These are excerpts from Professor Elihu D. Richter MD MPH: Richard Horton’s 2007 Visit to Gaza and Israel: A Fool’s Journey, to read the full article please click here.
One of Horton’s two Israeli contacts were members of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. I admire this organization’s field volunteer work for foreign laborers and Arab and Jewish groups. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, I participated in its field investigations of the effects of the use of tear gas, the health status of security prisoners in Israeli prisons, an epidemic investigation of brucellosis in an Arab village in the West Bank, and risks for toxic exposures to Bedouin near Israel’s national toxic waste dump. In 2005, I wrote the medical brief on behalf of Bedouin from unrecognized villages in the Negev, represented by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, whose wheat fields were sprayed with Roundup, the world’s most widely-used weed killer and a herbicide used to kill cocaine in Columbia. The brief was successful, eventually, in forcing the government to stop the spraying. …
But PHR-I’s ever more radical leadership, in its political positions, applies a double standard to the protection of life: one for the Palestinian victims of the occupation’s heavy hand, and a lesser one for Israeli victims of the terror, the reason for the heavy hand. As I have made clear, Horton himself applies these double standards. He is silent on the impact of terror on Israeli life, although his many observations hint that he sees its disruptive effect on Palestinian society-Dr. Soliman, one of his sources, has to carry a Kalashnikov at all times. He cites the position of PHR-I that the "occupation is the cause of the Palestinian health crisis"-and not the corruption, violence, terror and diversion of funds for arms. But he fails to address a harsh truth. There is no proportional relationship between less occupation and less grapes of wrath genocidal terror, including the Kassam attack. In fact, ever since the Oslo accords, the opposite has been the case-when and where this less occupation, there is more terror— a relationship I ruefully was forced to accept after once believing the opposite.
If it is the health of the Palestinians that we are talking about, and health includes mental health, then my own point of view is that state-sponsored and -supported incitement is the root cause of the terror.
When the terror stops, and the incitement of terror stops-for good, and that means a generation-I will be out there demonstrating to take the barrier down, or at least to increase the openings in the barrier. The real issue of concern is defending the right of all to life and safety. In my view, this principle means zero tolerance not only for terror but also for incitement to terror. I disagree with Prof. Zvi Bentwich, a distinguished immunologist and internist, and Dr. Ruhama Morton, a psychiatrist, both of whom are active in PHR-I, and who, in a WHO-sponsored magazine devoted to Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in health, formulate the dilemma facing Israel as one of choosing "security" over "human rights,". This formulation does not recognize that "security" is, at the end of the day, a shorthand for protection of the most fundamental of all human rights-the right to life and safety-or as my colleague Gerald Steinberg once put it, the right of my child and me to get on and off a bus without being blown up. I should add that the Israeli Government neglects to declare this principle-in my opinion, the most colossal example of its ineptitude in explaining Israel’s case not only to the world, but to itself and its own citizens.
When I protested to PHR-I that it was wrong in joining the challenge to the International Court of Justice to the barrier on the grounds that there was a need to acknowledge its role in preventing deaths, this organization refused to acknowledge my protest, and Bentwich never followed through on his promise to me to arrange for an open discussion of my objections with the PHR-I Board.