In solidarity with Gaza
The Lancet, January 12, 2009 - With sadness and urgency we, medical students, express our outrage at the brutal Israeli attacks and subsequent humanitarian disaster that is occurring in Gaza. As we write, more than 600 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2700 wounded in Israel’s disproportionate assault that began on Dec 27, 2008. Not just as medical students, but as Christians, Jews, and Muslims; as Arabs, Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians, we write in solidarity with the people of Gaza as they suffer yet another major humanitarian disaster.
On Dec 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the UN proclaimed that access to medical care is an inalienable human right. More than 60 years later, as medical supplies in Gaza’s overstretched and underequipped hospitals dwindle, this right is far from realised. The international community has been slow to respond with aid and even that which is offered is not reaching those in need.Hospitals scramble to operate with-out power, medicines, and clean water as medical equipment and health workers are prevented from crossing the border. WHO reports that health personnel have been targeted in breach of medical neutrality and in violation of international human-itarian law. Testimonies gathered by Physicians for Human Rights—Israel report that patients wait in vain for treatment that cannot be provided by overwhelmed medical personnel in paralysed clinics. This massive influx of seriously injured civilians would overwhelm even the best of the hospitals in which we train.
Meanwhile, the bombardment of Gaza—one of the most densely populated regions in the world —continues unabated and the international community refuses to address Israel’s abhorrent policy of collective punishment. Israel claims only to target militants, yet the lists of wounded and dead are rife with civilians, many of them children. Irrespective of the complex dynamics of this conflict, human rights, medical neutrality, and the protection of non-combatants always demand respect. Israeli “high-precision” weapons have destroyed a UN school in Jabaliya, which was being used to house refugees, killing 40 civilians alone. We do not dismiss Hamas’s role, nor condone its targeting of Israeli civilians. How will the slaughter of Israeli or Palestinian civilians bring peace to this region? We fear this will instead breed new generations of hate, distrust, and misunderstanding. Yet the numbers of lives lost tell the story: Israel’s response is disproportionate and unacceptable.We cannot sit idly in silence as this violent assault on a civilian population kills and maims hundreds of people. The principles we accepted on entering the medical profession compel us to speak out in the face of these gross violations of basic decency and respect for human life. We implore the international community to shoulder its responsibility to the people of Gaza. We are embarrassed at US complicity and regret that many of the weapons fired come from our own country. As members of the medical profession, we call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the immediate and comprehensive provision of humanitarian aid, and recognition of the neu-trality guaranteed to medical providers by international law.
Israel has only now approved limited humanitarian corridors, but this is insufficient and has proven ineffective. We stand united in opposing the health and human rights disaster inflicted on the citizens of Gaza. As we hope for a return to civility, dialogue, compromise, and resolution, our hearts go out to all of the victims of this tragedy. The violence must stop.We declare that we have no conflict of interest.
Rami Abdou, Iyah Romm, Davida Schiff, Kirsten Austad, Sam Dubal, *Simeon Kimmel, Eugene Schiff, on behalf of 753 other medical students