An experience with a Palestinian doctor I will not forget

A Palestinian doctor feels lost in the modern world which ignores him

I had an experience with a displaced Palestinian which has never left me. A  doctor who felt his life and that of his community was seen as irrelevant by the whole world.

A little over 20 years ago I was consulting in Abu Dhabi with a UAE military hospital which in part involved caring for many victims of Isis being transferred from Iraq for medical treatment.  Our medical team consisted of European, American, Pakistani, North African, Indian and other nationalities working together. Included in our group was a Palestinian translator to help coordinate teamwork and patient communication.  He and his family had left Palestine to escape conflicts. He had undergone medical training in a Moscow university but had never been able to be fully licensed in any of many Middle Eastern countries he subsequently lived on. He was obviously very intelligent and gifted in his multilingual skills. Notably, although he was always attentive and dedicated to his work as a translator in helping facilitate communication with our patients this at least in part seemed to be accompanied always by a clear projection of personal melancholy.

To be honest, although we all appreciated his hard work, none of the medical or administrative professionals really treated him as an equal. He was not invited to social events or meetings other than just being available day or night for translation to communicate with patients. His supervisors were frankly sometimes abruptly short with him if he was tardy when called.

At that time he was not the focus of my reason to be in Abu Dhabi so I did not go out of my way to get to know him better which now I wish I had. However out of what little discussion I had with him about his life and family I learned he felt lost and somewhat hopeless. Palestinians were dominated by the Ottoman Empire and then came under colonial rule of the British. They were mostly bystanders to the emergence of the new prominent Arab identity fostered in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. His people and homeland had never been given a voice to their self determination because they were not numerous in population nor possessing of any strategic influence to the major world powers. In other words the world saw them as irrelevant.

If I could go back in time I would have gotten to know him better. What has become of him I do not know. I do not have a solution for the catastrophe befalling Israel and the Palestinians today but believe the answer is to accept first of all that they are people with families, a part of God’s creation, and should be relevant to the world. The damage of making  them irrelevant to the world must stop.

UN must apply precautionary principle of genocide response to Tigray

A grandmother lies mortally wounded by an Ethiopian drone attack on civilians in Southern Tigray in December 2021

Using euphemisms instead of the word, genocide, does not save lives or stop genocide. Instead of applying the precautionary principle of the UN Geneva Convention the delay in the official recognition of genocide directed against the people of Tigray and by Eritrea, Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates, and Turkey  follows a sad pattern previously seen in Rwanda, Darfur, and Bosnia. Rather then directly confronting the offenders with the truth of an ongoing genocide the international community is once again delaying declaration of genocide based on the false hope proven by previous catastrophic experience that using lesser terms will allow diplomacy to bring a change in behavior. Using lesser terms only empowers the genocidal power to continue deprivation and killing.

Ethnic cleansing ( a term created during the Bosnia war), population displacement, and civil war are examples of terms that are lesser then genocide and do not trigger international sanctions. A years long total blockade of Tigray has resulted in total lack of health care and food supplies while targeted attacks on civilians have together resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and continues to threaten millions in Tigray as already documented by the UN. 

Academic study of this failure to respond has been well studied by public health researchers.  Using euphemisms instead of the term genocide always resulting in more death and destruction. Because the cost of human lives has so often been catastrophic the United Nations Convention in 1948 was created to function with a Precautionary Principle which stresses early intervention to stop the killing as soon as possible. Once reasonable suspicion is raised the burden of proof is changed from those suspecting the genocide to those carrying it out under international agreement. Despite this the 20th century saw over 170 million deaths from genocide.