The Doctor Who Dared to Come Out Against a Torturous Law
PALESTINE - ISRAEL, 24 Aug 2015
13 August 2015 – And then he appeared like a beam of light in the darkness, the least likely person. In a place where there were no people, he was a person: Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman. Looking like a Soviet bureaucrat, an anesthesiologist by specialty, he, of all people awakened the most anesthetized organ in Israel – the conscience – and proved that things can be different.
It is hard to remember when a labor leader last acted this way in Israel; when a person who is not a member of the ethics committee went beyond the realms of salaries and private medical services. When someone dared come out against the law. The Israel Medical Association turned briefly into Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, conscientious objection suddenly became a legitimate weapon. Without pathos and without beating around the bush, this courageous and moral physician, who once staged a hunger strike himself, announced that the IMA would not lend its hand to torture and its members would not force-feed hunger-strikers and would not enforce the law that the Knesset had passed. The law? Eidelman noted that in China, for example, doctors torture people according to the law. Bravo, Eidelman.
His statement made the darkness more prominent. Suddenly, it emerged how many collaborators the occupation has and how many agents of evil fulfill their functions without an Eidelman to stop them. How labor unions could have protested and should protest, how unions should have instructed their members to stop collaborating and refuse to do so.
It’s not only the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces, the settlers and their people; the entire society is involved. The engineers, the contractors, the architects and the builders on stolen lands, the bankers and those that trade in the money gained from exploitation. Those who quarry the natural resources in the occupied territories – endless areas of life in which people are involved in the occupation and act like they are innocent. And, of course, the lawyers: Just imagine Eidelman as head of the Israel Bar Association, instructing its members to stop cooperating with the grotesqueness called military courts. A dream. Almost the end of the occupation.
A few more Eidelmans, and reality will change. Eidelman proved that it’s possible. The rest have proven how contaminated and inured they are. They have shown why opponents of the occupation abroad should boycott all segments of the society, not only the settlers.
The doctors are also contaminated. Hunger striker Khader Adnan told me this week in Nablus how the jailors who sat in his room at Assaf Harofeh Hospital and ate shawarma and pizza as his condition deteriorated, cuffed his hand and foot to his bed. There are doctors who permitted this, there are doctors who did not put an end to this lack of humanity in the hospital of which they have charge. They shirked their mission.
There are doctors in the Shin Bet who have trained and train torturers and there are doctors in the Israel Prison Service who are prepared right now to establish “emergency rooms” in the prisons for force-feeding. The horror show of moving Mohammed Allaan from one hospital to another, perhaps to “change atmosphere” or perhaps to force-feed him in a hospital whose director is a brigadier general in the reserves, did not raise enough protest. Doctors who would forcibly insert a tube into someone’s stomach should be boycotted and ostracized, in Israel and abroad, them and their superiors. No research projects, no conferences, no in-service training, no membership in the IMA.
In recent months, two Palestinian hunger-strikers have grabbed international attention. Some cheered the freedom fighters, whose hunger strikes were intended purely to bring about their release from detention without trial. In Israel, their cases were brought up only with regard to the risk to the state’s image were they to die. No one asked why they were striking. Perhaps their struggle was just? Perhaps they should be admired for their determination and their sacrifice?
All means were legitimized to prevent “image damage.” We’ll push a feeding tube into them and foster the image of the state. And then came Eidelman and destroyed this distorted morality.
Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists’ Union Prize in 1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996. His new book, The Punishment of Gaza, has just been published by Verso Publishing House in London and New York.
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