Saturday, 21 June 2014

Why does it have to be like this?

I have a patient who is only 52 years old and will die in the next few hours. I spent most of the night doing everything I can to extend his life just enough for the family to get here.
At 11pm I spoke to his brother who said he can arrive by 2pm from Ramallah, but unfortunately, because of the situation at the Kalandia Checkpoint, may not be able to arrive sooner. He did however managed to contact the patient’s teenage son who was nearby and who I spoke to this morning.
I can’t even begin to imagine what this boy is going through, trying to deal with the fact that his father is dying, but he managed to put on a brave face talking to me.
When the boy realised how bad things were he asked if there was anything we could do to try to help his mother get to his fathers bedside before he died. The trouble was that she doesn't have a permit to get through the checkpoint.

After I went this them to Hospital Reception (me as a doctor being there may open some doors), we ended up having to just give the teenager a letter saying that his father is a patient at Hadassah and is dying. He now has to take that to various bureaucrats to get the permit. I hope and pray that someone helpful decides to rush it through, because my greatest fear is that while he is off doing this, his father will die alone.

It doesn't need to be like this.
There should be a number I can call for the officer at the checkpoint. A helpful army soldier should pick up the wife and drive her straight to us. Doors should part.

If not, then I'm not sure the son will ever forgive the occupiers, and I'm not sure how easily I could forgive us either.


  1. Some small good news:

    I just spoke to the on-call doctor who took over from me, and the patients wife did manage to arrive in time.

    I have to say that I am pleased that the system worked out, and maybe even a little bit proud, if one of the soldiers took an initiative to make sure she got through.

  2. A couple of friends questioned why I used the word "occupier" in my last post, saying it was unnecessarily charged, and I thought I should probably explain myself. So here's what I wrote to my first friend:

    I have to admit that after I wrote the post on Friday morning, it took me 36 hours before I published it as I was terribly uncertain whether it would get me in trouble, so your words of support are really comforting.

    I think I can give two reasons why I use the term Occupation, one stemming from the other:
    The first is purely technical. As I understand it, the West Bank is technically defined as "occupied territory" as opposed to "sovereign territory". That's the definition Israel uses too (in contrast to Jerusalem and the Golan which we made part of Israel in the 1980s). That should be an objective, emotionally neutral definition, and there is nothing inherently wrong or illegal with occupying territory.

    The second reason stems from the former. While international law does allow us to occupy an area (especially if we believe that returning it would endanger our security), it does place certain obligations on us. I use the term to remind us that we have those duties.
    Some of the duties include providing for basic needs of the population, and protecting human rights. More problematic for Israel is that we are also prohibited from transferring our population into territories defined as "occupied", which makes the settlements an issue.

    There may be a third reasons or using the term, which is to highlight the temporary nature of territory being occupied. It is not supped to be a permanent status, and ultimately needs to be either made part of Israel (giving full citizenship rights to all the inhabitants), or handed to another country. In my opinion, some Israelis forget that this situation is temporary and unstable, and by using the term I hope to remind people that we all need to think about this and decide which solution we prefer.