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Jewish Voice for Peace Health Adviser Dr. Alice Rothchild on Gaza Catastrophe as Health System Fails


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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman.

The Gaza Health Ministry has announced the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has now exceeded 10,000 from Israel’s monthlong bombardment. On Friday, at least 15 people died when an Israeli airstrike hit a convoy of ambulances outside Gaza’s largest hospital.

We’re ending the show with Dr. Alice Rothchild, retired OB-GYN who has long worked in Palestine, was last in Gaza in August. On Friday, Dr. Rothchild participated in a nonviolent protest to shut down the Federal Building in Seattle, where Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington has an office, urging the senator to call for an immediate ceasefire. Dr. Rothchild is on the steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council and mentor liaison for We Are Not Numbers, on the board of Gaza Mental Health Foundation.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dr. Rothchild. If you can talk about the attacks on hospitals right now? You have the attack on the ambulance convoy. Israel said it’s because they were transporting Hamas fighters. You have the attack on the hospitals, like Al-Shifa, the largest. Israel says it’s because command and control is underneath. Can you comment on all of this and the number, the death toll at this point?

DR. ALICE ROTHCHILD: Well, this is an appalling situation in terms of the death toll. And there are multiple international laws, starting with the Geneva Accords, that are being violated. You are not allowed, under any circumstances, to bomb hospitals, to bomb health centers, to bomb ambulances. This is against international law. Israel has —Israeli military has for years, with multiple different attacks, accused health facilities of sheltering, quote, “terrorists.” They have never produced good documentation. And even if there were, for instance, tunnels under a hospital, you are still not allowed to bomb a hospital. So this is a grave violation of international law and also part of the situation where civilians are dying in massive numbers and being injured in massive numbers.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you comment on the level of protest that you’re seeing right now and the amount of suffering that you’re seeing right now in Gaza? You have these 18 groups, rarely, issuing a joint statement, NGOs, along with U.N. agencies, demanding a ceasefire. And what this would mean, and what Senator Murray has said to you as a representative of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, as you shut down the Federal Building in Seattle?

DR. ALICE ROTHCHILD: Well, I think that I’ve been doing this for — solidarity work for 25 years, and this kind of response is unprecedented. And I think it’s a reflection of the unprecedented nature of the Israeli attack. And Senator Murray has not been willing to call for a ceasefire. But people all over this country and all over the planet are calling for a ceasefire, because we must stop this bombing, and we must stop all of the civilian death.

It is clear that the Israeli military is not doing a war to destroy Hamas, whatever that means. It is a war to destroy Gaza and destroying the infrastructure and killing thousands of people. You know, over half the homes are destroyed. A third of the hospitals are destroyed. It’s just a massive, massive catastrophe for this region. And there is thought that this is all part of an Israeli plan to run Gazans out of Gaza and displace them into Egypt. There are all sorts of horrific ideas going around. So, the response to this is all being seen internationally.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the health situation? We just came out of the third total blackout of Gaza, with health organizations, human rights groups begging the Israeli government to turn back on the electricity, the cellular service, because of what it means for people, organizations that are trying to coordinate their surviving workers on the ground to help the Palestinians.

DR. ALICE ROTHCHILD: Well, the health system is catastrophic. It has collapsed. And if you think about it, what it means not have electricity, you cannot call an ambulance. You’re in labor. You cannot communicate with anyone. Hospitals can’t communicate with each other. They can’t pump water into the system. There is no — almost no water at all that’s clean. That means you can’t wash your sterile instruments. You can’t wash wounds. There’s a lack of antibiotics. People are dying of infection.

I mean, it goes on and on and on, if you think about not having water, not having electricity and also not having food. There is now a serious risk of starvation. The average Gazan is living on two pieces of bread a day and spending hours searching for water. And people are starting to drink agricultural water, so we’re seeing an uptick in diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, chickenpox. You know, this is a humanitarian and health catastrophe that is basically being live-streamed in front of our eyes.

AMY GOODMAN: And the position of the Biden administration? We just have 30 seconds at this point.

DR. ALICE ROTHCHILD: The position of the Biden administration is entirely inadequate and utterly outrageous. Biden needs to call for a ceasefire. The U.S. is sending — planning to send Israel more weapons, that will only create more havoc. So, Israel should not be getting weapons, and Biden must, must, must call for a total ceasefire. That is absolutely necessary from a humanitarian, healthcare, political, human and moral point of view.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Alice Rothchild, we thank you for you for being with us. We’ll continue our conversation and post it online at Retired OB-GYN who has long worked in Palestine, was in Gaza in August, on the steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council.

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