Philippa Whitford MP: BDS “necessary” but must be “targeted”

Nathanael Williams

Sanctions on Israel must be backed by training for Palestinians, says SNP MP

DR PHILIPPA WHITFORD MP has described the wider boycott of Israeli goods known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as “necessary” given the context of the continued illegal actions of the Israeli state.

During a 2016 SNP conference fringe meeting on medical support to Palestine chaired by John Nicholson, MP for East Dumbartonshire, the SNP’s health spokesperson also said that a boycott should also be paired with “tangible solidarity” of skills training and medical support.

In addition to sanctions, the MP stated that Scotland could have a key role to play in ensuring that development in the Palestinian territories can outlast the destruction of Israeli incursions.

“But we also need to think about how we can help beyond the single gesture – that is training.” Dr Philippa Whitford

Whitford who spent several years doing medical work in the occupied territories said: “The real problem is the goods which are labelled “Israeli” but come from the West Bank or Gaza, now it's illegal to purchase those goods under those conditions in any case, however, that selective labelling allows for it.

“When you consider the illegal attacks, harassments and settlements it seems the only response is a targeted boycott. But this has to be targeted and we need to make absolutely clear that it is in response to illegal actions.”

The programme of BDS has been advocated by Palestinian civil society as a way for the international community to help end the occupation of Palestinian land and oppose the bombardment of the people inside the Gaza strip.

The Scottish Government previously called for an arms embargo on Israel in response to the 2013 bombing of Gaza, which resulted in 1,903 Palestinians being killed, including 450 children.

Currently the Scottish Government already “strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements”.

The 2013 bombing of Gaza resulted in 1,903 Palestinians being killed, including 450 children

Whitford, who was previously a surgeon, spoke of her experiences while working in Palestine. Often coming across equipment that did not work or medication for chemotherapy which was out of date made her realised the need for “tangible solidarity”, she said.

She added: “There is no point just sending stuff to these places. I remember visiting the Ministry of Health in Gaza, the head department for Palestinian care and the monogram machine, which they were immensely proud of – did not work.

“But we also need to think about how we can help beyond the single gesture – that is training. There are a lot of medical staff, young doctors and surgeons we could help in terms of upskilling their capabilities.

“Because often people will just go to offer their services and then leave and no development would have happened long term.”

Working with organisations such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Whitford has been keen to point out the breaches of international humanitarian law, which requires a populations access to adequate medical treatment, supplies and hospital establishments.

With breast cancer being the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer among Palestinian women and survival rates being as low as 40 per cent, Whitford emphasised the need for Scotland to step up the training of female doctors, surgeons and specialists.

Pictures: CommonSpace

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.