We are health care workers (HCWs) and faculties from around the world who stand by the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and liberation. We watched with horror the renewed but ever-present Israeli state violence against Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel. As HCWs and educators, our primary loyalty is to the welfare and preservation of all human life. We are devastated by Reports entire families in Gaza sleeping together to avoid the possibility of being killed separately when Israeli artillery terror rained down on Palestinian homes; of families who lost entire households (including children) when US-made bombs destroyed their homes; and from HCWs and their workplaces that are the target of destruction. These violations of international law (under the Fourth Geneva Convention) are made possible by military and financial aid from the US government.
In the face of the illegal, immoral, and targeted attacks on HCWs and infrastructure, we urge US health systems and academic institutions, as well as our health care colleagues, to stop Israel’s longstanding oppression of the Palestinian people and the continued decimation of their health system. This violence does not end in a “ceasefire” while Gaza’s devastating economic blockade continues. We affirm that health is a universal human right, including for the Palestinian people, and that the time of silence is long gone. Silence is now complicity.
At the time of this writing, we are aware of at least 257 Palestinian deaths from the Israeli military as of May 10, 2021 – 70 of them children, compared with a total of 12 Israeli deaths. While each of these deaths is a tragedy, the blatant disproportionality should be unacceptable to all. It is impossible to explain all of the morbidity and mortality caused by the structural violence of the Israeli occupation. For Palestinians living under the yoke of colonial rule by Israeli settlers, violence, human rights violations and poor the health consequences they suffer have been rife for over seven decades, since 1948, the year of the Nakbawhen the Palestinian people were first expropriated.
Despite its responsibilities as an occupier under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel continues to deny the Palestinians the necessary supplies and resources, obstruct access and actively bomb health infrastructure and roads. Nowhere is this waiver of responsibility more visible than in the medical and vaccine apartheid experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Israel is welcomed Vaccinated by medical institutions and prominent health experts as a model of success for the mass vaccination of the Israeli population (over 60 percent of Israel is vaccinated), just 5 percent of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories are vaccinated, but rely on scarce COVAX donations. This injustice is blatantly omitted by those who extol Israel’s “success” in introducing vaccines. We refuse to ignore the obvious truth.
Those of us who work in health care know well that health care does not exist in a vacuum. We increasingly understand how structural forces, systematic and institutionalized oppression, racism, violence, divestment and displacement, and policies that deny people their basic human rights lead to negative health outcomes and mortality. We cannot continue to stand idly by as an entire people is forcibly exterminated, which, as documented by international human rights organizations, is an apartheid state inflicting immeasurable physical and psychological damage on the Palestinian people.
Therefore, we urge the U.S. healthcare systems, academic institutions, and our healthcare colleagues to adopt the following requirements:
In our schools and training centers:
That faculty, staff, trainees and students in our institutions are free to speak up about crimes against Palestine and the Palestinian people without fear of retaliation, harassment or silence from anyone within their respective institutions and circles of influence (including donors). That we hold any person or institution accountable that tries to punish faculties, staff, trainees or students for standing up for Palestine and its people.
That we stand in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues in the US and abroad and commit ourselves to reinforcing their stories, voices and their pursuit of liberation. We understand that no one is free until we are all free.
That we ask our schools and educational institutions to provide support in the form of mental health resources, safe spaces for discussion and grief, and as needed for Palestinian teachers, staff, trainees and students affected by the continued occupation and to be resulting trauma.
In our hospitals, clinics, offices and other healthcare facilities:
That we adhere to the standards of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and examine how our institutions and bodies (listed by the United Nations) can uphold the demands of this non-violent appeal by Palestinian civil society. This includes, among other things, the termination of all partnerships with Israeli institutions that coordinate with and benefit from the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state. That we urge our institutions within the global medical and scientific community to put pressure on their governments to stop aid to Israel and unequivocally condemn Israel’s crimes against Palestine and the Palestinian people.
That we urge the medical and scientific communities in the United States to put pressure on their institutions and organizations to make formal statements and actions specifically addressing the suffering, social conditions and reduced life expectancy of the Palestinians due to decades of destructive forces. In particular, we urge the following reputable organizations to acknowledge and commit to the actions of this letter: AAMC, AMA, ACS, AAFP, AAP, ACP, APA, ACEP and others.
In our individual capacity as HCWs who are committed to the liberation and livelihood of all peoples:
That we confirm that the evidence is indisputable that Israel committed crimes against the Palestinian people. mainstream Platforms and public health leaders continue to ask us to ignore the evidence and commend Israel as an exceptional public health benefit. We refute worshiping Israel as a model for COVID-19 vaccine distribution while actively practicing vaccine apartheid and medical apartheid more broadly.
That we continue to urge the medical and scientific communities in the United States to use their positions of power and privilege at the local, state and federal levels to pressure elected officials and senators to cease financial and diplomatic assistance to the Israeli government and Israel Condemn disproportionate atrocities and deprivation of the Palestinians’ human and legal rights to life, liberty and justice.
That we urge our elected officials to support an independent investigation into the war crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. That we specifically request an investigation to assess the health impact of these attacks, including (i) documentation of the extent of damage to health systems, including people and infrastructure; (ii) the obstruction to medical and public health care as a result of these attacks, including but not limited to the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic; and (iii) the physical and psychological effects of this recent aggression.
That we call on the US and Israel to take responsibility for the repair and restoration of the health infrastructure decimated by the recent bombings and to commit to an end to military and structural violence against the Palestinian people.
Finally, we recognize that keeping silent on these issues is up to our own privileged and relative security. We must live up to the fundamental responsibility entrusted to us by our oath and our core bioethical principles by demanding individual and collective accountability and an end to all forms of oppression from the Israeli state, as well as from our own countries and institutions, for the entire Palestinian people.
* One of the co-authors of this statement, a Palestinian health care worker and faculty member in the United States, has chosen to remain anonymous.
This is an opinion and analysis article.