Israel is targeting our partners in Palestine and deliberately disrupting their vital work. The impact on the health of Palestinians is enormous.
A deliberate strategy
This is not a new strategy. The Israeli government has been silencing critical Palestinian voices and social organisations for years. Our partners know about this. The Health Work Committees (HWC), Bisan and Awda are targets of repression because these organisations defend the rights of Palestinians. Their offices and health centres are closed or bombed, their staff arrested and their ﬁnancing cut. Israel arrested Shatha, then director of HWC, in July 2021 and wrongfully detained her for 11 months. Ubai Al-Aboudi, director of Bisan, suffered the same fate in 2019 and 2020.
On 9 June 2021, the Israeli army destroyed the HWC offices. They took the computers and closed the building for 6 months. 3 Awda health centres in Gaza were bombed. The Israeli attacks and smear campaigns are a deliberate strategy to silence any criticism.
Health under apartheid
The impact on the health of Palestinians is enormous. Bisan’s research shows this. Awda, HWC and Bisan have seen their staffing levels drop dramatically over the past ten years. So have their budgets. As a result, these organisations reach fewer Palestinians in carrying out their all-important work. Due to Israeli repression, HWC has had to close all mobile clinics, for example. Bisan estimates that as a result, HWC is reaching 67,000 fewer Palestinians with its health services, especially in remote areas.
The PHM People’s Health Movement recently showed the differences in life expectancy and infant mortality between Palestinians and Israelis. The conclusion is clear: apartheid and occupation are damaging to health!
Together with the MHP and our Palestinian, Filipino and Congolese partner organisations, we continue to put the repression of Palestinian health activists and social organisations on the national and international agenda. In this way, we secure political support.
In October 2021, Israel unjustly placed six Palestinian social organisations, including our partner Bisan, on a list of terrorist organisations. Global criticism took hold and the #StandWithThe6 solidarity campaign quickly gained momentum.
In July, nine EU member states, including Belgium, conﬁrmed their support for Palestinian organisations. “Israel has not provided any substantial evidence of terrorism” they said. Critical voices, activists and social movements must never be silenced! Together with our Minister for Development Cooperation, Meryame Kitir, we will continue to hammer this point home.
International solidarity remains vital!