Above: Full video of the debate and voting as summarised below.
The following edited transcript offers highlights from the May 25, 2017 meeting of the World Health Organization, where Israel was the only country singled out for special criticism in a stand-alone agenda item, resolution, and report. Full story here.
Turkey: This report registers once again the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians who are being deprived of their basic humanitarian needs. Physical and procedural barriers for access to healthcare still continue. These restrictions on Palestine are illegal, inhuman, and unacceptable. Therefore, we sponsor the draft decision and invite all member states to support it.
Algeria: Algeria has the honour of taking the floor on behalf of the 47 member states of the African region, on this item 19 of our agenda, on “Health conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” This situation is of great concern and has been worsened by the degradation of social, economic, and health care, resulting from the protracted occupation. The state of health of prisoners in Palestine, children, and women, is a violation of international law and legal standards of human rights. Thus the African region supports the draft decision as proposed.
South Africa: We align ourselves with the statement just read by Algeria, and express deep concern regarding the deplorable social, economic, health conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem…The health conditions of the Palestinian people cannot be fully addressed without the recognition and realization of the legitimate right to self-determination.
Ecuador: We express our deepest concern over the flagrant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people according to the health standards upheld by this organization. The systemic, ongoing human rights violations in international humanitarian law is committed by the occupying state. My delegation fully supports the draft resolution.
Cuba: Physical obstacles, particularly the separation wall and checkpoints, prevent patients and health staff and ambulances to have direct access to East Jerusalem. The mental health of the occupied Palestinian population is facing major threats. Depression, anxiety, and psychological sufferance continue to be ongoing psychological problems due to the occupation. We express our support so that the occupied Syrian Golan population can enjoy their full right to health without any kind of hindrance.
Palestine: The Israeli occupation continues to be the main obstacle faced by the Palestinian health system, where the territories have been dissected as well as the division by an apartheid wall and the segregation of more than 300,000 Palestinians…
China: China pays high attention to the report. The health conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have improved but are still worrying. It is our hope that the parties concerned will take effective measures to bring about tangible improvements to the local health conditions there.
Iraq: Iraq on behalf of the Arab group is pleased to submit draft decision A70/B/conf1 entitled “Health Conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” We must cooperate to remove all barriers preventing health services and health access to the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We must also pay attention to the health conditions of the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan. Lastly, this draft decision is a consensus that must be adopted by consensus in our opinion.
Iran: The Palestinian people for years have faced terrible health conditions, especially in the Gaza Strip which is under a human blockade. The worsening condition of innocent people is caused by inhuman and unlawful policy of the Israeli regime. We express our reservations concerning those parts of the draft decision and of the report that might be construed as recognition of the Israeli regime.
Lebanon: The barriers and obstacles listed in the report imposed by Israel as an occupying power on the Palestinian people such as the separation wall, checkpoints, and the permit regime exacerbates the situation. Lebanon endorses the draft decision.
Pakistan: We are deeply concerned over the deteriorating health situation in the occupied state of Palestine including EastJerusalem and in the occupied cities in Golan. The unnecessary physical and technical barriers such as permit regimes created by Israel for existing hospitals needs to be condemned. The prevailing psychological, emotional and mental distress is the outcome of Israeli discriminating policies and gross human rights abuses committed with full impunity by the occupying forces.
Venezuela: We would like to express our strong support for the necessary measures to be taken to allow for a contribution to the serious problems caused by the decrease of the human rights situation, access to water, the economic crisis, unemployment, the expansion of settlements, the demolition of houses, the collective punishment of civilian populations, the creation of Israeli settlements which makes difficult for health situations in the occupied Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan. Regular access to drinking water, to health supplies and ambulances to the West Bank is also necessary.
Libya: My delegation would like to condemn the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. We also condemn and deplore all attacks on health facilities. Based on the principles upheld by the state of Libya, we strongly support the draft decision, and we call on all civilized nations who have called once and again for the respect of human rights, so we call on these civilized nations who want to uphold human rights to support this draft decision if they truly want to do so.
The health conditions in the occupied Syrian Golan are dire. The Syrian population in the Golan is deprived of health care and basic services because of the occupying power Israel that prevented the Syrian population from building a single hospital…
The inhumane detention of Syrian prisoners in Israeli prisons, who undergo horrible torture to compel them to confess of crimes they did not commit.. They are used as guinea pigs and experiments for new drugs.
Because of the Israeli nuclear reactor that is about to explode, nuclear waste has been buried in the Syrian Golan
Also, the Israeli occupying power continues to treat the injured among the terrorists from Al-Nusra front and other terrorist groups in Israeli hospitals, and transfers them from the occupied Syrian Golan to Israeli hospitals and then they are free to return to the Syrian territories to conduct terrorist attacks.
There is no international accountability for the occupying power Israel…
We commend the efforts by WHO to send a field mission to the Syrian Golan, in order to implement WHO decision 69/10, and we deplore the fact that this mission was not able to give truthful portrayal of the situation in Golan because this mission was only able to visit three locations and because of the many obstacles it was faced with, mainly the lack of disaggregated data for the Syrian Arab population and for the lack of availability of data in general.
This is mainly due to the fact that Israeli imposes its will and laws on the Occupied Syrian Golan and tries todismiss the identity of the original Syrian population. We call on the WHO to start comprehensive field assessments of the barriers and obstacles imposed by the Israeli occupying power on the Syrian population, on their freedom of movement, on their access to health services. So this assessment should be comprehensive and it should be an assessment on the impact of the nuclear waste buried in the Syrian Golan by the Israeli authorities. We look forward to a serious consideration of all these issues in the next WHO, thank you.
Bolivia: The checkpoints, the physical barriers to access including ambulances, there are many problems with access to drinkable water. Thisis not just a question of law but rather human rights. Bolivia supports the draft resolution.
Senegal: My delegation aligns itself with the statement made by Algeria on behalf of the African region. We take note of the report of the Director General, nd welcome the efforts to eliminate the suffering of these populations. We fully support the draft resolution.
Saudi Arabia: May the peace of God be upon you. Thousands of sick people in refugee camps as well as in prisons and detention centers are not able to benefit from health care because of blockades or severe poverty or because of obstacles to circulation because of Israeli permits and other measures. There are also attacks on health personnel and ambulances. Saudi Arabia supports the draft resolution, and we call on the international community to support the draft resolution and not to politicize it
Bahrain: We would like to echo what was said by the republic of Iraq on behalf of the Arab group. The welfare of the Palestinian people is held hostage by the measures implemented by Israel which constitutes a violation of humanitarian law, such as limiting their circulation and the wall of separation and the blockade of Gaza. There is also a destruction of thehealth infrastructure. We would like to join the list of sponsors of this draft decision.
Indonesia: The occupation is not only illegal but has also proven to be very costly for the fulfillment of basic human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Men, women, elderly people and children and particularly newborns will be deeply affected by such conditions.
Maldives: We strongly condemn the recent decisions by the occupying power to restrict access to health services, and are greatly concerned by the findings on infant deaths in Gaza.
Egypt: We welcome the report of the Director-General, and the ten recommendations contained therein. Special energy should be given to building the core public health capacity in Palestine.
We have serious concern over deteriorating conditions in the Gaza strip. The situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons deserves particular attention.
Nicaragua: We co-sponsored this resolution which we hope can be approved by consensus.
Qatar: In the name of God, the merciful the compassionate, Qatar supports the report would like to join as sponsor of the draft decision. The 10 recommendations in the report reflect the conditions of those most in need. We commend the high improvements attained by the Palestinian ministry of health.
Jordan: We are concerned by continued physical and procedural barriers restricting access to healthcare in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We support the draft decision, and stress the need for the DG to report next year on the progress made.
Sudan: We all know about the terrible conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we’re not talking about a political issue, we are talking about the suffering of people. Of mothers and their children and the high mortality rate. We support the draft put forward by Iraq. We want there to be a stop to torturing prisoners, to attacking hospitals and many other things.
Morocco: In the name of god, the merciful, the compassionate. We thank the Director General on the comprehensive report. We support the draft decision, and call for the removal of all obstacles stopping Palestinians from receiving adequate healthcare.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe is concerned with the quantity and quality of the water in the Palestinian territory. The environmental and health hazards that come with such a challenge cannot be over-emphasized. It is disturbing to learn that the field assessment team was not allowed access to prisons and there was no proper access to the Syrian Golan.
Bangladesh: We request WHO to enhance work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We also like to see an end to the illegal occupation of Israel—as soon as possible. We support the draft decision.
During the past three months, Director-General D,r Chan tried to depoliticize the agenda of the World Health Assembly by erasing this annual decision which singles out one country, and one country only—the State of Israel.
We responded positively to her initiative and fully engaged with the assessment team that was sent to the Palestinian territories. In order to show goodwill and facilitate a comprehensive report and a short technical decision to be adopted by consensus, we agreed to the DG’s request, for the first time ever, to conduct a field assessment of the health conditions in the Golan heights.
However, the Palestinians, not surprisingly, compromised the technical decision proposed by DG Chan with politicized language and controversial issues.
This is why we are gathered here yet again, and for the second time today, to go through the shameful ritual of misusing a professional UN platform to serve political interests and to witness this theatre of the absurd, glorifying the bias against Israel.
As for the part in the DG’s original comprehensive report, dealing with the Golan heights, it was blocked from publication because of Syrian pressure. Its conclusions shed a positive light on Israel’s excellent health services in the Golan and Israel’s medical treatment of injured Syrian civilians, fleeing from the Syrian bloodshed.
The WHO, rather than standing up to the brutal regime which massacres its own people, decided to hide this report from the public eye. To change its own report, and omit completely the practical recommendations which it presented.
Israel has made many reservations regarding assessment reports over the years, but these were never raised as an obstacle to the publication of any report.
Let me be clear: the discussion here today is not about health. If it were about improving the health conditions about the Palestinian people, we would have focused on the WHO’s recommendations, and not waste the organization’s valuable resources on this cynical discussion.
Enough is enough. Let’s bring sanity back to this organization for the benefit of all. Let’s deal with the real health and humanitarian emergencies, in our region and elsewhere in the world.
Mr. Chairman, Israel unequivocally rejects this draft decision and calls for a roll call vote.
I thank beforehand the member states who will join us in rejecting this decision. I deeply regret the decision of member states who support this decision as this sends a message to the Palestinians, the Syrians, and others, that they can turn the WHO into their own playground. I thank you Mr. Chairman.
USA: We take note of the changed approach from the decision adopted last year and believe it represents important although incomplete progress towards our shared objective of a World Health Assembly focused purely on public health.
The U.S. has long advocated for depoliticizing this agenda item, for which we have already spent too much time and we deeply appreciate the efforts of DG Chan in this regard, as well as the flexibility and productive spirit with which key stakeholders have engaged the WHO secretariat.
In particular, we commend Israel’s acceptance of a WHO field assessment of health conditions in the Golan earlier this year and look forward to the release of the field assessment report.
Unfortunately we are unable to support what’s before us, which perpetuates this politicized agenda item in inviting the DG to prepare a report for the 71st assembly.
The U.S. remains concerned about conditions addressed in this text, particularly in Gaza, and we will continue to work with Israel, the Palestinians, and others to advance the needs of Palestinian people through our development and humanitarian assistance programs.
But because we cannot support the text as proposed, we are opposed to the adopting of this decision, and support Israel’s call for a roll call for this vote.
Australia: Australia appreciates the personal efforts of the Director-General to broker consensus on this difficult issue as well as the progress made by all parties to reach closer agreement. Evidence-based and technical approaches to addressing complex health challenges are and should continue to always be the foundation for the WHOs work. This should not be politicized
Australia remains a strong supporter of a negotiated 2-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We have focused on supporting initiatives, re flect and maintain progress towards a negotiated settlement so that Israel and a future Palestinian state may exist side by side in peace and security.
Australia has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel in multilateral fora. We do not consider these bringing the parties closer to a negotiated settlement.
Australia is a longstanding and substantial supporter of the Palestinian people through our aid program. We continue to call on all parties to take the courageous decisions needed to return to and progress negotiations. Once again Australia appreciates and applauds Dr Chan’s efforts for many years on this topic.
Tunisia: We reiterate the importance of affording the citizens of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Occupied Syrian Golan of the right to health services. Therefore we have added ourselves to the list of co-sponsors of this draft decision.
UNRWA appreciates the World Health Assembly (WHA) to discuss the health of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is because 50% of 4.8 million people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are Palestine refugees. As health of the people living the Occupied Palestinian Territories are dire, the health of Palestinian refugees is dire.
The first WHA took place in 1948. In the same year, the Israel history of Palestinian refugees’ plight, or Naqba, started.
Today Palestinian refugees remain refugees, reaching to 5.8 million. This is the single largest refugee population in the world.
UNRWA provides primary healthcare services the Palestine refugees. In Occupied Palestinian Territories we have 65 health centers, caring for 5 million consultations every year. We highly appreciate in this regard the support from the host countries, donors and the international partners. UNRWA would particularly like to extend our sincere appreciation to Dr. Margaret Chan for her continuous support.
UNRWA’s health reform is making progress, thanks again to the international partners and host countries, particularly the Palestinian minister of health. In all 65 health centers in Occupied Palestinian Territories, we introduced electronic medical records or e-health as well. Such reform already produced gains in service delivery, patient satisfaction and the care quality.
Still, the absence of a just and durable solution and the consequences of the continued hardship affect the physical, social and the mental health of Palestine refugees. UNRWA’s study on the infant mortality rate in Gaza indicates its longstanding decline might have been halted.
Access to health, which is a fundamental human right is compromised. According to the latest WHO report from Gaza, only 55% of our Palestinian patients seeking hospital services outside of Gaza was approved.
It’s vital for the international community to continue to monitor and discuss, with a sense of urgency, the health conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories including Palestine refugees.
Oman: The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is deteriorating rapidly. The Palestinian people have reached a dismal situation. The occupation of Palestine has led to many catastrophes. We do not feel that there is any politicization considering primordial questions such as the question of Palestine. This is a request by all peace-loving countries, to encourage all parties to reach a lasting, fair and just resolution to the Palestinian question that would guarantee living in peace and security with health services provided to all.
Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan: The issue before us has a long history of appearing on WHA agendas. I was reminded by people who have been here longer than me, and the record showed that it has dated back to 1968. Over all these years, it has consistently been one of the most complex and contentious issues you discuss. My job as your DG is to facilitate a smooth WHA and to help, when asked, to overcome polarizing situations. This means your DG, me, has to work with all interested parties in strict compliance with my oath of office which obliges me to be impartial, fair, objective and transparent.
This year, for the first time for decades, the WHO was able to send its first mission to assess the health conditions in Occupied Syrian Golan. I thank Israel for its facilitation. The report that we have drafted after the field visit is a good first step, but the report is incomplete. As we all know, health conditions are shaped by more than just simple access to health service.
More work, more research need to be done, together more information. We cannot rely on hearsay. It is incumbent on the WHO as a technical agency to get the right information before I present to my member states.
What I am saying is that as I make clear in paragraph 11 and paragraph 28 of A70/39, we need to do more work.
After more work, I will present a comprehensive report to my member states, but not at this stage because it is incomplete. Thank you.
Germany (speaking for Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and The Netherlands):
We consider that the World Health Organization is no place for politics. World Health Assembly resolutions and decisions should be technical, result-oriented and should serve global public health.
We regret that – despite DG Chan’s efforts – it was not possible to adopt the present decision by consensus.
Within this context, we welcome the constructive approach taken by Israel, which gave its consent to the WHO mission in the occupied Syrian Golan. This is an important contribution to further de-politicizing this Assembly agenda item.
It is all the more regrettable that the report of that mission was not published – not even the parts which had already been completed.
This is clearly due to the Syrian behavior, which we can only condemn in the strongest terms. This is particularly deplorable in view of the abysmal health situation in other parts of Syria. According to the UN, last year alone, more than 300 medical facilities in Syria were targeted.
Our goal remains to have an entirely technical text. We therefore call upon both Israelis and Palestinians to continue to work constructively with each other and with the WHO Secretariat in order to reach a consensus in the future.
The draft decision, which has been adopted, is a step in the right direction. We welcome the fact that it is much shorter and more technical, and we appreciate the flexibility both Israelis and Palestinians have shown in this regard.
Against this background, and as an encouragement to all parties to continue on the path towards consensus, we have decided to vote “Yes.”
The reason we had this decision today was not because of the health needs of the people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, important as they are. No, the reason we had this decision was because of the political situation relating to the OPT. Conflict, the absence of peace, politics itself, these all affect the health and well-being of millions, indeed, billions of people, often tragically so. But we do not have decisions in the WHO relating to every conflict or civil war or political stalemate around the world. This is the only one.
I would like to commend the efforts by many in this room to avoid presenting this text today. This is the WHO, not the UN General Assembly. The WHO is one of the world’s most important technical agencies. It should not be a place where we argue over politics. If we politicize the WHO, we do so at our peril. We do the course of our global health and the health of our citizens a grave disservice.
We all know that a just and lasting solution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both, Israelis and Palestinians, is long overdue. The UK stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the international community in the conviction that a 2-state solution is the only sustainable path for delivering justice and improving the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. We have serious concerns about the conditions in the OPT but the politicization of their health needs does not do them any favor, and it undermines the WHO’s credibility as the globally-focused and objective international health body we all support. Today, the UK voted against this politicization of the WHO and in the hope that in the next year, we can finally succeed in bringing it to an end.
Latvia: We see no justification that the report on the health situation in the Syrian Golan has not been released. We would like tothank the Palestinian delegation for their constructive engagement, and the decision by the Israeli government to cooperate with the WHO mission in the Syrian Golan.
Slovenia: WHA resolutions should be technical and result-oriented. We therefore welcome that the draft decision adopted today is much shorter and more technical. Our goal is to have an entirely technical text. We welcome the important decision of Israel to give its consent to the WHO fact finding mission in the Syrian Golan. Such constructive steps are needed by all parties. We regret that the report of that mission was not published due to the Syrian behaviour, which we condemn.
Canada: Canada is concerned about the continued inclusion of the stand-alone political agenda item in the WHA, a technical body that should avoid politicization and focus on improving global health outcomes. We welcome the efforts of the director-general and the secretariat to have a technical text this year. In spite of progress made this year, Canada remains concerned that the report and decision are still unduly politicized. For this reason, Canada is not able to support the decision.
Mr Chairman, first of all I would like it recorded that I am extremely surprised by the manipulation that was carried out by some of the people present in this room, who spoke in a way that can only be described as contradictory. And sometimes they even contradicted themselves in the beginning of a sentence and the end.
Mr President, I listened very carefully to what was said and I would like to emphasize the following points. First of all, the issue of not politicizing, or the claims to not be politicizing cannot be used as an excuse in any way to remain silent from the manipulation of the Israeli authorities with the reality on the ground in the occupied Golan Heights, and its attempt to emphasize the status quo of their occupation.
Accepting the mission is its obligation based in international humanitarian law. Access to the mission should be unrestricted and unconditional, and that was not the case when it concerns the evaluation mission to the occupied Syrian Golan.
The fact that the occupying forces misrepresent the support that they give to the al-Nusra front, is the terrorist arms of Al-Qaeda in Syria. This cannot be presented falsely as humanitarian action. And hampering the circulation of Syrians in the Golan using discriminatory measures and other measures cannot be deformed or misrepresented in this forum or any other fora.
There is no doubt that the visit of the mission to the Occupied Golan for three days only would not allow it to evaluate the health conditions in the Golan in a comprehensive manner, because this mission was not allowed to take place since the occupation of the Golan since 1967. The occupying authorities have prevented the creation of health centers in the occupied Golan since 1967. What prevented the publication of the report was not Syria and its behaviour, it was the shortcomings and the barriers which impeded the mission. And these obstacles were due mostly to the practices of the Israeli occupying forces which are trying to impose their illegal decisions and continue their occupation.
The occupying authorities must respect international law and must allow the mission of the WHO and the missions sent by other organizations to take place and should allow teams of these organizations to regularly visit the Golan in order to evaluate the health conditions and the living conditions in a comprehensive manner, and this was not the case when it comes to the mission which visited the Golan recently.
The occupying authorities are asked to stop applying their discriminatory and unfair policies which have led to the deterioration of the living condition of the people who live in the Golan Heights and they do not have the means to cover their living expenses.
Syria defends the rights of its citizens under occupation and this cannot be condemned. And there I would like to express my deep condemnation of what was said by Germany and Slovenia, concerning this matter. It is our right as our citizens are subjected to arbitrary measures by an occupying power, it is our right to defend our citizens and we will continue to do that with determination and force.
Japan: We appreciate WHO’s efforts, led by DG Chan, to assess health conditions in Palestine. Despite the effort, it is regrettable that the decision was not taken by consensus. We also welcome Israel’s consent to allow WHO’s mission to the Golan Heights. It is regrettable that the report of this particular mission was not published for our consideration. We continue to support WHO’s efforts to other health programs for the Palestinians from a technical point of view.
USA: The United States is appalled by the cynicism of the Syrian government in this context. As is well known to everyone in this room, the Assad government’s record of bombing hospitals and targeting first-responders means it has zero credibility on this issue. UN Secretary General Guterres at the Security Council meeting earlier today said that Physicians for Human Rights has documented over 400 attacks since 2013, with over 800 medical staff killed in Syria.