Healthcare workers stand in solidarity with Gaza and the people of Palestine – Mondoweiss
Editor’s Note: The following open letter was issued by the Campaign Against Racism, Georgia Human Rights Clinic, Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, and Jewish Voice for Peace- Atlanta chapter on November 16, 2023. To add your name, sign here.
As we witness the horrific scenes of the destruction of life particularly in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine including the West Bank, we in the medical community condemn without reservation the targeted onslaught of the Palestinian medical infrastructure including but not limited to: direct bombings by Israeli forces of hospitals and primary care centers, the blockade limiting imports of crucial medical equipment and medicines, water and food, and also the murder of at least 56 physicians, dentists and medical students, 64 nurses and midwives and an unknown number of healthcare staff by the Israeli military1.
We are horrified by reports of Palestinian physicians resorting to completing procedures and surgeries (including Cesarean sections2) in the absence of appropriate anesthesia or lighting; the absence of proper access to dialysis, fetal monitoring, surgical and intensive care given the lack of reliable electricity; the intentional deprivation of resources by the Israeli military resulting in patients not receiving appropriate care including but not limited to cancer treatment and also burn and wound care; the bombardments of hospitals and their vicinity, damaged or non-functioning health facilities, massive levels of displacement, collapsing water and electricity supplies as well as restricted access to food, shelter and medicines3, leading to increasing rates of communicable disease, severely disrupting maternal, newborn, and child health services4 and leading to dehydration and hunger in the general population.
As healthcare workers, we are gravely concerned by the announcements from our colleagues in Gaza that the healthcare system there has effectively collapsed. This is within the context that Gaza, prior to the current increased level of violence, was one of the most heavily besieged, overcrowded, and resource deprived civilian populations in the world per square mile. Further, these same health infrastructures and healthcare workers now face unprecedented and systemic deprivation of basic human necessities including clean drinking water and shelter from the ongoing bombardment. We stand in solidarity with the first responders, medics, nurses, doctors and health staff to echo their cry for help and an end to the destruction5. The intentional targeting of these facilities as well as emergency services and ambulances must stop immediately6. With the deaths of over 11,000 Palestinians and over a million internally displaced people at the time of this writing, we are witnessing a man-made public health disaster. These are war crimes and the systemic and stated goals of intention to remove the Palestinian population and to create another ‘Nakba’, as stated by various Israeli military and government officials, is suggestive of genocide7.
We stand with the international health organizations on the ground including the WHO, MSF8, and UN Health organizations9 in demanding the following:
• Immediate call for a ceasefire
• Establish and sustain protected humanitarian access for the immediate entry of adequate quantities of humanitarian supplies and personnel into the Gaza Strip and unimpeded access for patient evacuation and outside referral.
• Prioritization of the shipment of fuel to operate desalination plants, hospital generators, ambulances.
• Ensure safe passage for medical supplies and civilians within the Gaza Strip. Ensure medical supplies can safely reach major hospitals in Gaza City and throughout Gaza
• Ensure the respect and the protection of health care as well as civilians and civilian infrastructure against attacks.
• Ensure the injured have immediate and unhindered access to health care.
• Ensure continuity of essential health services.
• Rapidly reinforce infectious disease surveillance and control measures.
We recognize that we practice medicine today in the USA, a country that also incarcerates the largest proportion of its population of any state on earth, where 2 to 3 percent of the US population is under correctional supervision, disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous and poor individuals. As professionals dedicated to the advancement of public health, we are well aware of the devastating health outcomes that mass incarceration has on not only the individual, but also of the entire community10. The US and global prison-industrial complex has led to an ever-increasing investment in heavily militarized police forces and the export of the brutal Israeli occupation globally, including within its own borders as evidenced by police exchange and training programs such as Cop City and GILEE (Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange) that send police to learn the methods of policing used in Israel, (including practices in racial profiling, surveillance, deportation, attacks on human rights defenders as well as mass incarceration of Palestinians)11. Since the start of the most recent violence in Gaza, we are also witnessing Israeli forces massively increase arrests and administrative detentions in the West Bank. We call for an end to all US law enforcement exchanges with Israel and Cop City programs nationwide. We call for an end to mass incarceration in the US and in Palestine including the use of administrative detention by the Israeli occupation.
In the end, and especially as healthcare providers, we must speak up now as a community and refuse to remain quiet during times of genocide. Meanwhile, we encounter academic institutions who are not only complicit, but silence the voices of those in the medical and academic community who are critical of Israel. We find it reprehensible that approximately 90 Israeli physicians disregarded the Hippocratic Oath and signed a letter advocating for the Israeli government to intensify their bombing of Palestinian hospitals and ambulances12, advice that the Israeli government continues to heed as multiple hospitals face bombardment by the Israeli military at this very moment. There will never be an acceptable scenario for doctors to support the bombardment of hospitals actively serving as the only refuge for the sick and injured. As professionals dedicated to the service of humanity, we are particularly disturbed by JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) which recently published an article suggesting that whether ‘it [is] morally justified to strike a medical facility based on intelligence that enemy fighters might be hiding inside along with injured children’ is a debatable question amongst ‘health professionals of goodwill and equally strong commitments to human rights who may have differing opinions’13. These institutions which attempt to justify war crimes or genocide do not speak for us as medical professionals or as people of conscience who value each and every life.
We refuse to etch our legacy in the halls of history as supporters of genocide.
We call on all institutions and media outlets to stop silencing and intimidating Palestinian voices and to take a clear stand against the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed against the Palestinian people.
We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian medical community, the people of Gaza and all throughout occupied Palestine, those in the refugee camps and in the diaspora who are standing up and speaking out to stop the massacres committed against the Palestinian people5. The United States’ administration’s goal for humanitarian ‘pauses’ within the context of an ongoing genocide is disturbing and effectively a collaboration with the genocide. We echo the calls of our colleagues in Gaza and the rest of Palestine for a ceasefire to help the besieged Palestinian population suffering in Gaza. However, we also recognize that a ceasefire by itself is not a solution.
As healthcare workers, when we approach the management of diseases we must look at the root causes and attempt to treat those. Ultimately, history has taught us that colonization creates violence that is destructive for both the societies of the colonized and the colonizers. Medically speaking, the symptom we are witnessing today is this brutal violence. The diagnosis or etiology of this violence is colonization. The treatment must be de-colonization and a Free Palestine.
Campaign Against Racism
Georgia Human Rights Clinic
Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective
Jewish Voice for Peace- Atlanta chapter
November 16, 2023
To sign the letter and see a full list of signatories, see here.
- WHO, OPT emergency situation report 3 Nov. 2023
- “Gaza: Collapsing medical conditions exacerbate risks of maternal and newborn mortality” CARE International, 30 Oct. 2023.
- World Health Organization. (n.d.-a). Who: Civilians, patients, and health workers in Gaza spend night in darkness and fear. World Health Organization.
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Women and newborns bearing the brunt of the conflict in Gaza, UN agencies warn. World Health Organization.
- “’The health system is unable to cope,’ says British-Palestinian surgeon in Gaza” 4 Nov. 2023.
- Haar, R. et al. (2023) ‘Attacks on health are war crimes and a public health catastrophe’, The Lancet. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(23)02456-x.
- Segal, R. (2023) A textbook case of genocide, Jewish Currents.
- Borders, Doctors Without. “URGENT: Patients and medical staff trapped in hospitals under fire in Gaza” 11 Nov. 2023.
- Remarks By UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini to The United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee. 04 November, 2023.
- Militarization fails to enhance police safety or reduce crime but may harm police reputation. (n.d.). Human Rights Documents Online.
- “Deadly Exchange Research Report” Deadly Exchange.
- Assaf- Physicians for Human Rights, Israel “The Letter that Outraged Us: The Physicians Letter Calling for the Destruction of Shifa Hospital in Gaza”, 6 Nov. 2023. Accessed 16 Nov. 2023.
At Mondoweiss, we understand the power of telling Palestinian stories. For 17 years, we have pushed back when the mainstream media published lies or echoed politicians’ hateful rhetoric. Now, Palestinian voices are more important than ever.
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