Suivant la « lettre ouverte » publiée par le Lancet, certains collègues l’ont critiqué en l’accusant, au mieux, de « faire de la politique », et au pire d’être « tout simplement antisémite ». Ici une réaction de médecins juifs d’Afrique du Sud,
We write as Jewish health professionals in South Africa in response to the debate on the war in Gaza.1 Many of the letters have been critical, sometimes viciously so, of The Lancet for airing this debate, labelling it “inappropriate for a peer-reviewed medical journal to publish purely political, inaccurate, and prejudiced pieces”2 and have gone on to equate the original call by Paola Manduca and colleagues1 as “anti-Jewish bigotry, pure and simple”.2
We disagree and are disturbed at the lack of insight of many of the criticisms that seem to focus on a narrow view of humanitarianism out of touch with current scientific and ethical thinking about the human rights obligations of health professionals. For example, the idea that “Medicine should not take sides”3 and that provision of medical care to Palestinian victims of the war represents a sufficiently ethical response4 is extremely problematic. Even more so is the argument that accuses those who speak out against the consequences of the war for civilians as inciting hate or introducing politics “where there is no place for it”.3
Remaining neutral in the face of injustice is the hallmark of a lack of ethical engagement typical of docile populations under fascism.5
More recent understandings of the role of humanitarianism in health (often involving noble and courageous actions) have highlighted the limitations of non-engagement as a moral choice and have argued that apolitical approaches that focus on emergency relief are wholly inadequate.6,7
As South Africans who witnessed the worst excesses of state brutality under apartheid, we would have failed our professional duties had we not spoken up against ethical and human rights violations committed against civilians by an abusive state.
We most certainly did not have the opportunity to air such views in our country’s medical journal, which suppressed public statements by concerned health professionals and labelled such appeals for justice and human rights as “political”.8 In its 1997 investigation, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission highlighted the abysmal ethical failings of the health professions in challenging apartheid medicine and the violations of human rights. History has proved us correct in our estimation that health workers should not stand by while injustice leads to the death and injury of civilians in a conflict that could be prevented.
We therefore wish to express our support for your decision to permit a discussion in the columns of The Lancet on the professional, ethical, and human rights implications of the current conflict in Gaza.
We believe it entirely appropriate that health professionals speak out on matters that are core to our professional values and that The Lancet provides an independent and respected platform for such engagement. Thank you for allowing voices to be expressed that would otherwise be suppressed by prejudice, politics, and a partisan view of the ethical and human rights responsibilities of health professionals.
All the authors were harassed, victimised, or detained for being anti-apartheid activists. LL, DS, SF, SU, LB-R, and SG signed an open letter calling on South Africa to expel the Israeli ambassador during this current conflict.
*Leslie London, David Sanders, Barbara Klugman, Shereen Usdin, Laurel Baldwin-Ragaven, Sharon Fonn, Sue Goldstein