The Occupation Causes Palestinian Arabs To Have Heart Attacks
A study published in the academic journal, Conflict and Health, claims that Israel is to blame for cardiovascular disease (CVD) suffered by Palestinian Arabs in the Palestinian Authority (PA). Doctors interviewed by the authors of this article claimed that smoking, having an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise is due to THE OCCUPATION. Here are a few quotes to show how they make this linkage:
All study participants [12 doctors interviewed] referred to stress and insecurity as the main risk factors for the notable increase of CVD in the West Bank. According to them, stress was related to (a) structural determinants, particularly to the Israeli occupation, with its political instability, lack of freedom of movement and military presence and (b) daily stressors including economic hardship, unemployment and family conflicts.
It is so convenient to blame the Israeli so-called occupation for political instability instead of the civil war raging between Hamas and Fatah, corruption and embezzlement on the part PA leaders, and the fact that Abu Mazen is in the 13th year of his 4-year-term. Easy to blame Israeli checkpoints for lack of freedom without mentioning that there were no checkpoints and very little military interference before PA Arabs started murdering Jews. Easy to blame the occupation for economic hardship and unemployment rather than the PA leadership who do not invest in make-work initiatives or the BDS fools who made sure to close down industries such as Sodastream that had Jewish and Palestinian Arab employees working side by side, sending the Arabs out into the street without work.
Shush! Let us not remind them that the Barkan Industrial Area gives Palestinian Arabs a good paycheck and social benefits. Would not want to endanger their livelihoods.
The Occupation Causes Depression
Stress and insecurity were also related to feelings of hopelessness for the future and depression. One doctor from a private practice indicated that 20% of his patients were prescribed antidepressants while another one working for a large governmental facility noted:
Living under occupation means not much to look forward to, occupation is (a) chronic disease.
So now the occupation is a chronic disease! But chronic corruption on the part of their leadership who steal monies meant for development and infrastructure, that must be our fault too. Quick! Prescribe an antidepressant for the victims of their own leadership and blame Israel!
How they love to blame the wall
Stress was considered to be associated particularly with the separation wall and Israeli checkpoints, both of which often prevent patients from reaching appropriately specialised health facilities in time. A doctor from a governmental hospital outlined the problem for patients who need urgent medical treatment as follows:
If someone has (a) heart attack who comes to (the) hospital you hope that they present on time. The ideal of the recommended ‘door to open’ time of 90 min, or the ambulance to emergency room time of 1 h is laughable here. The patient needs a permit, basically a visa to visit [the] hospital.
Palestinian Arabs love to blame checkpoints and the wall for lack of freedom of movement. Certainly they need a permit to enter Israel, but moving around Areas A and B that are under PA total and partial control, respectively, does not require permits, certainly not to pass checkpoints like this one:
Ami Horowitz braved a road trip in the Palestinian Authority to see for himself how checkpoints impede freedom of movement for the residents. Then he compared the time it takes to pass through the border from the PA into Israel with the time it takes to get from Mexico into the USA:
The Occupation makes them smoke
Whilst all respondents considered a reduction in smoking important, they also highlighted that it was extremely difficult for patients to change this behaviour as they used smoking as a means to combat the stress of living within a conflict zone and as a form of enjoyment. . . . Because living under occupation is the main issue here, you know, people are experiencing a hard life so cigarettes are an escape.
It was further noted that especially older patients were reluctant to quit smoking because they considered it to be a way of socialising and bringing some form of enjoyment into their occupation-affected and often insecure lives.
Almost makes me want to cry in sympathy.
The doctors interviewed also talked about increasing obesity caused by a combination of Western diets of processed foods introduced into the PA and a lack of exercise. Doctors around the world struggle with non-compliant patients at risk who do not seem motivated sufficiently to change their unhealthy lifestyles. But in the PA, they have an explanation for the lack of motivation:
It’s the lack of motivation which (…) I would say under the current circumstances, (…) could not be changed. It is more difficult because when you look at the circumstances (…), the political conditions in general, there is not much hope for the younger generation .
Furthermore, the authors write:
it has to be acknowledged that farming communities (particularly those located in Area C of the West Bank) are regularly affected by land confiscations and the control of water sources by Israel – a situation which has been linked to a change in diet generally from one that basically relied on locally grown food including fruit and vegetables to one consisting of processed, fatty, sugary, fast food [Abdeen et al, 2012].
They claim that Abdeen et al (2012) supports the contention that Israeli land confiscations and control of water are the reason for turning from healthy self-grown foods to unhealthy processed foods. I read the Abdeen article. It clearly states that the PA and other Middle Eastern Arab countries are suffering from the same increase in obesity because of the very same changes in diet and lack of exercise. The occupation has not yet been blamed for what is happening in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt and I hope this does not mean that that is about to begin.
So What is the Solution?
Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, the doctors listed what they needed to be able to more effectively deal with the growing problem of CVD in the PA: increased medical staff, better primary care, better and more medical equipment, enforcement of laws prohibiting smoking in public places. Addressing the first three points would require resources being directed to medical care. However, as the authors of the article admit, the Ministry of Health experiences an annual budget deficit of 45%.
And yet they always come back to the same point:
the implementation of a multi-sectoral NCD prevention strategy cannot be viewed in isolation, but in a context where the Palestinian government has limited room for manoeuvre due to the Israeli occupation and related political fragility and insecurity.
May I suggest that the PA divert funds used to give salaries to terrorists and their families and give them to the Health Ministry instead. Perhaps if they start thinking in terms of rewarding clinics for numbers of patients saved rather than rewarding martyrs according to number of Jews killed, they may actually do something positive for their people, occupation or not.