Dr Richard Horton, Editor, Lancet (UK) responds to Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor’s defence of Israel’s siege on Gaza, The Guardian 24Aug10 August 28, 2010

The Guardian: “Missed opportunities for a peaceful Middle East” 24 August 2010

Ron Prosor’s defence of Israel‘s continued blockade of Gaza (Before we talk to Hamas, August 20) is deeply flawed. Based on research published by The Lancet-Palestinian Health Alliance – a group of health scientists from the occupied Palestinian territory, the UK, US, Norway, France and Canada – several statements by the Israeli ambassador need immediate correction.

Gaza is not a terrorist enclave. It is a vigorous community of 1.4 million people struggling to exist under what the UN still considers to be occupation by Israel. Operation Cast Lead did not target “terrorist infrastructure”. On a visit to Gaza that I made in March this year, with colleagues from the UK, I witnessed the results of indiscriminate bombing of residential communities across the Strip, as well as the results of civilian casualties. These civilian attacks have left families rebuilding homes out of the debris left by the bombing with their bare hands, thanks to the ban on transporting building materials into Gaza.

Gaza is not “a golden opportunity tragically missed”. The people of Gaza are experiencing continued declines in child health, unchecked burdens of chronic disease, shortages of life-saving medical supplies and equipment, and the dramatic erosion of mental health. These unprecedented hardships are a direct consequence of Israel’s disregard for the health and security of people who they, as occupiers, have a legal duty to protect.

Hamas has not “directed every resource to enslaving its people while attacking” Israel. Readers should make up their own minds by visiting Gaza for themselves. What I have seen during my visits is a dignified people who are anxious about the future of their children, seek the best care they can for friends and relatives, and look for work that will sustain their families. In the classrooms I visited, there was no incitement against Israel. Instead, there was pride in being Palestinian, a plea for the facts of their lives to be told against the propaganda that Prosor repeats.

On one issue, Mr Prosor and I agree. Many Israelis are sceptical and do fear for their futures. But this is largely because it suits politicians to manufacture the scepticism and fear that destroy hopes for peace and justice. If the full truth about the health of people living in the occupied Palestinian territory was more widely known, the international community would no longer tolerate Israel’s apparent indifference.

Dr Richard Horton

Editor, The Lancet

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