supplies and functioning medical equipment.

Despite repeated requests since last November, the Israeli army has refused to issue a permit allowing Karima Abu Dalal to leave Gaza for medical treatment. A request made to the Israeli army last Sunday is still awaiting a response.

"Denying passage to patients in desperate need of medical care serves no legitimate security purpose, as all patients undergo strict security checks at the crossing, and are generally gravely ill," said Amnesty International. "Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible for providing the right to health and access to health care for Karima Abu Dalal and all 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip."

Background information:

Karima Abu Dalal received a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy and radiotherapy in Egypt before the Israeli authorities closed the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in June 2007. This treatment was apparently successful. The Israeli army issued Karima Abu Dalal with a permit allowing her to leave the Gaza Strip in August 2007 to undergo courses of chemotherapy in Nablus in the West Bank. She responded positively to these and was due to return to Nablus in November 2007 for further treatment, but her requests to do so were rejected by the Israeli military authorities for unspecified "security reasons." The Israeli High Court of Justice also refused a petition against this decision stating that they saw "no grounds for intervention."

Karima Abu Dalal has been treated at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza. But doctors there say she now needs more specialist care at an advanced medical center in Israel if she is to have any chance of survival.

For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 x302.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A fourth day of Gaza aerial bombardment

AlJazeera English
March 01, 2008

A fourth day of aerial bombardment by Israeli aircraft is now being backed up now by ground forces making their deepest incursion into Gaza since 2005.

The chief negotiator for the Palestinians says any hope for the peace talks now lies buried in the rubble of Gaza.

More than 80 people - women and children among them - have been killed over the past four days, and international condemnation remains muted.

Nour Odeh has been following the day's developments

Monday, January 21, 2008

Public Health Effects of Power Cuts in Gaza

Here is a link to a video showing a graphic consequence of the power cuts in Gaza.

From AlJazeera English