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Open Letter to Palestinian Healthcare Workers from NYC Healthcare Workers

A healthcare worker in New York City shared an open letter to Palestinian Healthcare Workers at last Friday’s rally by Healthcare Workers for Palestine in City Hall Park. Here we reproduce that open letter.

Cindy Samantha

November 8, 2023
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Dear colleagues, comrades, and friends in Palestine,

Tonight a group of us are gathered here, thousands of miles away from Palestine. We are safe from bombs, from the rifles of soldiers and settlers, from white phosphorus, from torture. Our hospitals will not be bombed as we are using them as sanctuary, as they are being evacuated, as happened at Al Shifa hospital just earlier today. Most of us went to work in relative safety today, or last night, or both. Many of us saw our patients smile, laugh, vomit, defecate, or die. We left our shifts in the hands of our coworkers. We came here to gather among friends. Some of us took care of our own children, our own parents or grandparents, or our own maladies. And yet, all of this time, part of us has been with you.

In many of our workplaces, schools, and clinics, it has become a crime to even speak the name Palestine. It has become a fire-able offense to say we support basic freedom and right to life for Palestinians. We are told it is we who promote genocide, just by stating clearly and with conviction that you be permitted to save lives, to hold the sacred space between life and death, to kiss, hold, and comfort your loved ones without any more additional hardship than already is inherent in caring for others. It is hard to explain the culture of fear here, while you are performing CPR without any equipment, water, or fuel while bombs rain down. It is hard to explain why many of us cover our institutions’ names on our scrubs when we protest, while your hospital has been intentionally reduced to rubble. It is hard to explain why there are words many of us will not say, not because we do not believe them but because we have been told not to, when it is possible that your entire family has been killed while you are working to save lives, only to have those same patients intentionally massacred moments later. It is hard to explain that we are here and we represent the voices of so many more who fear retaliation, while the Israeli government explicitly and intentionally murders your colleagues and most vulnerable patients. We know that this silencing is an explicit part of the plan for genocide.

So we continue on, we refuse as healthcare workers and human beings to take part in genocide, and we are growing in number because of you. Because even in the depths of despair and feelings of hopelessness bearing witness to the endless attacks on Palestinian people, we see you. We see you performing surgeries in the streets, we see you using whatever you can find as tourniquets, we see you searching through rubble. We see you as who we all need to be, even as you have been forced to take on a role and battle that should never have been asked of you. What we see in you, is that which our bosses and government officials don’t know and could never understand — that being a healthcare worker is a daily training in resistance. Our society is made to promote death. Even in the richest colonial nation in the world, we have to fight for basic healthcare for many of our patients who experience our own version of apartheid care in the form of deadly neglect by the state, the violence committed by police — many of who trained with the IDF — that plays out in the streets, in prisons and jails where patients die frequent and preventable deaths, in hospital rooms and even hallways that serve poor, disabled, and chronically ill patients. The refugee camps and homeless shelters that become more full and more dangerous by the day, as our government continues to support war and impoverishment abroad.

In healthcare there is a sanitized term used to describe these unexpected deaths or tragedies, especially when that death is the result of the medical system itself; we know this as a “sentinel event.” Ironically, or tragically, sentinel means “to guard” or “a guardian.” I understand it to mean that it is our job to be guardians over our patients, even when our entire systems are against us. Despite itself it belies our responsibility to you, to your patients, to everyone living and every new ancestor in Gaza, the West Bank, 48, refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and so on. Because what’s happening in Palestine is the biggest of sentinel events, the biggest events that require our guardianship, our protection, our resistance! The bombing of babies is a sentinel event. The intentional destruction of hospitals is a sentinel event. The invasion of homes for the purposes of murder is a sentinel event. The wiping out of entire blood lines is a sentinel event. The genocide is a sentinel event. It is not acceptable!

And despite it all, we are with you. We see you. We feel you in our hearts, our hands, our words. Because you are the torch that will not go out. You are the flame that burns through nights darkened by ash and the cutting of power. You are the hands and voices and tears that bear witness, bind wounds, deliver new life, carry the torn up, broken, bleeding, and dead bodies of your people, even while the state of Israel and its fascistic international supporters, including the U.S. government, attempt to commit genocide against the Palestinian people.

As long as there is one nurse still alive We will not abandon you. As long as there is one midwife carrying a baby out of a womb, living or dead, we will not abandon you. As long as there is one heart still beating In Gaza we will stand with you, we will feed you with our hearts! We will scream for you with our voices! We will send our bodies to the front lines to relieve you! We will not let our fear or the repression of the system forget or neglect you. We will not stop fighting!

Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, Palestine will never die!

Additional words from healthcare workers in solidarity:

We are thinking of you constantly.

We admire your bravery and dedication.

We wish we could be there to help you.

We see you every minute, every second.

We will not look away. Your pain and perseverance do not go unheard.

Keep saving lives and being an inspiration to the world.

You are in our hearts every day – our heroes.

Your faith, strength, and courage continue to amaze us every single day.

Your dedication to humanity will forever be remembered.

History will absolve you; we will never let the world forget your bravery and courage.

You serve as a beacon of hope in such a dark time.

نحن نفكر بكم دائماً

نحن معجبون بشجاعتكم وتفانيكم

نتمنى أن نكون قربكم لمساعدتكم

نحن نراكم في كل دقيقة، و في كل ثانية

لن ننظر بعيدا عنكم. آلمكم ومثابرتكم لن تذهب هباءً 

استمروا في إنقاذ الأرواح وبقائكم مصدر إلهام للعالم

أنتم في قلوبنا كل يوم – أبطالنا

إن إيمانكم وقوتكم وشجاعتكم لا تزال تدهشنا كل يوم

سنذكر تفانيكم من أجل الإنسانية إلى الأبد

التاريخ سوف يرحمكم. لن ندع العالم ينسى شجاعتكم أبدًا

We stand with you and we will keep fighting from here, from inside the empire and from all colonized lands. 

We will not stop until we are liberated. 

We will never forget.

Sending love and grief and the spirit to continue on. 

Our mission is sacred.

The spirit of all peoples longing to be free fights alongside you.

You preserve life and give hope—may you too receive the blessings of your good deeds.

We look up to you as models in our profession, taking on a role and battle that was never asked of you.

Serving your craft in a manner very few can do, we stand by you in all of your struggles and fight alongside you.

You are in our hearts, our minds and prayers.

Your grief is not yours alone, but ours to share.

You are walking residents of heaven and InshAllah we will meet you there.

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