PCHR Welcomes WHO Executive Board’s Voting against Israel’s Proposal to Revise WHA Provisional Agenda in the oPt and occupied Arab Territory
Date: 27 January 2021
Time: 12:00 GMT
Israel’s Attempts to Evade Responsibilities for the Health Conditions in the oPt Fail:
On Tuesday, 26 January 2021, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Executive Board voted against the proposal presented by Israel to delete the World Health Assembly (WHA) agenda item relevant to the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and occupied Syrian Golan.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the voting against Israel’s proposal and considers it a reflection of Israel’s failed attempts to evade its responsibilities for the health conditions in the oPt and renounce its obligations as a belligerent occupation responsible for applying the preventive measures to curb the outbreak of diseases in territories it occupies; providing medical supplies to the people of the oPt, including those necessary for combating the coronavirus, particularly the coronavirus vaccines.
Israel’s Ambassador to the WHO requested the deletion of the item relevant to the health conditions in the oPt and occupied Arab territory from the 148th WHA agenda. The proposal was presented for voting as 15 states voted in favor and 7 voted against while 9 states abstained.
During the Executive Board’s meeting, several states made statements, including Palestine’s permanent observer ambassador who talked about the Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement and travel of patients, targeting ambulances and medical crews, attacking hospitals and medical centers, targeting and killing persons with disabilities, its policy of medical negligence against prisoners and not providing them with the necessary medical supplies. He also addressed the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip and its negative impact on the health conditions in the territory.
The Executive Board’s voting against the Israeli proposal comes at a time when the health conditions in the oPt are in a dire state as the healthcare facilities in Gaza suffers immensely
due to 14 years of Israeli closure policy. Consequently, the Gaza healthcare system is extremely undermined and has a chronic shortage of basic medicines and medical devices and specialized medical personnel, making the healthcare system unable to meet the Gaza Strip’s basic health needs in regular times and to provide the medical services necessary for 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. The status of health facilities in Gaza aggravated following the outbreak of coronavirus in the Gaza Strip as they suffered shortage in the coronavirus testing materials and intensive care units, respirators, and coronavirus diagnostic equipment, medicines, medical consumables, and protective gear to prepare it to combat coronavirus. Moreover, the Israeli authorities’ ban on the entry of new medical devices into the Gaza Strip, including the radiation devices necessary for diagnosing types of cancer, or the ban on importing the spare parts necessary for the broken medical devices have made, combined, the hospitals and medical centers unable to deal with hundreds of patients.
The severe deterioration in the healthcare system and the lack of specialized medical services in the Gaza Strip increased the need for referring Gaza’s patients for treatment at hospitals in Israel and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. Despite this, the Israeli authorities obstructed the travel of hundreds of patients referred for treatment at hospitals in Israel and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, noting that the Palestinian Ministry of Health minimized patients’ referral abroad to the extent possible, except for critical cases whose treatment is not available at Gaza’s hospitals.
Additionally, Gaza’s patients referred for treatment abroad encounter many difficulties obtaining permits for travel via Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing from the Israeli authorities; many patients are denied exit permits as Israeli authorities allege their treatment is available in the Gaza Strip or that they require medical intervention for “improving quality of life” and not for “life-saving.” Moreover, the prolonged security check for patients and their companions may lead to the rejection or delay of permit request whilst in treatment or/and in the final stages of treatment. Also, as part of the Israeli authorities’ collective punishment policy, IOF decided to ban treatment permits for first-degree relatives of persons accused of resisting the Israeli occupation or for patients who have relatives living in the West Bank without permits. PCHR has documented the arrest and interrogation of many patients and their companions; some of them were blackmailed by Israeli officers in exchange for facilitating their travel for treatment.
PCHR reiterates its welcome of the WHO Executive Board’s vote against Israel’s proposal to revise WHA provisional agenda in the oPt and occupied Arab territory and believes that the Israeli proposal politicizes WHO’s technical agenda. PCHR emphasizes the WHO’s mandate on the health conditions in the oPt and occupied Arab territory and commends its active role, as a leading healthcare agency, in responding to humanitarian and health needs in the oPt, which suffers under a prolonged occupation many recurrent and ongoing humanitarian crises and unstable health conditions.
PCHR also reaffirms that the primary responsibility for providing medical supplies to the Gaza Strip population lies with Israel and it must take all necessary preventive measures available to combat the spread of infectious diseases in accordance with Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
PCHR calls upon the international community and WHO to put pressure on Israel and compel it to comply with its obligations towards the oPt population, in particular the Gaza Strip, whose health facilities suffer severe deterioration.