Physicians for Human Rights- Israel

Physicians for Human Rights- Israel

KOLOT – Voices of Hope, Post-October 7 Series
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel


Partners for Progressive Israel launched our “Kolot: Voices of Hope” series in 2018. We realized at the time that, while those “in the know” were aware of the remarkable Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, standing up, in a hostile political environment, for values of peace, social justice, human and civil rights, and democracy, their activities were rarely being noticed or covered by American mainstream media outlets. “Kolot” seeks to help remedy that situation.

In recent weeks, we’ve been sharing updates on the important efforts being made since the horrific events of October 7 by many of the organizations featured in “Kolot”. We’ve checked in with Women Wage PeaceCombatants for Peace, and the Hagar multicultural/bilingual school. Today we look at the recent activity of Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), an organization we first featured in September 2020, during the height of the pandemic.

In the immediate aftermath of October 7, PHRI launched an Emergency Response, which included providing medical aid for the Israeli communities and their survivors that were evacuated away from the Gaza border, as well as for Thai workers similarly evacuated.

Utilizing their communication channels with Gazan health officials, PHRI also lent support to the Israeli hostages by providing a list of the medications they required as well as information about those believed to have been seriously injured and in need of medical care. PHRI has made clear that hostage taking is prohibited as a war crime, that the hostages should be unconditionally released, and that, at minimum, there was an obligation to make sure of their well-being during captivity.

Guided by a universal concern for all civilians, medical personnel, and health facilities, PHRI has also been a leading voice warning against the impact of Israeli military operations. PHRI saw the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza early on, and has been endorsing a ceasefire and release of hostages since November while condemning indiscriminate Israeli bombing.

PHRI has been a regular part of other ceasefire calls issued jointly by Israel-based civil society and human rights organizations (many of which have been featured in the Kolot series), which have also included a demand for the “unfettered entry and delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza”.

PHRI has consistently stated that deliberate harm to innocent civilians is illegal and immoral. This, of course, applies to Hamas’ actions on October 7, which PHRI described as a war crime that included incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as to Israel’s policy of keeping aid crossings into Gaza closed, since this amounts to a policy of promoting starvation among Gaza’s inhabitants.

In its advocacy work, PHRI has also been paying particular attention to and highlighting the dangers to Gaza’s healthcare system. In November, it issued an important position paper on “The Harming of Medical Personnel and Facilities” and in February on “The Destruction of Gaza’s Healthcare Infrastructure During Israel’s Military Offensive“. In November, after dozens of Israeli physicians had published a letter calling on Israel’s army to completely destroy hospitals in Gaza, calling them “hornet nests” for terrorism, PHRI quickly organized a counter-letter undersigned by a wide array of doctors and healthcare professionals, which read in part: “The citizens of Israel can and must be protected through various means. Annihilating civilians in Gaza is not one of them.”

While maintaining a focus on Gaza, PHRI has also kept its eyes on the deteriorating situation on the West Bank, where escalating expulsions, land expropriations, and settler and army violence since October 7 constitute a clear detriment to both physical and psychological health. To document these developments, PHRI issued a report in late March, “The Consequences of Settler Violence and Forced Displacement on the Health and Wellbeing of Palestinian Communities in Area C”.

This past Sunday, May 5, we were honored to host Lee Caspi, Director of Resource Development at PHRI, as a panelist at the opening session of our virtual Israel-Palestine Symposium. The Symposium continues on May 19, June 2, and June 23 (full details here.)

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