Via Robert Fisk in The Independent: Israel-Gaza conflict: Medical charity official likens job to ‘patching up torture victims in an open-air prison’. Click through for the full article plus a video and photographs. Excerpt:
In an unprecedented criticism of the Israeli siege of Gaza, a senior official in the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) humanitarian charity has described his organisation’s work among the 1.8 million besieged Palestinian refugees as akin to being “in an open-air prison to patch up prisoners in between their torture sessions”.
Jonathan Whittall, head of humanitarian analysis at MSF, who worked in Libya during the 2011 war, in Bahrain during the uprising of the same year, in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan and Darfur, has bluntly asked his colleagues: “At what point does MSF’s repeated medical action in an unacceptable situation [like Gaza] become complicity with aggression and oppression?”
Unlike other medical charities, MSF has always encouraged its staff to speak frankly about the dangers and moral problems they face, and the long and passionate report from Mr Whittall - unlike those of other humanitarian groups, which prefer to silence their staff – is in keeping with MSF’s rules.
But its accusations against Israel are sure to arouse fierce Israeli condemnation during a disproportionate war – supposedly fought to prevent Hamas rocket attacks on Israel – in which the Israeli military has killed well over 200 civilians, many of them women and children.
“An entire population is trapped in what is essentially an open-air prison,” Mr Whittall writes. “They can’t leave and only the most limited supplies – essential for basic survival – are allowed to enter. The population of the prison have elected representatives and organised social services.
“Some of the prisoners have organised into armed groups and resist their indefinite detention by firing rockets over the prison wall. However, the prison guards are the ones who have the capacity to launch large-scale and highly destructive attacks on the open-air prison.”
In a comparison which is also certain to infuriate Israel, Mr Whittall, who is based in Beirut, says that the limitations of humanitarian groups in Gaza are not unique.
“In 2012,” he writes, “MSF closed its projects in the prisons of Misrata, Libya. Our doctors were outraged to be in a position where we were providing treatment to patients who were being tortured by state authorities. At the time, MSF spoke out strongly: ‘Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not repeatedly to treat the same patients between torture sessions’.”