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.

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