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Ruchama Marton

Ruchama Marton

Published: March 30, 2010
Ruchama Marton

Ruchama Marton

Israeli psychiatrist and founder and president of the Israeli activists' organization Physicians for Human Rights - Israel. Marton continues to advocate for Palestinian rights and is also the recipient of the Emil Grunzweig Award for Human Rights and the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.

Dr. Ruchama Marton was born in 1937 in Jerusalem, and was raised there. Marton became an activist at an early age while serving compulsory military duty in the Israeli army.

She became a women’s rights activist at that time, and at age 19 was discharged from military service after she refused to obey an order she believed to be sexist. While attending Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Medical School, where female students comprised only 10% of the student body, she continued advocating for peace and women’s rights.

The shameful health situation she observed in Gaza moved her to found the non-profit organization Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) in 1988, which works to increase awareness of the health and human rights denied to Palestinians.  They also provide medical care to Palestinians. They frequently sponsor mobile clinics in the occupied Palestinian territories, and have established a free clinic for migrant workers.

The restriction on the movement of medical equipment and patients in the occupied territories depresses the medical standards for Palestinians, and PHR-Israel works to rectify this. PHR-Israel also records the violations of the Geneva Conventions by the Israeli military.

 "While the State of Israel has assigned the responsibility for medical care, education and other important aspects of life to the Palestinians, Israel simultaneously denies them the authority to attend to these matters," Marton says. "This approach, so disrespectful and morally lacking, is unlikely to succeed."

In the late 1990s, Marton focused her criticism on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners. She brought to light the torture and the inhumane conditions of the prisoners, and the lack of care or treatment for psychiatric problems. In her essay, "The Struggle Against Torture in Israel: The White Coat Passes Like a Shadow," she described the role physicians played in allowing the torture to take place in prisons.

After several years of Marton’s activism, the Israeli Supreme Court declared torture illegal in 1999. Later that year, the Supreme Court awarded her, and PHR-Israel, Israel's highest human rights honor, the Emil Grunzweig Award for Human Rights.

In 2002, she received the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights along with Mr. Salah Haj Yehya, who also works in PHR-Israel.

When asked what compelled her to found PHR-Israel and become an activist for Palestinian rights, she says, “I hate when people lie to me, the TV, the government. The truth of the oppression was so overwhelming that I had to do something. I thought that if the truth were known people would wake up and they would do something."

For more information about Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights-Israel see