*Update of Shatha Odeh as of (June 3, 2022)
After spending almost a year in illegal detention, Ms. Shatha Odeh was released to her family on June 3, 2022 (IAHP, 2021). She was given a 5-year suspended sentence, on the condition that she would not provide health services to people, and a USD 9.000 fine. Because of this, Ms. Odeh can no longer hold the position of director at the Health Work Committees.
Women fight the push back of their rights in the occupied Palestinian territory
- Who is Shatha Odeh?
Shatha Odeh, 60 years old and mother of three, is the Director of Health Work Committees (Odeh, 2021). Shatha Odeh is a nurse and a Palestinian health, human and women’s rights activist, the Head of the Palestinian NGOs Network and is also an active member of the Global Steering Council of the People’s Health Movement (PHM) (Front, 2022), (Hanbali, 2022, p. 31) and (Odeh, 2021). These committees aimed to provide health aid to Palestinians while simultaneously addressing the systematic neglect and violence of Israel’s colonial system; the organization promotes a more holistic view of health, considering economic, political and social circumstances when providing primary health care services and public health (Hanbali, 2022, p. 31).
- What Happened?
Shatha Odeh, Director of Health Work Committees, an organization dedicated to providing health care services to Palestinians in the West Bank through several health care centers and hospitals, was arrested on July 7, 2021 (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33). At 2AM, fifteen to twenty Israeli soldiers stormed Shatha Odeh’s home, seeking information linking her to an incident involving a car accident involving a HWC (Health Work Committee) vehicle (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33). No warrant was issued to permit entry of her home. Under the guise of being sympathetic to her circumstances and asking questions about a car accident, Israeli forces transported her to the Israeli Military Camp in Ramallah, where she was held without charge for nineteen days (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33). Shatha Odeh was interrogated for nine hours straight. Her family was not given updates (Front, 2022). Charges were finally filed July 26, 2021; Shatha was accused of nothing in relation to the car accident that served as the premise for detaining her in the first place. Instead, she was accused of “holding a position in an illegal organization, being present at an illegal public event (a public memorial service to Palestinian politician Ribhi Mhanna on May 15, 2019), [being] responsible for transferring illegitimate funds into West Bank, [and] using fraudulent methods to obtain funds and forging documents” (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33).
After ten months of detention, and several military court hearings (conducted in Hebrew with no adequate Arabic translation provided for Shatha Odeh), Shatha Odeh was sentenced on May 12, 2022, by the Ofer Military Court (Hanbali, 2022, p. 34). She would be incarcerated for sixteen months, although this could be avoided if she agreed to provide no health services for five years and pay a fine of roughly $9,000 (Hanbali, 2022, p. 34).
Many of these charges framed HWC, the most important civil society health organization in the West Bank providing health services to around 400.000 Palestinians per year, as an illegal organization operating under false pretenses. Founded in 1985, the HWC operated two Palestinian hospitals in the occupied West Bank as well as dozens of clinics, including in remote rural areas (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33). HWC has been subjected to continual harassment before and after Shatha’s arrest, most recently shuttered as part of an Israeli raid on seven Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations in August, 2022 (Al Jazeera, 2022) and (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33). During the dawn military raids on the organizations in Ramallah, Israeli military forces shuttered these organizations’ offices after ransacking them and seizing equipment (Hanbali, 2022, p. 33).
Mary Lawlor, Special United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights wrote “I am shocked that members of the Health Work Committee, who provide health services to Palestinians living in remote areas of the West Bank, were arrested, interrogated and may be criminalized because of their human rights work” (Arrests, 2021). It was alleged Shatha Odeh and her coworker Sánchez were mistreated during imprisonment, especially with Shatha Odeh’s chronic health conditions (Arrests, 2021). Mary Lawlor pleads to Israel for their immediate release, worrying for Shatha Odeh in response to the many allegations of mistreatment to the women’s rights defenders (i.e. no access to clean clothes and inadequate medication) (Arrests, 2021).
- How did the arrest of Ms. Odeh impact the right to health of the Palestinian people?
Currently, the network of facilities operated by the Health Work Committees provide critical health infrastructure. The arrest of Ms. Shatha Odeh is just one of the many ways Israel is harassing, intimidating and attacking the Health Work Committees. Project coordinator Juani Rishmawi was arrested in April 2021, head accountant Tayseer Abu Sharbak was also arrested in 2021. The arrests of director Shatha Odeh and two other HWC staff members are part of a bigger attack against the health organization. In 2020 Israel declared HWC an illegal organization, the headquarters were raided by Israeli Occupying Forces several times, etc. This all had a dramatic impact on the health organization and its health services, as the HWC is one of the major sources of health services for Palestininans and women’s health (Arrests, 2021). From 2013 HWC had a 60% drop in the amount of grants and donations, having to cancel or put on hold several health programs (the mobile clinics, health programs in Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem, …). Several donors backed out during the last couple of years, frightened by the continuous Israeli harassment and the stigmatization campaign. The true impact of several health programs being halted on the right to health of several Palestinian groups cannot be underestimated.
- The campaign for the liberation of Ms. Shatha Odeh
The Shatha PHM online gallery-case had 1 campaign goal:
- The liberation of Ms. Shatha Odeh
To achieve this objective, PHM implemented a variety of campaign-activities. A few days after the initial arrest, Shatha Odeh’s family appealed to the United Nations and the People’s Health Movement (PHM) appealed to the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) pleading for the release, intervention and immediate release of Shatha Odeh (Singh, 2021).
The PHM task force for the release of Ms. Shatha Odeh launched a campaign, including:
- Statement – PHM Statement on the Arrest of Shatha Odeh by the Israeli Occupying Forces (July 9, 2021, 2 days after her arrest) -> https://phmovement.org/phm-statement-on-the-arrest-of-shatha-odeh-by-the-israeli-occupying-forces/
- Webinar – Pearls and Perils of Health Work in Areas of Conflict (August 7, 2021 – 1 month after her arrest). To watch the webinar -> https://phmovement.org/webinar-to-mark-one-month-of-shatha-odehs-arrest-pearls-and-perils-of-health-work-in-areas-of-conflict/
- Petition – Sign-on Letter urging WHO to intervene for Palestinian Activist’s Release. The petition was signed by + 150 organizations and + individuals, and was handed over at Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ office in Geneva -> https://phmovement.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/PHM-Letter-to-WHO-DG_ShathaFBSN.pdf
- The Lancet on Shatha – The Lancet article on illegal arrest of Shatha Odeh and her ordeal during her imprisonment ->https://phmovement.org/the-lancet-article-on-illegal-arrest-of-shatha-odeh-and-her-ordeal-during-her-imprisonment/
- A letter from prison – A letter to all friends and internationals in solidarity, Damoun Prison, 23 September 2021. Shatha wrote PHM and others a letter -> https://phmovement.org/a-letter-to-all-friends-and-internationals-in-solidarity-damoun-prison-23-september-2021/
- Parliamentary question in European Parliament to the Vice-President of the Commission (October 29, 2021) – Arrest of Ms Shatha Odeh and harassment of the Health Work Committees by Israel -> https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2021-004944_EN.html
- Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Borrell on behalf of the European Commission on the parliamentary question – https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2021-004944-ASW_EN.html
- Video – on International Human Rights Day (December 10, 2021), a video in solidarity with Shatha was launched. More than 300 individuals send us their photo -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T4oZYMSMLA&feature=youtu.be
- Webinar – Odeh’s feminist work and the role of health workers in conflict settings in promoting women’s right to health on the occasion of International Working Women’s Day 2022, with support and particpation of Public Services International (PSI), PGFTU, Amnesty International, … -> https://peoplesdispatch.org/2022/03/17/imprisoned-palestinian-health-activist-shatha-odeh-is-a-beacon-of-resistance-globally/
- Video interview – in July 2022, one month after her arrest, PHM interviewed Shatha -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0TbLsFu7xI
The aftermath of Arab-Israeli war of 1948 would eventually lead to borders set by the armistice line more or less matching the maps proposed by Zionist leaders to UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) (Hanbali, 2022, p. 7).
The UNSCOP’s purpose was to find ways for Jews and Arabs to coexist in Palestine (Hanbali, 2022, p. 7). However, Zionist leaders had excessive ideas and the plan was downgraded to a recommendation of division in which 56% of Palestinian land would be given to Jewish state (Hanbali, 2022, p. 7). While Arabs opposed to the partition the land without proof of right to land, the Zionist leaders were privately working around it for a larger part (Hanbali, 2022, p. 7).
When Arab Palestine’s began to stage protests, extreme Zionists began to attack their neighborhoods. The militia attacks were so severe it led to over 75,000 evacuating their homes (Hanbali, 2022, p. 7).
The extreme Zionists continued their attacks, committing over 33 massacres. In Deir Yassin where over 100 Palestinians were murdered (Hanbali, 2022, p. 8). The attacks continued, leading to the Nakba, also known as the “The Catastrophe” in reference to the ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 Palestinians across 530 communities and villages (Hanbali, 2022, p. 8). By the end of May of 1948, over 300,000 Palestinians had been “ethnically cleansed” leaving 800,000 remaining Palestinians refugees, kicked out of their homes (Hanbali, 2022, p. 8). The Palestinian refugees found shelters in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria or neighboring countries bordering Israel.
The conflict between Palestinian and Israel armed groups continued, leading to inter-ethnic violence, although the Palestinians still living in Israel have a much higher rate of mortality by twenty-five percent (Amnesty, n.d.). The Israeli militia group had struck Palestinian citizens with bombs (aiming and cutting off water supply), air and missile strikes (sucessfully hitting family households, press and news buildings and medical facilities such as the main hospital in Gaza) (Amnesty, n.d.).
Palestinians citizens have faced continued harassment, discrimination and violence under the rule of Israeli militia groups; aiming to cut off the Palestinian’s right to access necessary essential services (Amnesty, n.d.).
- #FreeShathaOdeh: Demand of Health Workers and Activists from Across the World. (2021, December 10). [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T4oZYMSMLA
- Al Jazeera. (2022, August 19). ‘Not going anywhere’: The Palestinian NGOs shut down by Israel. Al Jazeera. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/19/what-are-the-palestinian-ngos-that-israel-shut-down
- Amnesty International. (nd). ISRAEL AND OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES 2021. Amnesty International. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/
- Annual Report 2018. (2018). In Health Work Committees. Health Work Committees. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from http://www.hwc-pal.org/files/server/Publications/annual%20report%202018_compressed.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1SxuiZQHecGGo3WkTx9nKpCvNzYrmsLNGMKy9BRSe8XiVvBvj_mYCBL7k#page=73
- Arrests of Palestinian rights defenders part of ‘wider crackdown.’ (2021, August 13). UN News. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://news.un.org/story/2021/08/1097602
- Front Line Defenders. (2022). Woman human rights defender Shatha Odeh released after 11 months of imprisonment on condition of not continuing her human rights work. Front Line Defenders. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/woman-human-rights-defender-shatha-odeh-released-after-11-months-imprisonment-condition-not
- Hanbali, Layth. (2022, May). Palestine: Anti-colonialism, health and human rights. In People’s Health Movement. People’s Health Movement. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://phmovement.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/PHM-Palestine-Report-final-2022_05_16.pdf
- Health Movement. People’s Health Movement. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://phmovement.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Urgent-Appeal-for-the-release-of-Shatha-Odeh-2.pdf
- Health Work Committees. (n.d.). Health Work Committees Brief History. Health Work Committees. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from http://www.hwc-pal.org/page.php?id=tzDnF4EVJFa88443ApPtH0OYj4q
- International Association of Health Policy. (2021, July). Israel’s arrest of Shtha Odeh is an attack on the right to health of Palestinians. Statement by the People’s Health Movement. International Association of Health Policy (IAHP). Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://iahponline.wordpress.com/2021/07/08/israels-arrest-of-shtha-odeh-is-an-attack-on-the-right-to-health-of-palestinians/
- Odeh and Abu Fannouneh Families. (2021, July 9). Urgent Appeal for the Release of Ms. Shatha Odeh Abu Fannouneh, Palestinian I.D. 937893063, Director of the Health Work Committees (HWC). In People’s Health Movement. People’s Health Movement. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://phmovement.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Urgent-Appeal-for-the-release-of-Shatha-Odeh-2.pdf
- Singh, Jyotsna. (2021, September 1). Relevant links, articles and statements. People’s Health Movement. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://phmovement.org/relevant-links-articles-and-statements/