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U.S. Hospitals Express “Concern” and “Horror” — Without Mentioning Palestinians

New York City hospitals sent out emails to the communities — without even mentioning Palestine. This comes as Israel’s bombing campaign has killed thousands and targeted healthcare workers and healthcare facilities.

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Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on fire after Israeli attacks on October 17, 2023.

The State of Israel is continuing its criminal siege in Gaza. The number of Palestinians killed has topped 3,000, one third of whom are children, and at least 10,000 have been injured. This is a total siege on Gaza where all food, fuel, and water is being blockaded, resulting in massive suffering and destruction. The crisis has been unfolding quickly. As we write these lines, it has been reported that an Israeli airstrike targeted al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City without warning where thousands have been seeking medical treatment and shelter. The attack reportedly killed at least 500. The situation is dire and is only worsening. 

On October 7, Hamas breached Israel’s militarized borders in a land, sea, and air attack that targeted Israeli Defense Force (IDF) military bases as well smaller Israeli villages close to the Gaza strip. The military operation resulted in the taking of more than a hundred hostages and the deaths of approximately 1,400 Israelis — some of whom are now believed to have been killed as a result of crossfire from responding IDF hitting civilians. These deaths included young people attending a music festival, families living in kibbutz, and Israeli military personnel. In response, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared war and vowed to inflict an “unprecedented price.” 

Like many U.S. institutions, New York City hospital systems recently sent out statements to staff, patients, and community members to note how “concerned” they were about the events in the Middle East, expressing their “horror” and “deep sadness” regarding attacks in Israel by Hamas. What these hospitals failed to even acknowledge though was the existence of Palestinians altogether — there was not a single reference to Gaza or Palestine. The utter disregard for the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli state is glaringly obvious in these statements. Montefiore Hospital’s CEO, Dr. Philip Ozuah, condemned violence on innocent civilians in Israel and made sure to make it known the institution is willing to assist those in Israel in any way possible. 

NYU Langone’s Chair of Board of Trustees and CEO and Dean Robert Grossman also noted “as an organization dedicated to safeguarding people’s health and well being” they were horrified by the attacks on Israel. They make no mention of Gaza or Palestine whatsoever. 

Weill Cornell/New York Presbyterian’s Provost of Medical Affairs, Dr. Robert Harrington, condemned terrorist violence, without mentioning Palestine or Gaza. 

Mount Sinai actually managed to say the word “Palestinian,” but did so by referring to the “Palestinian group Hamas” and then went on to “call on both sides to cease fighting and, especially, to refrain from targeting civilians.” Again, leaders make no mention of the ongoing massacre unfolding in Gaza. They act as if two siblings are just “fighting” evenly, despite the fact that Israel is a well-funded military power, backed by the largest military power in the world, indiscriminately bombing innocent Palestinians all over Gaza. 

In a second email sent by Sinai officials, they offer social support and mental health services to those affected “in the wake of the terror attack by Hamas against Israel” — apparently, there’s no need to offer support for those watching the ongoing massacre unfold on Palestinians. 

A few days later, the head of the City’s public health system, Dr. Mitchel Katz, joined the statements that totally skip mentioning the brutal siege and bombing of Gaza.

It’s astonishing that the leadership of major New York City hospitals won’t even acknowledge the existence of Palestinians as Israel continues to bombard the open-air prison that is Gaza for the 10th straight day. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, over 47 families have so far been completely removed from the civil registry with not a single family member surviving. The state of Israel has dropped over 6,000 bombs (around 1 every minute), including on trucks full of fleeing Gazans and on indicated evacuation routes. Last week, Israel ordered over a million residents of Northern Gaza to flee to the South, which constitutes a war crime of forcible transfer. Israel has also been charged with using white phosphorus, yet another war crime, which burns individuals to the bone and can lead to lifelong health effects. Not only is safe passage virtually impossible due to the aforementioned threats, such an order puts sick and disabled residents who are unable to flee at increased risk. The zionist state’s leaders are escalating a vile, genocidal campaign that has been underway for years with government officials referring to Palestinians as “human animals.” 

Heads of hospitals who are supposed to care about health and well being are deliberately ignoring the disastrous health effects Israel’s attack is having on the Palestinian people. Israel turned off all electricity and water to Gaza in their attack and stopped all aid from entering. Israel has attacked healthcare facilities and hospitals, pushing the healthcare system to the brink of disaster as hospital generators are running out of fuel. Per ​​Dr. Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, deputy medical coordinator in Gaza for Doctors Without Borders, hospitals in Shifa, for example, have only one surgeon, one anesthesiologist, and no nurses at all in the hospital. The White House reports that Israel has turned water back on to Gaza, but things are not that simple. Not only has water infrastructure been damaged in the ongoing airstrikes, but since electricity is still off, water can’t be pumped to those who need it since the desalination plants require electricity. Additionally, this water is only being provided to southern Gaza as part of a strategy to empty northern Gaza. This leads to people being forced to consume water unfit for human consumption, becoming at risk for various water-borne illnesses.

The refusal to even mention Palestine by healthcare leaderships is even more astonishing as healthcare workers themselves have been targets of this ongoing assault on Gaza. Plastic surgeon and burn specialist Midhat Saidam worked for 7 days straight and upon going home to see his family, he and his entire family were killed. Dr. Omar Ferwana, former dean of the medical school at the Islamic University of Gaza, along with his daughter, a physician, and his grandchildren all died after Dr. Ferwana’s house was the target of an airstrike. Per an emergency physician who worked with Dr. Ferwana, “I am the only one who knows them, because the whole family was wiped out. Sons, daughters, grandchildren…And then I have to go back to work as if nothing happened.” 

Meanwhile, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, ten EMS workers have been killed with many more injured and many ambulances destroyed in the bombings. Though Israel’s evacuation order suggested more than 2000 patients should “relocate” to southern Gaza (again, a war crime of forcible transfer), overwhelmingly though, healthcare workers have chosen to stay behind, refusing to abandon their patients and honoring their oath of doing no harm. The situation has become so desperate that there are reports of those same healthcare workers resorting to drinking hospital IV bags. Just yesterday an Israeli airstrike even hit al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City where thousands have been seeking medical treatment and shelter killing at least 500 according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. But really, Israel’s targeting of healthcare workers is not new — for example, the zionist state shoot and killed multiple medics in the 2018 Right of Return protest.

While Israel maintains that this is merely a war on Hamas, Israel has had a policy of extermination towards Palestinians for over 75 years. The Israeli army has been documented to poison water wells in Palestinian towns, add concrete in water during heat waves, and cut down olive trees, destroying centuries of Palestinian agricultural practices. They have even been shown to count calories in order to determine how much food could enter Palestinian territories so that just enough food could be consumed so that Palestinians wouldn’t be considered malnourished, and barely survive. Israel’s colonization of and crimes against Palestine have been supported and funded by the world’s largest imperialist power, the U.S — a power that in this recent escalation has deterred congressional representatives from even talking about the de-escalation of violence. Those who attempt to criticize the legitimate violent apartheid state that is Israel are labeled as anti-semitic and often blacklisted in their fields. But anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, and in fact the founders of Zionism were very explicit that theirs was a colonial project. 

In this context, in this over 75-year history of an ongoing genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people,  hospital heads are sending emails that cannot even acknowledge Palestine, or the Palestinian people’s existence. These emails come from the heads of the same hospitals who claimed to care about “justice” at the height of the Back Lives Matter movement. It’s clear that these institutions and their leaders just use progressive language as marketing tactics when it suits them. Now, these leaders cannot even bring themselves to acknowledge the existence of Palestinians, let alone speak to the ongoing massacre of civilians, nor would they dare speak about the ongoing oppression of Palestians for the past 75 years. 

These institutions and their CEOs care first and foremost about their bottom line. This means a focus on maintaining business, which comes with a need to keep their wealthy donors happy. If that means the effective erasure of Palestine in community emails, then, so be it. Hospital systems under capitalism will always put their bottom line above all else, including the health and wellbeing of the patients they are supposed to serve.

Stop the bombings and Israeli military intervention. 

End the shipment of arms to Israel. Stop U.S. aid to Israel. Break all political and military agreements with Israel.

We must demand and end all sanctions, blockades, and measures of collective punishment that plunge Palestine into deeper misery.

Institutions and unions that claim to support health and well being should join in this call.

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Mike Pappas

Mike is an activist and medical doctor working in New York City.

Allison Noel

Allison Noel is a nursing student in New York City.

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