Solidarity with Palestine – SfGH Statement

Dear Members,

We would like to start by expressing our sincerest condolences to the lives lost in the Palestinian-Israeli violence since Monday 10th May and the many lives lost in the years preceding the escalation in the last few weeks. At the latest count of those harmed in the most recent round of violence, 244 lives have been lost, 63 of which were children and a total of 1400 people have been injured (NYT). Our thoughts are with these communities at this difficult time. Hellen Ottens-Patterson, MSF head of mission in Palestine described the level of “violence and injury sustained over the last few days” as “unbearable and unacceptable.”

In mourning all loss of life, we must also recognise the clear disproportionality of the casualties with many times more Palestinians killed and injured both historically, and over the last few weeks. As a student group advocating for a fair and just world in which equity in health is a reality for all, it is our duty to draw attention and concern to the killing of civilians and the long-term violation of the human rights of Palestinians. We know that health is dependent on peace, but peace cannot be achieved whilst injustice and occupation continue (Health through peace policy, 2017).

Whilst condemning any and all attacks on civilians by any group, Students for Global Health must recognise and condemn the excessive violence by the Israeli military, namely the attacks on residential homes and civilian buildings, including medical centres, media offices, water infrastructure and places of worship, with a disproportionate effect on Palestinians. This indiscriminate killing of civilians is wholly unacceptable and fails to satisfy the terms of the right to self-defence owing to a lack of necessity, attacks on civilians, a lack of proportionality, and because of Israel’s status as an occupying power over Palestine.

The actions of Israel likely meet the definitions of the war crime of collective punishment and crimes against humanity, according to Amnesty International and B’Tselem. In addition, health workers and humanitarian aid organisations have frequently been prevented from providing assistance to Palestinians. The UN has also warned that these airstrikes risk precipitating another wave of COVID-19 in Gaza, due to the significant damage to health infrastructure.

Whilst a cease fire is welcomed, the international community must do more to address the oppression of Palestinians across the occupied territories and within Israel.

The recent escalation in violence began in early May in the face of the impending expulsion of an additional 13 Palestinian families from the East Jeruslaem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah by settlers and the Israeli authorities, the latest continuation of Israel’s illegal dispossession and appropriation of Palestinian homes and territories. For too long, the systemic attacks on Palestinian human rights have been ignored by the international community. Across the occupied territories this includes the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes; the implementation of settler colonialism with illegal settlements; the discriminatory control over water, food and other essential resources; unlawful arrests and policing; and the blockade of Gaza, all of which have been recognised and documented by human rights groups. In particular, the blockade of Gaza, implemented by the Israeli Government since 2007, has prevented many Palestinians from accessing healthcare and resulted in severely poor health for many people in Gaza, exacerbated during COVID-19.

According to Human Rights Watch, these actions of the Israeli government, as well as discrimination faced by Palestinians living in Israel, constitute the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.  Meanwhile, Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes in a process beginning in 1948 are yet to receive justice and have their right to return upheld, whilst over 5 million Palestinian refugees depend on UN services.

In particular, we note the special responsibility of the UK government in this situation to be a voice for peace and justice, given its position as the colonial Mandatory Power when the displacement of the majority of the Palestinian people began in 1947-1948.

We therefore support the calls to action of many other organisations, in particular Medact, Amnesty UK and others, calling for the UK government to:

  • Support the maintenance of the ceasefire in particular for Israel to not perform  airstrikes on Gaza
  • End UK arms sales to Israel
  • Demonstrate support for calls to accountability, including full respect for the International Criminal Court’s opening of an investigation into the violence in Palestine
  • Lobby to prevent the potential war crime of the dispossession and forced relocation of Palestinian families living in occupied territory
  • Lobby Israel to end the apartheid imposed on Palestinians across Gaza, the West Bank and within Israel, ensuring all Palestinians access to their full human rights and dignity
  • Ensure that the Israeli government upholds its international legal obligations to provide the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt) with sufficient coronavirus vaccines of an equal standard to those used within Israel, and to ensure smooth entry of vaccines and medical equipment to the oPt

We encourage our branches to:

  • Raise awareness by sharing this statement and verified information, ensuring content is sensitive and does not include islamophobic, racist or antisemitic language. Sources of information (in alphabetical order) include:
    • Adalah (work on the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel) – here
    • Al-Haq (a palestinian human rights organiation) – here
    • Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights (a palestinian human rights organisation in Gaza) – here
    • Amnesty International here
    • B’tselem (Israeli information centre for human rights) – here
    • Decolonize Palestine – here
    • Grassroots Al-Quds (community organisation based in Jerusalem) – here
    • Human Rights Watch here
    • Ir Amin (Israeli human rights organisation in Jerusalem) – here
    • Jewish Voice for Peace here
    • Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK based) here
    • Makan (UK-based Palestinian organisation providing educational material) – here
    • Na’amod – British Jews against Occupation here
    • The New York Times ‘The Daily’ Podcast coverage of the conflict found here and here
    • Vashti media (UK-based jewish publisher) here
  • Share petitions that align with the calls to action such as
  • Where possible, attend marches, in a socially distanced fashion, to show support for Palestine
  • Where possible, support charities providing aid to Palestinians such as:

We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and all those facing oppression around the world.

Any members affected by this issue or wanting to pursue further advocacy are encouraged to reach out for support at your local branch, to your regional coordinator or with the national committee.