“The residents of Gaza, who saw fit to turn the hospitals into terrorist nests in an attempt to take advantage of Western morality, are the ones who brought their destruction upon themselves – terrorism must be eliminated everywhere and in any way. Attacking terrorist headquarters located inside a hospital is the right, and even the duty of the IDF.”
Upon initial examination, one might think these are sentences written by extremists or fanatics, giving an army permission and encouragement to bomb hospitals. What is shocking is not only the statement itself, but that it is signed publicly by dozens of Israeli doctors and shared widely on various social media platforms.
Instead of immediate outrage and condemnation, the statement resulted in what some called a “legitimate” public debate within the Israeli medical community, to bomb or not to bomb Palestinian hospitals.
We, six Palestinian physicians working within the Israeli healthcare system, are sickened to our core by the statements made by some of our colleagues, Israeli doctors we work with, calling on the Israeli army to bomb hospitals in the Gaza Strip.
Regrettably, we cannot say we were surprised. As doctors trained and practising in this system, we are all too aware of its embedded racism, militarism and hypocrisy covered up by a false image of a medical sector where Arabs and Jews work together in harmony and respect.
The recent letter by our Israeli colleagues issued at a time of an unfolding massacres is a telling example of what the Israeli health system is really like. It is a system where some doctors, shamelessly and publicly, adopt the role of consultants to the army.
They use their position and profession, not to save lives, not to preach about the devastating effects of war on civilians on both sides and the necessity of finding a peaceful political solution, but actually to validate attacks on medical facilities, knowing full well that this means the killing of fellow doctors and patients.
At the same time, this health system has adopted a distinctly McCarthyist witch hunt approach towards us, Palestinian physicians. As a result, we cannot engage in any intellectual or moral conversation about the war. We are expected to condemn Hamas and join the patriotic Israeli military frenzy, while watching silently our Jewish colleagues cheering for the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians and endorsing the tightening of the blockade.
We drive to work every day, listening to the devastating news about the death toll and destruction in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. When we arrive, we put on that mask of “everything is fine” and endure the daily loyalty test and scrutinising eyes of our colleagues. During coffee breaks, we are forced to listen with a straight face to our Israeli colleagues casually dropping phrases like “flattening Gaza” and discussing the merits of displacing its people.
We are also seeing our Palestinian colleagues being interrogated, fired and shamed without a valid reason. We are very aware of how the hospitals and clinics we work in have become disciplining arenas. In a “normal” place, we would be in the streets, demanding an end to the war and massacres and advocating for a peaceful solution. We would use our profession and position to denounce the inhumane attacks on healthcare workers, facilities and civilian infrastructure.
We are deeply aware that the situation is much more complex than choosing sides and we know that every life lost is a tragedy, whether it is Israeli or Palestinian. But precisely because of this, we also know that history did not begin on October 7 and that our people have been displaced, killed, injured and humiliated for decades, with the full endorsement and involvement of our fellow Israeli doctors.
We come to work every day, knowing that our people are killed, tortured and maimed by illegal Israeli settlers and the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank land. However, we also know that we cannot ask our fellow Israeli doctors “Do you condemn?”
We have been forced to live in a coercive environment where Palestinian death is normalised and often celebrated, but Israeli Jewish death is seen as a tragedy that cannot be accepted and necessitates revenge.
This is the reality, where Israeli national security is of high value but Palestinian national security is a dark joke. It is Jewish supremacy in life and death that is so normalised, particularly at such tragic times when it explodes to uncover the true face of our Israeli colleagues and sadly also of the Western world and its medical institutions.
The normalisation of Palestinian dehumanisation reflects the complicity of the entire world in the massacres which are taking place in the Gaza Strip.
The medical profession has a long and rich history of opposing war and its devastating effects on health. It has stood up against racism, colonialism and imperial expansion, which have driven deadly wars.
We can vividly remember the massive organising of doctors against the US wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We saw how doctors in the US, in the aftermath of 9/11, organised to oppose and lobby against the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, knowing it would lead to more deaths and not security.
But we are also aware that the majority of our fellow Israeli Jewish colleagues are on the opposite side of this urge to protect civilians, as the entire Israeli health system has been mobilised to join the war effort and support it.
The Israeli health system not only does not oppose Israel’s war, occupation and apartheid but also prevents Palestinian doctors living in Israel from speaking up and organising against them.
In this tragic and regrettable environment we live and work in, we need to hide our names and write anonymously to state the obvious, following our professional duty and oath. We have reached such a level of demoralisation and dehumanisation that we are forced to watch massacres, with Palestinian children burned by Israeli phosphorus bombs and entire populations starved of food and water, without batting an eye, as if everything is just “normal”.
Not only are we barred from volunteering to provide medical aid to the innocent Palestinian civilians, but we are also not allowed to speak up against those state crimes without risking our jobs and safety.
We want this letter to serve as an apology to our Palestinian people and colleagues in the Gaza Strip, exposing our profound powerlessness and complete impotence.
We and the world have failed you.
We can only hope that in future calmer days, we can bear witness and speak and write about the conditions that have allowed for massacres to unfold and to take part in healing those who survived.
Editor’s note: Suad, Layla and Samir are pseudonyms. This op-ed has been written by them along with three other Palestinian doctors working in Israel. They are writing anonymously for fear of physical and professional retribution.