« Aiding & Abetting? The limits of humanitarian aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories » (MSF, blog, 21 juillet)
For the past 15 years, our programs in the West Bank and Gaza have focused mainly on mental health — but my colleagues at times feel like they can only give patients a thicker coat of psychological armor against the daily trauma of their lives.
These patients are parents of teenagers being held in Israeli or Palestinian prisons, children with one or both parents in detention, families on the frontlines of settler-Palestinian violence or intra-Palestinian violence, and those affected by nighttime IDF search operations or other military actions.
What our staff sees, day in and day out, are the medical consequences of the occupation. But while we can treat some of our patient’s symptoms, we can’t alter the underlying causes of their suffering. And as the suffering has become normalized, we have been questioning the wisdom of our presence. This is the humanitarian’s dilemma: how to alleviate the suffering of a population while not enabling the powers at the root of the pain. (...)
MSF teams in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and other war zones around the world are always reflecting on their actions with an eye toward ensuring aid does not do more harm than good. For now, we will continue stitching up the physical and psychological wounds of Palestinians, knowing that another war with Israel may not be far off, and that a great many people already need assistance right now.
This is our role, one constantly questioned by our medical teams on the ground, who are always struggling to see the invisible line between complicity with the occupation and a refusal not to ignore its consequences. Ultimately, though, our humanitarian action has been consistently justified as a response to the needs of Palestinians trapped by this endless war.
As has been the case for the past 15 years, our presence is our protest in the face of an occupation that has taken on a near-permanent character. While there is no shortage of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, an international acceptance of the unacceptable is now the deadliest form of the occupation for Palestinians—with no end in sight.