Why are you referring to it as the Occupied Palestinian territories?
The areas comprising the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem were not part of the original UN agreement that created and set aside lands for the state of Israel. Israel militarily occupied these lands during and after the Six-Day War in 1967 and has continued to keep a military presence or exercise military dominion over land, air, and sea rights over them ever since, while also building an expanding network of illegal settlements in the West Bank for hundreds of thousands of Israelis. This means the Palestinian Territories meet the definition of “occupied” territories according to international law, and are therefore referred to as such by many international bodies, including the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and more.
Why aren't you working in Israel?
MSF’s mission is to provide emergency medical care to those who cannot otherwise access it. Israel has one of the world’s most advanced medical and mental health systems, and Israelis therefore already have access to exceptional medical and mental health care. If there were emergency needs within the state of Israel that were not being covered, and if the state of Israel accepted our assistance, MSF would consider opening programs there, but that is not the case.
Why are you taking sides? You seem biased.
In countries around the world, MSF advocates on behalf of its patients by providing emergency medical care to those who cannot otherwise access it and also calling attention to the conditions that create those medical needs. MSF has no a priori bias towards Israel or the Palestinians, just as there is no a priori bias or judgment of peoples in other conflict zones and emergency situations elsewhere. Our opinions come from our operational experience, grounded in the medical needs we see in the field. Over more than 20 years of working in the West Bank and Gaza, our field teams have seen how the occupation has evident medical consequences for people who become our patients, and we therefore call attention to those consequences and their sources.
Why are you getting involved in this but choose to stay neutral in other conflicts around the world?
MSF adopts a neutral stance regarding provision of medical care, as dictated by our medical ethics and professional standards. This is to say that, as in the United States, we don’t offer or refuse medical care to anyone based on their religion, nationality, ethnic group, or any other affiliation. We offer care based first and foremost based on medical need. That is the neutrality of which we speak. Speaking out about the causes of medical needs in places where we have projects—whether it be Gaza, the West Bank, Myanmar, Honduras, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, or anywhere else—is part of the advocacy we do on behalf of patients, as described above. It is not an abrogation of our medical neutrality, but rather something done in service of our overall mission, and it is not accurate to say that we get involved in this fashion in one place but not another. Our record shows countless examples of MSF speaking out on behalf of patients in countries, conflicts, and other crises around the world.
Why does the “In Between Wars” exhibition put on by the Paris office include references to Palestinian “martyrs” but not Israeli victims of the conflict?
The “In Between Wars” exhibition launched in Paris by MSF’s French office in December 2015 was designed to illustrate the nature of life in the West Bank and Gaza under current conditions. It is meant to be a documentary exhibition, one that provides an immersive experience into the lives of Palestinians, along with the issues they face on a daily basis and the attendant public health consequences. A “typical” family is very likely to have been affected by the conflict in some form or fashion, and they are almost certain to refer to anyone who died in or due to the conflict as a “martyr.” This could mean that they fought, that they carried out attacks, or that they were civilian non-combatants who were the victims of an attack or Israeli military action. All would be referred to as “martyrs,” and this is what the exhibition seeks to portray—the pervasiveness of the conflict and the occupation, even for those who seek only to live their lives. It is in no way an endorsement or defense of any party or any action taken in the course of the conflict, and MSF has historically—and consistently—criticized all parties to the conflict, on all sides, for attacks carried out on civilians and civilian infrastructure, in violation of international humanitarian law. All parties to the conflict are responsible for their own actions, and the actions of their fighters.