Online Program

New humanitarianism, human rights and the contested meaning of the "political": Physicians for Human Rights - Israel as a case study

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 8:56 a.m. - 9:09 a.m.

Nadav Davidovitch, MD, MPH, PhD, Health Systems Management, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
Dani Filc, MD, PhD, Department of Politics and government, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
Nora Gottlieb, PhD, School of Public Health, University of Illinois - Chicago, Chicago, IL
Medical humanitarian aid, human rights activism and political advocacy for an egalitarian right to health emerged as distinct – and at times conflicting – conceptions (Brauman 2008, Darcy 2008). However, in the last decades, following the emergence of a "New Humanitarianism" and transformations within the human rights movement, the distinctions between these conceptions have eroded (Leebaw 2007). While current interpretations of both humanitarian and human rights movements have been considered an expression of greater commitment to the victims of human right violations as well as a mandate to act, critics have stressed the depoliticizing effects of both movements (Brown 1995, Ticktin 2006, 2011).

The present paper studies two medical humanitarian projects of the Israeli human rights NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-IL) in order to probe the complex relationship between medical humanitarianism, human rights advocacy and political activism. The two projects are a) the Open Clinic for uninsured persons, which is based in Tel Aviv-Yafo and mainly serves undocumented labor migrants and asylum seekers; and b) the Mobile Clinic, which operates in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Using qualitative methodologies including in-depth interviews and critical discourse analysis, we expose and analyze the tensions and possible synergism between the divergent paradigms underlying humanitarian, human rights and political action. 

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Provision of health care to the public
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the development of different modes of medical humanitarianism and their understanding of the role politics in health. Analyze the case study of Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, focusing on two clinics: the mobile clinic operating in the occupied territory and the open clinic for uninsured person operating in Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Keyword(s): Advocacy, Human Rights

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the co-principal investigator of a study focusing on the tensions between medical humanitarianism and political advocacy. Among my scientific interests are: health policy, public health, social justice and health
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.