Israel sentences Palestinian nurse and health activist Shatha Odeh to 16 months in prison

On International Nurses Day, an Israeli military tribunal gave nurse and health activist Shatha Odeh a 16-month prison sentence. was given a 5 year suspended sentence on the condition that she does not provide health servicesfeat

May 13, 2022 by Peoples Health Dispatch
Photo via Al-Haq

Palestinian nurse and health activist Shatha Odeh was sentenced to 16 months of prison and a $9000 USD fine by an Israeli military tribunal on May 12, International Nurses Day. In addition to the prison sentence and fine, Shatha was given a 5 year suspended sentence on the condition that she does not provide health services.

“The sentence given to Shatha Odeh by a military tribunal further exposed the ugly face of the Israeli racist occupying forces. It also bears witness to the gross disregard of the right to health of Palestinians by the IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces]. Forbidding Shatha, a well-recognized expert in health development, from engaging in the provision of health services for 5 years after completing imprisonment, means we lose efforts that could have been directed to serve thousands of Palestinians. This sentence is a crime that should be recognized and denounced at all levels. Yet this crime will never stop the struggle of Palestinian women and men till they realize their rights to land, dignity and health,” said Dr Hani Serag, Co-Chair of the People’s Health Movement.

As the Director of Health Work Committees (HWC), Shatha Odeh played a crucial role in securing essential health care for thousands of Palestinians, something that the occupying forces fail to do on a daily basis. Her sentence, along with the forced closure of HWC, will gravely impact the delivery of health services to the people of Palestine.

Shatha Odeh was arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in July 2021, during a series of raids carried out by the IOF in activists’ homes across the occupied West Bank. A month before she was arrested, Israeli authorities decided to close the headquarters of HWC, disregarding the effects this would have on the health and lives of Palestinians.

According to a letter sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General by the People’s Health Movement (PHM) after her arrest, Shatha Odeh “has been essential in organizing healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health and mental health services, to over 400,000 beneficiaries throughout the West Bank.” 

Considering that a number of international reports, including WHO’s, highlight the fact that the Israeli occupation effectively blocks hundreds of Palestinians from accessing quality and timely health care, the role of the HWC in protecting human rights in Palestine cannot be overstated. 

The shutting down of the HWC and the arrest of Shatha Odeh have both been recognized as part of the systemic attacks that Israeli authorities carry out against Palestinian civil society. A letter written by Shatha’s daughter seven months after Shatha’s arrest reads: “My mother’s case is a microcosm of Israel’s systemic attacks on Palestinian civil society which has one goal: eliminate all voices critical of Israel’s decades-long oppression and persecution and to extinguish avenues of accountability for its grave violations and internationally recognized crimes.”

In spite of her imprisonment, Shatha Odeh remains an inspiration for health and feminist activists across the globe. On International Working Women’s Day on March 8, Shatha called for women in Palestine to stand up for their rights, and for the rest of the world to stand in solidarity.

As Shatha’s sentence was announced, the PHM reiterated their commitment to the Free Shatha Odeh campaign, which they have been building with other international networks, such as Viva Salud and Frontline Defenders, since Shatha was first arrested.

Read more articles from the latest edition of the People’s Health Dispatch and subscribe to the newsletter here.