On May 25, 2016, the delegates of the 69th World Health Assembly (held under the auspices of the World Health Organization) in Geneva adopted a decision condemning Israel. Out of 24 items on the meeting’s agenda, only Item 19 focused on political issues – specifically on “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan”.
Representatives of one-hundred and seven countries voted in favor of the resolution, with eight voting against, while others either abstained or did not take part in the vote. Commenting on this activity, Hillel Neuer, of Geneva-based UN Watch declared, “Shame on Britain, France and Germany for encouraging this hijacking of the annual world health assembly, and diverting precious time, money, and resources from global health priorities, in order to wage a political prosecution of Israel, especially when, in reality, anyone who has ever walked into an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that they are providing world-class health care to thousands of Palestinian Arabs, as well as to Syrians fleeing Assad.”
The documents accompanying the resolution include blatant propaganda from the Syrian and Palestinian health ministries. (The Syrian “report” is absurdly entitled Health Conditions of Syrian Citizens in the Occupied Syrian Golan.) The report of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to the World Health Organization, dated May 20, 2016, is based on numerous wild accusations with minimal citations. For example, the text (p. 29) asserts that “In April 2013 the Russian newspaper Pravda accused Israel of injecting a number of Palestinian prisoners who were approaching their release date with cancer-causing viruses. Despite Israel’s rejection of the accusations made by the newspaper, the question remains: is it true that Israel is injecting prisoners with viruses?”
Many similar allegations have no citations or sources – instead, the text includes “references” to political bodies and NGOs with no medical credentials. For example, Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor is a strictly political group whose Chairman of the Board of Trustees, former UN Rapporteur Richard Falk, has been widely denounced for his extreme anti-Israel and antisemitic agenda.
In addition, the Palestinian document includes a number of graphic images, designed to reinforce the narrative of Palestinian victimization and Israeli responsibility. A detailed analysis by the CAMERA media watchdog demonstrated that the imaged claiming to show Israelis “attacking a Palestinian child while being observed by Israeli occupation forces” in fact was a conflict between Israelis and included no Palestinians. Similarly, a “photograph taken during the Israeli war on Gaza, 2014” was shown to be an artificial image that was created digitally.
To provide the façade of medical credibility, the WHO also provided a “Report of a field assessment of health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory” (February 2016). As is common in such political processes, many of the claims cite allegations from political advocacy NGOs active in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The report cites the misleading claims of groups including: B’Tselem, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Gaza Community Mental Health Program, HaMoked, Defence for Children International – Palestine, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, EWASH, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as interviews with numerous NGO representatives. (Many of these NGOs receive substantial funding from foreign governments, mainly European, enabling them to publish extensive reports making false and unverifiable allegations against Israel.)
For example, the report cites Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, alleging that: “Regarding mental health, the occupation itself was noted as a major cause of problems. Depression, anxiety disorder and psychological distress are the most common mental disorders. Research in east Jerusalem has shown that the psychological toll of demolitions and forced evictions hits women harder.”
The report similarly cites Adalah, claiming: “Health services in prisons have been reported to be of concern due to delays in treatment, long wait time for specialist care and conditions of transport to clinics.”
In addition, Defence for Children International – Palestine Section is cited, claiming: “Children reported that they were often in overcrowded cells with gaps of adequate food, blankets, heating and hygiene and restricted access to legal counsel and to adequate health care.”
Moreover, the document, which was authored by Ambrogio Manenti, Claude de Ville de Gauyet, Corinna Reinicke, John Macdonald, Julian Donald, acknowledges that it is a “summary of the assessments carried out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between December 2015 and February 2016 by five independent experts, recruited by the WHO Office for West Bank and Gaza Strip in cooperation with counterparts from the Ministry of Health, with the overarching aim of reporting on the health conditions of the Palestinian population…” (emphasis added).
Manenti and de Gauyet authored a similarly politicized report on Palestinian health for the 68th World Health Assembly. Much as the 2016 paper, the 2015 version relied heavily on unreliable, biased NGOs, while ignoring the abuse of medical infrastructure by Palestinian terrorist organizations and hurling political attacks at Israeli housing and security policies.
Additionally, in 2008, Manenti blamed Israel for the deaths of Palestinian patients waiting for transfer to Israeli hospitals and said, “I think my organisation should stigmatise this behavior.”
Like the discredited 2009 UN Goldstone report, as well as the 2014 Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza War, the process by which these individuals were selected has not been disclosed to the public and lacks all transparency. Instead, they repeated and amplified the inaccurate claims of unreliable NGOs, seeking to give credence and credibility to false allegations that demonize Israel in the international arena.
Additional reading and references:
NGO Malpractice: The Political Abuse of Medicine, Morality, and Science (NGO Monitor, 2013)
NGO Monitor: Medical NGOs, Political Warfare and The Lancet (2014)
Analysis of Reports on Palestinian Health to the 68th World Health Assembly, 2015 (2015)