In 2014, the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned a “field assessment” report on the state of health in Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Golan Heights. The publication, which was presented last month to the 68th WHA, unfortunately confuses politics and medicine, inappropriately advancing the former at the expense of the latter. A subsequent report submitted by the WHO Secretariat suffers from some of the same deficiencies.
The “field assessment” relies heavily on data produced by unreliable, politicized non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These include B’tselem and Physicians for Human Rights- Israel, and are augmented by articles published by the anti-Israel Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA). These organizations employ flawed methodologies, make false legal claims, and portray events in a one-sided manner. Unsurprisingly, the submission to the WHA adopts many of the same strategies and approaches.
The report asserts that Gaza is occupied by Israel, even though Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from that territory in 2005. This attempt to portray Israel as an “occupier” in Gaza is a form of legal warfare, or “lawfare,” reflecting the use of false and invented legal claims. Israel is then baselessly chastised for not issuing more permits allowing Palestinians from Gaza to access Israeli hospitals, even though it provides thousands of permits annually despite not being required to do so.
An assessment of Palestinian health is a reasonable task for the WHO to carry out. To do so effectively, however, the organization must base their analyses on facts and not contrived NGO distortions, admit Palestinian abuses of medical infrastructure and vehicles, and remain focused on the core issues of health without veering off to launch political attacks against unrelated Israeli policies. To do otherwise is to allow the world of medicine to be hijacked by those seek to transform it into an arena for anti-Israel propaganda.