Canadian Jewish News refuses to give Medical Aid for Palestinians right of reply

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) was dismayed to read an op-ed attacking our work published by Canadian Jewish News (CJN), by NGO Monitor’s Becca Wertman (A bitter pill: Gaza’s humanitarian trap, 10 May 2017). After filling in CJN’s online form, telephoning, tweeting and sending several emails, we are, moreover, deeply disappointed by CJN’s written refusal to allow us the right of reply.

The article claims that the work of organisations like MAP has been “weaponised in the service of terror by Palestinian groups”. MAP had hoped to present the CJN and its readership with an accurate picture of our work, but we have been denied the opportunity. We absolutely reject the allegation that our work has been “weaponised”. MAP is not “ideological”; we are a humanitarian and development organisation working for the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. We encourage CJN to learn about the health and medical services MAP provides to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the refugee camps of Lebanon. We carry out this work to the highest possible standards of accountability and transparency and publicly oppose racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism.

We also produce briefings and undertake advocacy work in line with our charitable objects and status. We encourage CJN’s readership to review our publications – including our current series highlighting the barriers to healthcare under 50 years of occupation and a report we co-authored about the widespread attacks by Israeli armed forces on health facilities and personnel in Gaza in 2014, launched three years ago this week.

Readers will note that our publications are backed up by data and findings from internationally-recognised, credible sources including UN agencies, the World Health Organisation, and highly respected Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations. NGO Monitor claims on its website (which the CJN article links to) that MAP’s above-mentioned report has “a total lack of verifiable sources”. We encourage CJN readers to evaluate the 47 footnotes included on page 27.

Readers will be reminded of the staggering impact on Gaza’s health infrastructure during the 2014 offensive: 73 hospitals and clinics and 45 ambulances were damaged or destroyed, and 23 medical workers were killed. Deliberate attacks on health facilities and personnel are war crimes, whoever commits them.

Readers will note that MAP’s report recommends (page 7) impartial investigations into the “conduct of all parties”, and we continue to call for independent investigations and justice and accountability for all violations, whoever the alleged perpetrators are. The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict stated that “Israel must break with its recent lamentable track record in holding wrongdoers accountable.” Yet, NGO Monitor has never, as far as we are aware, called upon the Israeli authorities to establish independent and impartial investigations into such attacks nor to facilitate on-the-ground investigations into them by independent organisations. Rather it chooses to misrepresent humanitarian and human rights organisations working to support the provision and protection of healthcare in conflict situations.

As the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the oPt has stated, individuals and organisations drawing attention to Israeli practices in the oPt are subject to increased hostility, threats and toxic denunciations. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have published similar findings.

The article published by CJN ignores the painful reality of the humanitarian tragedy of Gaza today and Israel’s responsibilities as the occupying power. After 50 years of occupation and 10 years of blockade and closure, Gaza’s economy and infrastructure are in tatters. Its 2 million people currently receive only 4 to 6 hours of mains electricity a day, three quarters of them are at risk of waterborne diseases due to unsafe drinking water and 42% of its workforce is unemployed. What is more, both the UN and the ICRC have deemed Israel’s blockade of Gaza a form of collective punishment that must end.

Given the scale of Palestinian health needs across the oPt and the refugee camps of Lebanon, it is regrettable that MAP has been forced to divert time into responding to NGO Monitor’s claims. But the publication by CJN of such false allegations against us and other organisations cannot go unanswered, despite their refusal to allow us a right of reply.