By Adam Levick
Here are the first few paragraphs of a Dec. 31 Guardian article (“Palestinian superbug epidemic could spread, say doctors”) by Madlen Davies and Emma Graham-Harrison:
Doctors in Gaza and the West Bank have said they are battling an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a growing problem in the world’s conflict zones, which could also spill over the Palestinian borders.
The rise and spread of such virulent infections adds to the devastation of war, increasing medical costs, blocking hospital beds because patients need care for longer, and often leaving people whose injuries might once have been healed with life-changing disabilities.
Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been worn down by years of blockade, and antibiotics are in short supply, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.
Even though doctors in Gaza knew protocols to prevent the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, persistent shortages of antibiotics meant they could not always follow them, they told reporters. Patients take incomplete courses of antibiotics or are prescribed a mix because the right medicine is not available.
The rest of the 1,000-plus word piece follows this pattern of suggesting that Israel is largely to blame for the shortage of vital medicines in Gaza, a shortage that is putting the lives of countless Palestinians at risk.
But this is a lie. The import of antibiotics and almost all other important medicines are not in any way impacted by Israel’s blockade. As a CAMERA prompted correction at The New York Times noted, “the import of medicine” to Gaza “is not restricted” by Israel.
It’s actually the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority—and not Israel—that’s responsible for the purchase of medicines for Gaza. But the P.A., as part of the sanctions they imposed on Hamas in 2017 related to their ongoing political dispute, often fails to send such vital drugs to Gaza. The P.A.-imposed sanctions also includes a major reduction in Gaza’s overall health-care budget, and a frequent refusal to issue permits to Gaza patients to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Arab countries.
As the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported earlier in the year, “the escalation in internal Palestinian divisions in March 2017 led to a decline in deliveries from the West Bank and the gradual rise in the percentage of essential medicines at zero stock”. Even the pro-Palestinian NGO Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) blamed the P.A. for the shortage of medicine and medical supplies.
In fact, even before Fatah’s sanctions against Hamas, the Islamist group was complaining that Ramallah was sending only a small fraction of the medicine to Gaza it was required to send under existing agreements.
The article also errs in writing that only “small numbers of [Gaza] patients do transfer to other hospitals in Palestine and Israel”, when, in the first six months of 2018, according to the World Health Organization, more than 52 percent of all Gaza applicants were approved for such medical travel.
Finally, the article also fails to note another important factor contributing to Gaza’s woes—the fact that Hamas uses precious resources (including millions in international aid) for rockets, attack tunnels and other military projects, instead of on drugs and other medical related equipment its citizens desperately need. The “health system has been worn down” not “by years of blockade,” as the caption under the article’s featured photo claims, but by years of Hamas rule.
Tellingly, the word “Hamas” isn’t used once in the entire article.
Indeed, once again, we see how The Guardian seems to be institutionally incapable of holding Palestinian leadership even partly responsible for the misery in Gaza. It’s a pattern of coverage informed by an ideologically driven propensity to deny Palestinians agency. This “liberal” racism of low expectations results in contributors’ implicit assumption that Palestinians, as individuals, lack the capacity to act independently of Israel and make choices of their own free will.
No, Israel is not to blame for shortage of medicine in Gaza. But the narrative requires a tale of malevolent Israelis oppressing helpless Gazans, so that’s what Guardian readers will receive almost every time.
Adam Levick is the managing editor of UK Media Watch, a CAMERA affiliate, since 2010.