Cesar Chelala
A physician and writer

 Doctors plead for an end to Gaza’s massacre

Christos Christou, the president of Doctors Without Borders, one of the most committed organizations to international health, has written an open letter demanding an end to the massacre of Palestinian women, children, and non-combatant men in Gaza and, increasingly, in the West Bank. “We are watching as hospitals are turned into morgues and ruins. These supposedly protected facilities are being bombed, are being shot at by tanks and guns, encircled and raided, killing patients and medical staff. The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented 181 attacks on health care that have led to 22 fatalities and 59 injuries of health workers on duty. Medical staff, including our own, are utterly exhausted and in despair. They have had to amputate limbs from children suffering from severe burns without anesthesia or sterilized surgical tools. Due to forcible evacuations by Israeli soldiers, some doctors have had to leave patients behind after facing the unimaginable choice between their lives or those of their patients,” wrote Christou.

Christou’s appeal is joined by all international public health and human rights organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and many others, who see the actions of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza indefensible under any criteria of decency and humanity.

“What we see today are shelters with no capacity, a health system on its knees, a lack of clean drinking water, no proper sanitation and poor nutrition for people already mentally and physically exhausted: a textbook formula for epidemics and a public health disaster,” states Lynn Hastings, Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

Relentlessly bombarded by the Israeli military, those innocent men, women and children who have not been killed are suffering from “continuous traumatic stress,” a term originally created by a group of mental health professionals working in South Africa during apartheid, who were providing psychological support to victims of political violence during ongoing state repression.

Continuous traumatic stress (CTS) is also called Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is growing belief that the traumatic effects of sustained exposure to traumatic stress extend beyond accepted diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may lead to learning disabilities, panic attacks, general sickness and immune deficiency, alcohol and substance abuse,  and mental exhaustion. Should the affected children survive, these conditions may seriously affect their physical and mental development.

“CTS captures a domain of traumatic stress experience not adequately formulated in the existing repertoire of traumatic stress responses but which characterizes the lived experience of many individuals and communities around the globe,” wrote Eagle and Kaminer in Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology.

Despite Israel’s claims, its assault is being waged not just on Hamas but on all Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank. The reported U.S. demands to limit civilian casualties, which are supported by international human rights and health communities, are repeatedly being ignored by the Israeli government. “Even wars have rules, but Israel is clearly trading them in for its own military doctrine based on disproportionality. In the early days of this unrelenting offensive, the spokesman for Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) announced that the ‘emphasis’ of this flagrantly excessive reprisal was to be on ‘damage and not accuracy.’ It is safe to say Israel’s actions have spoken louder than its words,” says Christou.

Israelis and Jewish peace activists worldwide have called on the Israeli government to end to the hostilities against Gazan civilians, mostly women and children. Jewish Voice for Peace has called for action on members of Congress, “Our Members of Congress need to hear from us right this minute. They must call on the Biden administration to demand an immediate negotiated ceasefire, and to not send any more weapons to the Israeli military. This is the only way to stop Israel’s mass assaults, war crimes, and genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. It is the only way to ensure the release of the Israeli hostages. It is the only way to rush desperately needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who are being starved by Israeli siege.” As Christou wrote, “Indiscriminate and relentless attacks must stop now. Forcible displacement must stop now. Assaults on hospitals and medical staff must stop now. Restrictions in aid and the siege must stop now. It all must stop now.” We must reclaim everybody’s humanity and right to live.

Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant, and an award-winning writer on human rights issues.

About the Author
César Chelala is a physician and writer born in Argentina and living in the U.S. He wrote for leading newspapers all over the world and for the main medical journals, among them The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Japan Times, The China Daily, The Moscow Times, The International Herald Tribune, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard International Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The British Medical Journal. He is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.
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