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Friday, July 08, 2005

 

Open Letter From Palestinian Health Organizations

26 June 2005

Referring to the comments made by Dr. Shanit on behalf of the Peres
Centre
for Peace to our 'Open Letter to the Palestinian and international
community regarding Palestinian-Israeli cooperation', we would like to
note
the following:

1. The Palestinian medical and health service providers who signed the
Open
Letter did not call for an outright ban on Palestinian-Israeli
cooperation
in the health sector, but rather deplored the fact that some
international
donors have increasingly made Palestinian-Israeli cooperation projects a
condition for the provision of support to the Palestinian health sector.

2. As outlined in our Open Letter, we have always welcomed and continue
to
welcome the support of Israelis who openly oppose occupation and work
with
Palestinians based on a platform of justice and equality as well as
mutual
political understanding.

3. However, the Palestinian medical and health NGOs reserve the right to
choose their partners in research, training, teaching and other
activities,
including the right to choose partners from within and outside Israel.
We
also expect partners on the Israeli side to openly demand that the
Israeli
government end the 38 year long occupation and abide by International
Law,
the Fourth Geneva Convention and all relevant UN Security Council
Resolutions. Palestinian health organizations are of course keen to
promote
health care in the occupied territory and are always open to cooperation
with Israeli institutions that explicitly and publicly oppose Israeli
military occupation and work towards bringing about its end.

The claim that by signing the Open Letter, Palestinian health
organizations
would deny the Palestinian population, especially children, essential
medical treatment otherwise unavailable in Palestine is simply untrue
and
does not make sense either. We question the effectiveness and value of
joint Palestinian-Israeli projects as the best method of improving the
Palestinian population's health. To date, there is no evidence that
joint
projects are an effective and efficient method of improving the
Palestinian
people's health. We also question why priority is given to joint
projects,
and not, for example, to other possible courses of action, such as
direct
investment in the Palestinian medical and health infrastructure as well
as
other activities aiming at improving the capacity of Palestinian health
services to fulfill the population's medical and health needs. This
would
also gradually decrease dependence on Israeli medical services, in
itself
an important step towards Palestinian national independence and
sustainable
development.

It is an indisputable fact that the root causes of the Palestinian
population's ill health in general and Palestinian children's health in
particular are the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as
well
as Israeli government practices on the ground, including the building of
the Apartheid Wall. We believe that, apart from addressing the symptoms,
Israeli health organizations also have a moral responsibility to tackle
the
underlying problem, the occupation. If actions are limited to only
dealing
with the symptoms of military occupation, even with the best of
intentions,
such actions may well end up perpetuating today's realities.

We were surprised at the inappropriate tone and content of the statement
made by Dr. Shanit in response to our Open Letter. A continued
discussion
of issues of disagreement is indeed welcome, provided it is conducted in
a
mutually respectful manner.

Finally, Palestinian health professionals continue to appreciate and
welcome any effort by Israeli health professionals to relieve the pain
and
suffering of Palestinian and Israeli patients.

Palestinian Health Organizations


Letter by Dr. Shanit/The Peres Center for Peace:

Taking hostages as a way of life ( or please do not confuse us with the
facts)

It is quite often that Israeli NGOs such as the Peres Center for Peace
find
themselves under attack for their dedication and devotion to joint
projects
with their Palestinian counterparts in order to assist the Palestinian
civil society in its time of need. Such attacks emanate usually from the
extreme right within Israel, while such terminology as traitors or
terrorist lovers are being utilized. It is however quite astounding to
read
an "An open letter to the Palestinian and international community
regarding
Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in health"

Published by some Palestinian health organizations calling for a ban on
cooperation with the Peres Center and similar Israeli NGOs engaged in
the
daily battle for life of Palestinian children or the continuous
incessant
search for training opportunities for Palestinian doctors, such ban
practically turns Palestinian children hostage to a political agenda of
those who should know better.

One can only wonder whether those Palestinian medical relief leaders
insisting on denying the Palestinian population essential medical
diagnostics and treatment otherwise unavailable in Palestine or training
opportunities rendered to some 25 Palestinian doctors each year in
Israeli
hospitals - have ever bothered to ask their public and their own
constituency whether they share their views. Over 1200 Palestinian
children
to-date have been diagnosed, treated or operated in Israeli hospitals
through a joint initiative of Palestinian and Israeli pediatricians
instigated by the Peres Center. But why confuse the Palestinian public
with
the facts when one can simply take another 1000 children hostage, deny
them
essential care. Sacrifice the future generation of Palestinians to save
an
agenda? Why not! What a wonderful way to become the hero of a
revolution!

There are many ways to sacrifice one's own people. The settlers in the
West
Bank and Gaza insist on holding their own children and those of the rest
of
Israel - hostage. It is quite amazing to find Palestinian NGOs insisting
on
joining this trend when it is Prime Minister Abu Ala in his recent
public
statement of last week who declared:

"It is a great honor to share with you my deep appreciation and
gratitude
for this unique initiative "Saving Children". This project breaks all
barriers, physical and psychological, and reminds us all of our humanity
and most importantly, what our own personal and collective efforts can
bring to the most innocent victims of this hard political struggle, the
sick children of Palestine. " and " We believe that the future of peace
lies in efforts like this one and that these are the choices that we
must
make again and again to extract ourselves of the current stalemate and
regard each other with respect and humanity. It is the value of love and
morality that we wish our children and their children to hold close to
them. Actions such as this one, can have a tremendous impact to help us
restructure the social and political fabric of our society. It is
through
people like you that we can forge new beginnings and reach new horizons.
"
and "Thank you for offering Palestinian children who cannot be treated
in
Palestine an alternative opportunity to have access to health care and
be
saved so that they in turn can use this gift, and become beacons of
light,
hope and peace. We also extend our thanks to our friends at the Peres
Center for Peace, whose partnership with this project demonstrates, yet
once more, unwavering commitment to reconciliation and genuine peace."

Everyone has a role in the struggle for Palestinian independence and
statehood. However ours does not entail throwing stones or
demonstrations
but rather saving the lives of Palestinian children, training doctors,
assisting in the building of Palestinian medical capacity, or simply
providing essential medical supplies to a Palestinian hospital when
under
siege (such as the Jenin Hospital during the IDF incursion ).

Finally, I can only hope that common sense will prevail, since it is the
interest of the Palestinian people and in particular the future
generation
who is at stake, and they deserve an honest commitment rather than
corrupt
and sectarian politics.

Dr. Dan Shanit
Director of Medicine & Healthcare
The Peres Center for Peace

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