Wartime: An Appeal to Doctors, Health Professionals, and the Wide Public

07/31/2014
Map of Gaza

There is war in Gaza again. At this time, it seems like heavy smoke is covering the area, the media, consciousness, and the entire future. But one thing can be already stated with certainty: the casualties of this war have already paid the price. Its dead have already died; its wounded will go on to contend with the pain and trauma for the rest of their lives.

As health and medical professionals, Jews and Arabs, our position is no more moral than that of anyone else, but by dint of our positions and our ongoing work, our point of view is different. For us, the thousands of casualties are not merely a number, reported in the media, but actual, real people, with faces, names, and a vivid, tangible story of life and pain. We do not ask the wounded if they were hurt in accordance with the strictures of international law. We do not check whether the children were orphaned in a just, moral manner. For them it is already too late.

The Physician’s Oath guides us to hold human beings safe “from all evil and injustice.” This holding is expressed not only in meeting the wounded in the Emergency Room; it also requires us to look bravely at the factors and circumstances that bring the dead and the wounded to our doorstep. We must examine what injustice it is that we are commanded to hold people safe from. And the injustices are many: whole families bombarded to death in their homes; rockets fired at the citizens of Israel; hospitals and ambulances shelled; medical facilities being used for military purposes; hundreds of tons of bombs dropped on residential areas; intolerable death of civilians; a great indifference to the suffering of the other.

Anyone with eyes in their head can see that not only the Gaza Strip is under unprecedented attack, but that the democratic space in Israel is surrounded by a billowing mushroom cloud. The physical and verbal violence, the organized attack on anyone who will not toe the government’s policy line, and the belligerent mood, the assaults – sometimes institutionalized – against people for no reason other than their having expressed a personal opinion, these have all brought the social texture in Israel to an unprecedented low. We are sorry to say that it seems we have not yet gotten to the bottom of the slope.

And we should courageously say: these are not just “sounds of war.” This is not just the result of frustration and fear, of a desire “to bring back the quiet times.” The public discourse at this time powerfully exposes the face of a society that has been corrupted, inside and out, through many years of domination and occupation. This is a result of many years of trampling the rights of another nation, of placing young soldiers into policing roles at checkpoints; of violence; of racism and silencing; of dehumanizing the other. The road to repairing this damage is long and full of obstacles, but we are still imbued with the faith that it is both just and possible.

And before anything else, for the very lives and health of all Israelis and Palestinians, we call upon health and medical professionals and all people who believe in humaneness and justice: join our call for a ceasefire that will put an end to the destruction in the Gaza Strip and to the rocket attacks on Israel. Now is the time that democracy and ethics are put to the test, when it is hard, scary, and unpopular to denounce violence and speak up in favor of fair dialogue. Join us in the call to prevent any more pain and bereavement. Join the demand of all leaders in the region: we must place against the option of suffering and death an option of healing the wounds, of reconciliation, and of choosing life. We believe that a necessary step in that direction is the acknowledgement of the liberty of both nations, the termination of Israeli control over the Palestinian nation, the removal of the siege on the people in the Gaza Strip, and a striving for a just political solution, which will guarantee security and a dignified life to all the people in our region.

Petition circulated by Physicians for Human Rights - Israel

The original article appears at http://www.atzuma.co.il/againstwar on Atzuma’s website in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.