Middle East Studies

From the Personal to the Political: The involvement of Physicians in Israel in the Torture and Ill-Treatment of Detainees

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

5:00pm – 7:00pm

McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute

Ruchama Marton, PhD. – Founding President of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I).

This talk describes how some physicians working in Israeli detention facilities contribute to the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees. Physicians are committed to be the guardians of their patients’ care and health. But in Israeli prisons, physicians often find themselves either instructed or coerced to disregard or keep silent about detainees’ complaints of torture, to pass on confidential medical information to interrogators, and to authorize physical torture and mistreatment. I argue that this situation is attributable to broader psychological mechanisms of the Occupation, according to which Palestinians are mainly seen as dehumanized enemies of the Israeli state. Physicians operating in such a system are as vulnerable as any others to such an ideology and fail to see the Palestinian prisoner as a total human being. Many of them are unaware of their biases or blind spots and assume they are operating as neutral and objective medical practitioners. Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli medical human rights NGO, works tirelessly to expose, protest, render visible, and thereby bring an end to the involvement of the medical profession in torture and ill treatment, as part of a broader mission to sanctify the lives and well-being of the vulnerable in this conflict-torn region.