Israeli attacks on Gaza’s healthcare sector are a form of genocide – Mondoweiss

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Rav Segal, a holocaust scholar at Stockton University, says that what is happening in Gaza is “a textbook case of genocide. Israel has been explicit about what it’s carrying out in Gaza. Why isn’t the world listening?”

Jewish Israelis like myself who oppose genocide watched in horror as Israel declared war against Palestinians. 

We watched Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett say in a BBC interview, “A home, a school, a hospital that hosts terrorists it is not a home,  is not a school and is not a hospital,” announcing to the world that civilian targets would not be spared. 

The next day, on October 9, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, “We are putting Gaza under a complete siege: no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything closed. We are fighting human animals, and are behaving accordingly.” 

Even Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) is ashamed of such talk, as the visibility of Gallant’s tweet has been limited on the page as “ This Post may violate X’s rules against Hateful Conduct.”

The UN Security Council has repeatedly condemned the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, citing its prohibition under international humanitarian and criminal law.

In response, our group of over one thousand Jewish Israelis sent letters to diplomats in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, pleading with them to pressure Israel to stop its brutal bombing of Palestinians in Gaza. “We fear that in the coming hours, Gaza’s hospitals will turn into graveyards,” we warned. “With fuel reserves for electricity generators all used up, there will be no more power for operating rooms, vital monitors, ventilators, ICU drips, newborn incubators, or even lights.” 

Tragically, reality has far exceeded our darkest fears.

On October 14, Israel demanded that all hospitals in the north be evacuated. The World Health Organization (WHO) responded that it was impossible to evacuate vulnerable patients from northern Gaza and that doing so would be a “death sentence.”

The same day, Le Monde reported that the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City had been damaged by Israeli bombing, and on October 15, the Israeli army told the hospital’s director to evacuate, firing two shells at the hospital that they called warnings,” according to the local Health Ministry. On October 17, Ahli Hospital was hit with a blast that killed 500 sheltering civilians. Following Israel’s lead, western governments, including the USA, Canada, France, and the UK, were quick to blame the attack on Palestinians without any independent investigation. A Channel 4 News report by a Consortium of independent NGOs, including the respected research group Forensic Architecture, concluded that the missile came from the northeast and not from the southwest, as the IDF and Western governments claimed.

UN experts expressed outrage against the deadly strike. They echoed the Le Monde report attributing responsibility to Israel. “The strike against Al Ahli Arab Hospital is an atrocity,” the experts said. “We are equally outraged by the deadly strike on the same day on an UNRWA school located in Al Maghazi refugee camp that sheltered some 4,000 displaced people, as well as two densely populated refugee camps.”

UN experts also raised serious humanitarian and legal concerns over Israel’s tightening of its 16-year siege on the enclave and its population and long-standing occupation, depriving 2.32 million, at least a million of whom are now internally displaced, of essential food, fuel, water, electricity, and medicine. An estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza are in desperate need of prenatal and postnatal care.

A few days later, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “disturbed” by reports that Israeli forces had ordered the evacuation of the Al-Quds hospital. “It is impossible for these overcrowded hospitals to safely evacuate patients,” he added. “They must be allowed to perform their life-saving functions. They must be protected.”

The Israeli Physicians for Human Rights submitted an urgent appeal to the Israeli High Court on October 20, explaining the catastrophic consequences of moving patients from Al-Quds Hospital. The High Court responded that, at the moment, the state had no intention of bombing hospitals, implying to the court that the state may commit this war crime later on.

Besides bombing, Israel has used other, quieter ways to destroy hospitals. Currently, 15 of the 35 Gaza hospitals have closed for lack of diesel fuel, including the Yemen al-Saeed Hospital in north Gaza, Beit Hanoun Hospital, Durrah Children’s Hospital, Karama Hospital, and the International Eye Hospital. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 32 smaller primary healthcare facilities have closed either for lack of fuel or from damage by airstrikes.

On October 25, the Gaza Health Ministry said that the health care system is “completely out of service.”  Only one hospital is functioning in central Gaza, and is inundated with patients from the north who fled their homes, requiring the rationing of dialysis machines, ventilators, and other resources. But Israel will not allow the entry of fuel, despite repeated pleas by the UN.

Meanwhile, as Shifa Hospital, where over 50,000 Palestinians have taken refuge, endures encroaching air strikes, many Western media outlets have joined with the Israeli occupation forces to push the baseless narrative that Hamas has military installations beneath the hospital, a pretext for targeting the medical facility, and additional war crimes. 

To intensify Palestinian suffering, occupation forces cut telecommunications throughout the Gaza Strip, rendering medical workers unable to communicate with medical facilities and severing Palestinians’ ability to call for emergency services. Gaza has gone dark amidst a genocide.

UN experts have warned that the unlawful denial of humanitarian access and deprivation of life-sustaining resources are also violations of international humanitarian law. In a further violation, reports emerged from northern and central Gaza overnight that white phosphorus was being deployed by the occupation army. This chemical warfare has been outlawed for use in civilian areas and is widely condemned. There is evidence, however, that the Israeli military has used it indiscriminately on the civilian population over the last 21 days of brutal bombardment.  

Making any exception to the international rules of war sets a dangerous precedent. UN experts are already saying that there are signs of genocide. The Geneva Convention, designed to provide a framework for minimum basic standards in how states engage in war, has been ratified by all 196 states. The standards of the Geneva Convention must be applied universally and unequivocally, without exception, to save lives and reduce suffering. Withholding or interrupting health care is a way of preventing Palestinians from living, even as they await death.

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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