Friday, February 6, 2009

War Crimes in Gaza: My Correspondence with the Head of the Israel Medical Association on the Matter

Here is my unrewarding experience in attempting to get the head of the IMA to distance the organization from War crimes during the Israeli 22 day-long massive violence against the Palestinians in Gaza:

From: Hatim Kanaaneh
To: Dr. Yoram Blachar
Cc: ""Dunchin Milca" please circulate to my Public health colleagues" ; Physicians for Human Rights
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 1:13:46 PM
Subject: A Call to Distance IMA from War Crimes

Dear Dr Blachar,

I am writing as a member of IMA, to clear my conscience and do my moral duty as a human being and a caring professional.

If you happen to have read my book of memoirs, (A Doctor in Galilee, Pluto Press, 2008) you would know by now that I object to many practices of the health care system in Israel and have attempted to change them for the better by all legal means available.

I am now writing to call on you and on all conscientious members of the IMA to take a step, collectively and individually, that would improve the image of the organization to which I still formally belong. I am sure many of my colleagues, both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, sympathize with my point of view and would welcome such a step.

As calls from the international and Human Rights community objecting to the bloodshed in Gaza and calling for an investigation of actions by the IDF that so many neutral parties consider war crimes under international law, including the targeting of civilians and of medical staff and the preventing of emergency aid workers from reaching the injured, It behooves the IMA to take a public stand against such illegal practices, to call for halting the war, and to call for an international investigation of such practices by the IDF.

Therefore, I hereby formally call on you as the head of the IMA to take this courageous step immediately and to rid the organization of the image it is fast acquiring of condoning and collaborating in war crimes.

With utmost concern,

Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH
Author of 'A Doctor in Galilee: the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel', Pluto Press, 2008
Active Blog:

PS: Please acknowledge the receipt of this message. HK

From: Hatim Kanaaneh
To: Dr. Yoram Blachar
Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2009 6:18:27 AM
Subject: A Call to Distance IMA from War Crimes


You have not responded to my message below. Since I wrote it to you the number of civilian dead and injured in Gaza has nearly doubled. Furthermore suspicions that the IDF has committed war crimes in this war have gained wider acceptance within Israel and abroad. Groups of technical experts, human rights activists and practitioners of ethics including groups of Rabbinical students and of physicians and other caring professions have called for investigating the conduct of the IDF in Gaza.

In light of the above, I call on you again as my representative to comply with my request in my letter below and to bring it to the attention of my colleagues, members of IMA. In three days it will be the Holocaust Memorial Day, an appropriate deadline to respond to my request from you by return email, whether positively or in the negative. If I do not receive your answer by then I will feel at liberty to publicize this call as an open letter in local and international circles.

With concern,

Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH
Author of 'A Doctor in Galilee: the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel', Pluto Press, 2008
Active Blog:

PS: The correspondence is shared with Dr. Milka Dunchin with my kind request to share it with my Public Health colleagues.


RESPONSE FROM THE HEAD OF IMA(Translated from Hebrew):
Israel Medical Association
January 26, 2009

To: Dr. Kanaaneh, Esq.

In accordance with your book ‘A Doctor in Galilee’ that you mention, I presume that, having worked in the Galilee, you know Hebrew well and I will answer you in Hebrew.

The IMA, in which according to your statement you are still a member, is not a political body.

The members of IMA, almost certainly, represent the entire range of the political spectrum in Israel and hence we are not involved in politics.

True, the IMA is responsible for the ethical stand of its members; the IMA is a signatory of the international conventions regarding the ethical standards that obligates doctors everywhere.

The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strep is an extremely severe reality and the fact that Hamas itself is the cause for this reality doesn’t help the Palestinian suffering.

As a result of an idea that we initiated and brought to the Ministry of Health, the clinic for Palestinians was established at the Erez crossing. In addition we called several times on the military authorities, and our calls were even answered, regarding the need to allow the passage of the sick and injured to Israel and to refrain from targeting medical staff.

There are two sides to each coin, Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh.

Your voice was not heard when hundreds of Israeli citizens, sometimes including Arabs, innocent of any crime, were torn to shreds when suicidal terrorists blew themselves on buses, in banquets and in shopping malls with the intent of injuring the highest possible number of citizens. Your voice was not heard against the phenomenon of Palestinian mothers sending their sons and daughters to be martyrs – in itself a sick phenomenon that has no match in other cultures.

You did not scream out while for eight years over 12000 missiles, Kassams and projectiles, with the sole purpose of sow fear and panic, destruction and killing of citizens, children, women and elders. Eight full years Dr. Hatim!!! And you kept quiet.

We did not hear your voice in objection to the cynical and terrible use of Hamas terrorists of the Palestinian population, their own flesh, their brothers an sisters and the children that elected them to office.

Your voice was not heard when Hamas terrorists intentionally launched missiles from inside civilian population, from schools, from mosques, and from within innocent population concentrations. Your criticism was not heard against the fact that Hamas itself was the one that prevented the movement of Palestinian sick and wounded from the strep to border passages till few days ago.

The unbearable unilateralism of your calls undercuts their moral and value basis!! Your being Arab, Israeli or Palestinian, whatever you define yourself, does not add or detract in this connection; independent of this, as I said at the start of my letter, in light of the difficult humanitarian condition, we did and will do all we can for aiding. You can get an update on few of our activities on the IMA website

I answer your words since you are an IMA member.

You can do whatever you wish with the correspondence between us.

With Regards,

Dr. Yoram Blacher ,
Head of IMA

Cc: Dr. Milka Dunchin


To: Dr. Yoram Blacher, Head of IMA,
January 30, 2009


1. Thank you for responding to my email, though it was only after a reminder in which I threatened to go public with my request.
2. Of course, I do speak Hebrew fluently. I communicate on the internet in English for technical reasons.
3. Below is my English translation of your response. Unless you send me your corrected version, I shall use this translation as the official response from you in your capacity as the head of the IMA should I find myself in a position where I have to explain my membership in the organization to an international audience.
4. The first part of your response, up to the statement “There are two sides to each coin,….” would have sufficed for the purpose stated in the above paragraph, regardless whether I agree or disagree with it. It clarifies the official stand of the IMA and provides me with the fig leaf that I needed.
5. In the rest of your letter, the larger part of it in fact, and after you have stated that the IMA “is not a political body” and explained why that is so, you proceed to attack me personally with language and allegations drawn from Israeli street politics. You seem to forget that you are speaking for a nonpolitical body.
6. I consider it less than dignified for presumed professional colleagues to engage in this level of discourse and hence I will not reply to your specific statements, or to the accusatory ones I have received from 7 other IMA members so far, except to clarify two points:
a) As you well know, I called on you to take a stand regarding accusations of war crimes because of your official position. As the head of IMA you owe a member in the organization a clear answer on a relevant issue that he raises. At least that was my understanding. I am at a loss as to my capacity under which you consider yourself entitled to hear my voice regarding violence visited by one party in a conflict against the other, regardless of where my sympathies may lie. I don’t recall ever meeting you in person and there has never been a discussion between us on this matter before. Explain to me, please, who are you to me to make such personal demands on me?
b) Those who know me, whether through working with me or through reading my book of memoirs, realize that I am a committed pacifist, though not the activist type that preaches it to others. I reject violence wherever and whenever it is committed, by NATO, the IDF, Taliban, Hamas, or whoever.

On this peaceful note I wish you well and a clear conscience,
With much concern,

Hatim Kanaaneh, MD, MPH
Author of 'A Doctor in Galilee: the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel', Pluto Press, 2008
Active Blog:

1 comment:

Bob from Hawaii said...

I just read through this correspondence. It is a disturbing, and enlightening, read. It is disturbing in that the head of the IMA employs the typical (ergo, political, in the sense that Zionism has political, militant and other dimensions) Zionist tactics of personal smear, diversions, etc., to draw attention away from the issue at hand: genocide against a helpless, basically defenseless, captive population engulfed in a pogrom imposed on it of decades-long evil and constant intensity. (The intensity is periodically heightened to the point of explosion in order to relieve the psychotic pressures which build, and build, and then are released to serve the insane bully's purposes; e.g., Lebanon, 1982; the OPT, 2000; Lebanon, 2006; Gaza, 2008-9.)

Dr. Kanaaneh's humanitarian concerns as a medical professional are immediately apparent. The head of the IMA's lack of concern is as apparent, and in fact, he presents himself as a party to genocide and as a political shill to the unrelenting Zionist enterprise. The head of the IMA of course could not -- as he politically blames any other than his psychotically deranged Zionism, as he points his finger outward rather than inward -- assign blame for the invidious theft of Palestinians' land all through the 20th Century, culminating in the Nakba of 1947-1949, its continuing and ongoing manifestations of land theft, water theft, the theft of freedom and dignity...indeed, the theft of truth itself. The sadist mentality of the head of the IMA has been exposed. I deplore him, I condemn him as I deplore and condemn his ideology of colonialism, exclusivity, extreme cruelty, occupation of others' lands, continual assassinations of fellow human beings, etc., etc.

Thank you, Dr. Kanaaneh, for contributing to the further education of a member of the human race. Your seminal book, "A Doctor of Galilee," does and will always shine for me as the epitome of honor, principled truth, steadfastness in the face of incredible pressures...and exposure of the despicable hypocrisies of small persons and diabolical enterprises.