Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Dialogue

What can cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian doctors achieve?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 25 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3081
  1. Jumana H Odeh, director1,
  2. A Mark Clarfield, professor of geriatrics2,
  3. Tony Waterston, retired paediatrician3
  1. 1Palestinian Happy Child Centre, Ramallah
  2. 2Medical School for International Health, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-sheva, Israel
  3. 3Newcastle upon Tyne

    A discussion between Mark Clarfield (Israel) and Jumana Odeh (Occupied Palestinian Territories), facilitated by Tony Waterston

    Tony Waterston: As a frequent visitor to the West Bank in my role as director of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s teaching programme, I am often asked, why the programme doesn’t work with Israeli paediatricians as well as with Palestinians. I am aware that many Israeli doctors would like to work much more closely with the Palestinians, as they used to in the past. Yet when I brought up this notion with colleagues in Ramallah and East Jerusalem (where the main medical school is based), it was met with antagonism. Like many Israeli doctors, Mark Clarfield, a geriatrician and fellow BMJ blogger, is positive both to the idea of working more closely with Palestinians and to dialogue on health topics—and to the outsider this seems entirely appropriate. I have worked for nearly 10 years with Jumana Odeh, who is one of the originators of our teaching programme. She is a fine humanist and always tries to build bridges rather than create barriers. However, her ideas on dialogue were quite different from Mark’s and seemed to be shared by most of her Palestinian colleagues. I asked them whether they thought there was benefit in doctors working across frontiers and political barriers.

    Jumana Odeh: Doctors do work together across frontiers and political barriers but only in individual cases and under very particular conditions. I have given first aid to Israelis injured in road crashes. Israeli doctors have also cared for members of my family.

    But for Israelis, there are no frontiers between Israel and Palestine. For Palestinians, frontiers begin just outside our homes and are enforced by military checkpoints and other coercive means. So it is not possible, under any circumstance, to …

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