‘Peace through Health’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Ground for dialogue or guise for continued occupation?

Research / The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Politics is nothing but medicine at a larger scale “.

Dr. Rudolf Virchow, physician and father of social medicine (1821-1902) [1]




“Peace through Health” is a theoretical and applied approach that sees humanitarian health initiatives as a primary basis for dialogue and cooperation between adversaries. This approach posits that health initiatives can spawn increased discourse and dialogue between parties to a conflict, build trust and promote cooperation on various issues, eventually facilitating the transition from conflict to peace. Based on interviews with representatives of an Israeli human rights organization that provides health services in the Occupied Territories, this article examines the implementation of the “peace through health” approach in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel handed responsibility for the health of the Palestinian population to the Palestinian Authority (PA).However, continued Israeli control and absence of full Palestinian sovereignty have resulted in a weakened and poor Palestinian health system. The severe shortage of health resources has created growing Palestinian dependence on local and international humanitarian health organizations, including health professionals from the Israeli side. An analysis of the interviews conducted for this article indicates that the humanitarian assistance by Israeli health professionals provides an opportunity to develop dialogue, achieve logistical cooperation, and establish trust between the peoples.At the same time, the article discusses the possible disadvantages of this approach in the Israeli-Palestinian test case as an example of humanitarian work that fosters normalization and preserves the status quo of occupation.

[1] Pinto, Andrew D. “Peace through health.” University of Toronto Medical Journal  80, no. 2 (2003): 158-60.

Mailing ListContact UsSupport Mitvim