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With sadness and urgency we, medical students, express our outrage at the brutal Israeli attacks and subsequent humanitarian disaster that is occurring in Gaza. As we write, over 600 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,700 wounded in Israel’s disproportionate assault that began on December 27, 2008. Not just as medical students, but as Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as Arabs, Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, we write in solidarity with the people of Gaza as they suffer yet another major humanitarian disaster.
On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed that access to medical care is an inalienable human right. More than sixty years later, as medical supplies in Gaza’s overstretched and under-equipped hospitals dwindle, this right is far from realized. The international community has been slow to respond with aid and even that which is offered is not reaching those in need. The Israeli Navy intercepted the humanitarian ship Dignity carrying relief aid in international waters. Hospitals scramble to operate without power, medicines, and clean water as medical equipment and health workers are prevented from crossing the border. The World Health Organization reports health personnel have been targeted in breach of medical neutrality and in violation of International Humanitarian Law. Testimonies gathered by Physicians for Human Rights in Israel report that patients wait in vain for treatment that cannot be provided by overwhelmed medical personnel in paralyzed clinics. This massive influx of seriously injured civilians would overwhelm even the best of the hospitals in which we train.
Meanwhile, the bombardment of Gaza – one of the most densely populated regions in the world – continues unabated and the international community refuses to address Israel’s abhorrent policy of collective punishment. Israel claims to only target militants, yet the lists of wounded and dead are rife with civilians, many of them children. Regardless of the complex dynamics of this conflict, human rights, medical neutrality, and the protection of non-combatants always demand respect. Israeli “high-precision” weapons have destroyed a United Nations school in Jabaliya, which was being used to house refugees, killing 40 civilians alone. We do not dismiss Hamas’ role, nor condone its targeting of Israeli civilians. How will the slaughter of Israeli or Palestinian civilians bring peace to this region? We fear this will instead breed new generations of hate, distrust, and misunderstanding. Yet, the numbers of lives lost tell the story: Israel’s response is disproportionate and unacceptable.
We cannot sit idly in silence as this violent assault on a civilian population kills and maims hundreds of people. The principles we accepted upon entering the medical profession compel us to speak out in the face of these gross violations of basic decency and respect for human life. We implore the international community to shoulder its responsibility to the people of Gaza. We are embarrassed at US complicity and regret that many of the weapons fired come from our own country.
As members of the medical profession, we call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the immediate and comprehensive provision of humanitarian aid, and recognition of the neutrality guaranteed to medical providers by international law. Israel has only now approved limited humanitarian corridors, but this is insufficient and has proven ineffective. We stand united in opposing the health and human rights disaster inflicted upon the citizens of Gaza. As we hope for a return to civility, dialogue, compromise, and resolution, our hearts go out to all of the victims of this tragedy. The violence must stop.
Rami Abdou, Boston University School of Medicine, MSI
Iyah Romm, Boston University School of Medicine, MSI
Davida Schiff, Boston University School of Medicine, MSI
Kirsten Austad, Harvard Medical School, MSI
Sam Dubal, Harvard Medical School, MSI
Simeon Kimmel, Harvard Medical School, MSI
Eugene Schiff, Tufts University School of Medicine, MSI