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Canadian Health Professionals Call for Ceasefire and Ending the Siege of Gaza

February 9, 2009

Since this statement was circulated, the deep destruction and devastation in Gaza has become more widely known. The use of uncoventional weapons by Israel, particularly white phosphorous and flechette shells on the population trapped in Gaza has also been established. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless, food supplies are critically scarce, schools have been reduced to rubble and disease outbreaks are feared. Hundreds of children have been killed in this latest incursion. It has been estimated that one-third of the wounded are children, many of whom are severely disabled. The population lives in constant fear of further reprisals. It is up to the international community to insist that relief supplies are admitted into Gaza to relieve the humanitarian disaster which must not become politicized.

Over one hundred health professionals have signed the statement that follows:



We as Canadian health professionals unequivocally protest against the Israeli siege and invasion of Gaza and against the Canadian Government′s support of Israel in its complicity in this massacre.

We demand that Canada call for an immediate ceasefire for all parties and for the end of the Gaza siege. On Monday, 12 January 2009, Canada cast the only vote against a UN Human Rights Commission resolution condemning Israel′s military offensive, calling for an immediate end to the firing of Palestinian rockets into Israel, and calling for an investigation of Israel′s actions.

The Current Invasion of Gaza:
Physicians for Human Rights/Israel, the ICRC, Red Crescent, and Medical Aid for Palestine describe a nightmare situation of hospitals without power, without basic equipment. Half the ambulance fleet is non-functioning due to lack of fuel. Israeli helicopters target ambulances and kill medics. The Israeli army prevents evacuation of the wounded. Doctors for Peace state that "Gaza now has no functioning medical system at all. Most of it has no electricity nor running water." An international medical team is waiting at the Rajah crossing for admittance.

One-third of the fatalities are children. According to the Guardian (UK, 13 January 09), Israel has been accused of breaking international law through the use of banned weapons, its attacking medical facilities and killing of 12 ambulance men in marked vehicles, its killing of large numbers of civilians. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and other reliable eyewitness reports, the majority of the casualties are civilians.

Among the buildings destroyed or badly damaged are three UN schools (with about 40 civilian casualties), the medical depot for Shiva Hospital (Gaza City), the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Due to bombardment, the windows and doors of the burns and surgery unit and the administration offices of Shiva Hospital were destroyed. Also, the water network at the surgery unit in building no. 8 was destroyed. This creates extreme difficulty that impedes the work of the medical crews at the Hospital.

The Siege of Gaza:
Because of the siege, 85% of Gaza′s 1.5 million people depend on humanitarian aid for securing their basic needs. 80% live below the poverty line. 70% of infants aged nine months suffer from anemia. 13% to 15% of Gaza′s children are stunted in growth due to malnutrition. During the siege, Israel persistently violated the terms of the ceasefire: this last October and November, Amnesty International Urgent Action reported that Israel even barred infants from leaving Gaza for life-saving cardiovascular surgery. About 290 Palestinian patients died since June 2007, unable to leave the Strip due to the closure. Amongst these deaths, 35 percent are children.

The siege has impacted all medical institutions in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals and primary healthcare centres that have become unable to meet the needs of the civilian population and, as a result, have been unable to ensure physical and mental healthcare. Before the December 27th invasion, 105 items of main medical tools and 255 of medical disposables were unavailable or in short supply. As of January 2008, there were no first line pediatric antibiotics available in the Ministry of Health, the majority of diagnostic laboratory equipment was not functioning, 19% of the necessary medicines were unavailable. (WHO data).

James Wolfensohn, Jewish economist, former president of the World Bank and U.S. Envoy to Gaza, said in 2006 that the new unity government needed to be supported and that "the collapse of health services and the education system, which addresses the needs of one million children, would be a total failure for the new government, and would have tragic consequences for the Palestinian people. This should not be permitted under any circumstances." Canada was the first country to withdraw support, contributing to the crippling of an entire society.

Dr. Noritz Peled-Elhanan, Jewish Israeli professor of education at the Hebrew University, mother of a daughter killed by a suicide bomber: "The State is not defending itself. The State is slaughtering. Slaughtering… It is a racist act that is happening here now. Destroying a race, destroying a people, destroying a culture…"

Anton Kuerti and Ursula Franklin, Jewish-Canadian Companions of the Order of Canada, state that Israel′s siege and invasion are war crimes. "Our government′s implicit endorsement of these crimes makes me ashamed of being Canadian" (Kuerti).

Dr. Moustafa Barghouti, Palestinian physician, pacifist, and Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative: "There is another reason why this attack has been allowed to occur: the complicity and silence of the international community….it is the apathy of the world and the inhumane tolerance of Palestinian suffering which allows this to occur. ‘The evil only exists because the good remain silent.’"

THESE FUNDAMENTAL INFRINGEMENTS OF BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS OF AN ALREADY STRESSED POPULATION MUST NOT BE TOLERATED. AS HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, WE PROTEST IN THE MOST VEHEMENT TERMS. WAR, IMPOVERISHMENT, HUMILIATION CANNOT BRING PEACE AND SECURITY TO ANY PEOPLES.


Reem Abdul Qadir, M.S.W.,
Judith Deutsch, M.S.W.,
Miriam Garfinkle, M.D.,
Joanna Santa Barbara, M.D.,
Tanya Suvendrini Lena, M.D.
and 97 others

Addenda:
1. "In solidarity with Gaza: With sadness and urgency we, medical students, express our outrage at the brutal Israeli attacks and subsequent humanitarian disaster that is occurring in Gaza…."
Rami Abdou, Iyah Romm, Davida Schiff, Kirsten Austad, Sam Dubal, Simeon Kimmel, Eugene Schiff, on behalf of 753 other medical students
www.thelancet.com Published online January 12, 2009

2. "Since the escalation of the war in Gaza several hundred civilians have been wounded and the general health situation has severely deteriorated. The presidents of the Scandinavian Psychological Associations plead the parties for an immediate cease fire and appropriate working conditions for humanitarian aid organizations. We urge the parties of the armed conflict to fully comply with the Geneva Conventions to ensure the protection of civilians and their relief in times of war…."
January 8, 2009
President of The Norwegian Psychological Association: Tor Levin Hofgaard
President of The Finnish Psychological Association: Tuomo Tikkanen
President of the Danish Psychologists' Association: Roal Ulrichsen
President of The Swedish Psychological Association: Lars Ahlin
President of The Icelandic Psychological Association: Petur Thyrfingsson


For more information contact:

Reem Abdul-Qadir
Phone: 416-465-4869

Judith Deutsch
Phone: 416-912-0761

Miriam Garfinkle
Phone: 416-897-0008


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