An Open Letter to the Palestinian and International Community

From the archive (legacy material)

Health Sector Signatories, Occupied Palestine | Palestinian Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel | May 2005

We, the undersigned, medical and health service providers and members of professional unions and research and training institutions working in the health sector in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, would like to register our protest and deep concern over the increasing pressure exerted upon us to enter into Palestinian-Israeli cooperation schemes in the sphere of health.
Such projects, largely conceived and funded by international and/or Israeli institutions, include ventures involving Israeli institutions such as the Peres Peace Center and Galilee College with the cooperation or active involvement of Palestinian health professionals, whether such involvement is in the area of training, referral to Israeli health services, capacity building, or other joint ventures; initiatives aiming at ‘promoting dialogue and collaboration between Palestinian and Israeli health professionals, NGOs and health institutions’; projects that entail joint scientific/research cooperation and publications in international journals under the general heading ‘Peace-building through joint Palestinian-Israeli health initiatives’; conferences and workshops aiming at ‘contributing to conflict resolution and harm reduction’; and presentations in conferences in joint Israeli-Palestinians sessions under rubrics such as ‘ Working towards peace in the Middle East’.
Our deep-rooted objections to such joint schemes are multiple:
1. These initiatives, no matter how well intentioned, are imposed largely from the outside, either luring professionals and academics with funds, facilities and opportunities for personal advancement in a resource starved environment, or bringing them solutions to individual medical and systemic problems that the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land has created and maintained.
2. Such schemes, furthermore, do not reflect current Palestinian priorities and ignore the vastly unequal relationship between the two parties: one is an occupier and the other is occupied.
3. They fail to take into consideration the generally silent response of the Israeli academic and professional establishment to Palestinian scientific, medical, health, educational, economic, social and political strangulation. In some cases, such Israeli institutions have been known to participate in developing the strategies and plans of Israeli rule of Palestinians, their justification, and even providing the academic legitimacy to market such strategies and plans in the West.
4. They also reflect an unacceptable politicization of health research and other activities, and claim to be apolitical when a political agenda is in fact the driving force for such forced cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
5. They are largely premised on the mistaken belief that Israeli and Palestinian cooperation in the academic, scientific and professional spheres can lead to peace. While there may be reasons to believe that such cooperative ventures may contribute to reconciliation in a post-conflict setting, it is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that such cooperation can achieve much in ongoing conflict, especially when justice for Palestinians has not been achieved.
To date, evidence demonstrates that joint academic Palestinian-Israeli projects are neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable. Such ventures have in fact contributed to hindering the path to just peace, as their role has been limited to enhancing Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
We believe that it is more fruitful to consider investing what seems to be a large amount of funds — dedicated by international bodies to such Israeli-Palestinian ventures — directly into Palestinian institutional infrastructure and capacity building, to allow Palestinians to develop the needed human resources, referral services and academic scientific infrastructure that would help them take off on the path of independence and sustainable development.
We also believe that it is the right of Palestinians to choose their partners in research, training, teaching and other activities. It would thus be more fruitful to leave Palestinians to make their choice of partners and invest in developing existing research, training and other relationships with various bodies and groups in Jordan, the Arab World, Europe, the United States and Canada, as well as Israelis who openly oppose occupation and work with Palestinians based on a platform of justice, instead of linking the acquisition of funds or operation of projects to the condition of cooperating with Israelis.
As for well meaning Israeli academics, scientists, and health professionals, it may be well worth their while to consider becoming actively involved in Israeli or joint Israeli-Palestinian activities aimed at ending Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land, the removal of closures, checkpoints, siege and the Apartheid Wall, among other manifestations of the root cause of ill health: the occupation.
1. Union of Health Work Committees
2. Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees
3. Central National Committee for Rehabilitation
4. Health Development Information Policy Institute
5. General Union of Palestinian Workers
6. General Union of Palestinian Charitable Societies
7. Women’s Affairs Technical Committee
8. Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitations of the Victims of Torture
9. Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
10. Red Crescent Society – Nablus
11. General Union of Disabled Palestinians
12. Center for University services – al-Najah University
13. Center for Development of Community Resources
14. Arab Women’s Society
15. Friends of al-Najah University Society
16. Union of Palestinian Youth
17. Youth Counseling Center
18. Patients’ Friends Society – Jenin
19. Palestinian National Council of Non-Governmental Organizations
20. Field Research Group