Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) is an organisation of Israeli and Palestinian physicians that stands at the forefront of the struggle for human rights - particularly the right to health - in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. PHRI lobbies the state of Israel, demanding that all residents of Israel and Palestine get the same access and right to health care regardless their legal status, nationality, ethnicity or faith. PHRI also provides health services to those residents of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory who otherwise would not receive proper health care.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) was founded in 1988 at the start of the Intifada by Dr. Ruchama Marton and Israeli and Palestinian physicians, motivated by the conviction that "every person has the right to health in its widest possible sense, as defined by the principles of human rights, social justice and medical ethics".
PHRI's activities are a mixture between the direct delivery of health and health awareness services (e.g. through its clinics) to disadvantaged populations, and campaigning against bureaucratic restrictions that prevent these populations gaining access to mainstream health services and against the policies and repression that create the disadvantage in the first place.
PHRI's work is organised in a number of departments:
- Clinics: a mobile clinic taking health services to excluded populations in the occupied Palestinian territory; women's clinics working to empower Palestinian women within their society by raising their awareness of health-related issues; and an Open Clinic in Jaffa, which sees over 100 patients each evening.
- The Prisoners and Detainees Department working for the health rights of prisoners and detainees and against injurious solitary confinement, torture, and other inhuman treatment of prisoners.
- The Migrants and Undocumented People Department, which campaigns for the concept that any person resident in Israel should be entitled to social rights (health, welfare and education) regardless of his or her legal status.
-The Department for Status-less Persons, including the Open Clinic, servicing over 250,000 people residing in Israel without civil status including foreign workers and their families, asylum seekers from around the world, Palestinian women and children in Israel who lost their status following the 2003 Citizenship Law, collaborators and alleged collaborators from the West Bank and Gaza, victims of human trafficking, and many others living in Israel without legal status.
- The Residents of Israel Department, advocating for a more inclusive Israeli public health system that eliminates the health inequalities between Israeli residents living in peripheral rather than central districts, between Arab and Jewish citizens, and between poor and rich communities, and that includes a broader basket of health services.
- The Right to Health in the Unrecognised Negev Villages project, seeking to promote the right to health for the 180,000 Bedouins living in Israel. Most cannot access basic health care; their villages lack sufficient medical clinics, mother child health care clinics, and gynaecological, paediatric, and other specialist services. Further, Bedouins live without the underlying determinants of health like clean water, electricity, and a hazard-free environment.
- The Occupied Palestinian Territory Department, which campaigns among other things against the extreme difficulties that residents of the occupied territories experience when they have to cross checkpoints for medical reasons.
PHRI has also started campaigning against the inappropriate carrying out of anti-anthrax experiments on Israeli soldiers.
From January to July 2009, PHRI (all departments) received 2259 appeals by individuals from different communities whose right to health was violated and who needed representation vis-a-vis the authorities. These applications for assistance are in addition to the individuals who come to PHRI's clinics for direct medical aid - 16,599 patients during this period of time. PHRI's volunteer medical staff donated 9179 work hours and its administrative volunteers and translators 3886 work hours. At the end of 2009, the organisation had 1000 members.
Gaza closure: Continuing the work under most difficult circumstances
With the Gaza closure and Israel's attack on Gaza in 2008 the work of PHRI has become even more difficult. That year, for the first time and due to Israel's closure of the Gaza crossings, which made it extremely difficult for Palestinian patients to cross the border, PHRI started taking its mobile clinic into Gaza as well as the West Bank, making eight medical trips and four deliveries of medical equipment. Hundreds of patients were examined and counseled, and 37 surgeries performed, as well as two trainings conducted to treat emotional trauma. In 2009, PHRI only got permits for three such trips.
Between January and June 2010, 5620 Palestinians received medical care through PHRI's mobile clinics. PHRI's members aided 787 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to receive exit and entry permits for medical care outside of the occupied territory, and helped 454 Palestinians navigate the Israeli health system to receive medical care in Israeli hospitals.
Founder, Awards & Network
The founder and continuing president of PHRI is Dr. Ruchama Marton. In the late 1990s, Marton was especially active against the torture of Palestinian prisoners, her campaign culminating in 1999 with the Supreme Court making it illegal. Later that year, she and PHRI received Israel's highest human rights honour, the Emil Grunzweig Award for Human Rights. Marton, and the Palestinian Salah Haj Yehya, who is PHRI's Field Work Director, received the Jonathan Mann Award in 2002.
PHRI is a member of the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organisations. It is funded by a range of national and international foundations and companies.
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
9 Dror St. Jaffa
Tel Aviv 68135