Sydney’s Healthcare Workers Rally for Murdered Palestinian Colleagues

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Palestine murder of journalist

For those who’ve travelled further than the western mainstream media version of the multiple war crimes transpiring in Gaza, they know that the Netanyahu government has forged a new low for humanity, in terms of making targeting hospitals a norm of modern warfare: a tactic to be expected.

Israeli Forces early on took out Rantisi Children’s Hospital, which had Gaza’s only child paediatric cancer ward. It gutted Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, on the pretext that it was Hamas headquarters, and last weekend saw people allegedly buried alive at Kamal Adwan Hospital.

Since the Israeli state-sponsored genocide upon the 2.3 million Palestinians of Gaza began, over 270 healthcare workers have been killed.

And this is all taking place whilst international humanitarian law prohibits attacking hospitals, the patients inside them and assaults upon healthcare workers are out of bounds too.

The death of Gaza healthcare workers, who’ve been assisting the thousands of wounded, whilst all power, medical supplies and water has been cut off, is what led 200 medical professionals to gather before Sydney Eye Hospital in solidarity last Friday.

Healthcare Workers for Palestine NSW organised doctors and nurses to join on Sydney’s Macquarie Street just next to NSW parliament, before marching down to Circular Quay to hold a vigil in remembrance of their slain colleagues who’ve become an unofficial target of the genocide.

Dr Amna Saadi MCed the event
Dr Amna Saadi MCed the event

The oath of care

“Along this walk we are commemorating the 278 healthcare workers who have been killed in Gaza. This is about five healthcare workers a day: doctors, nurses, paramedics, optometrists and dental students,” Dr Amna Saadi told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

“We will be commemorating the dead as we walk, saying every single name,” she continued. “When we get to the harbour, we will hear from Palestinian and Lebanese poets, authors and doctors, who will speak about the struggle. And we will call for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Gaza.”

Healthcare Workers for Palestine is a movement that has sprung up globally since the Netanyahu government commenced its perpetration of multiple crimes against humanity, including the wanton killing of medical professionals, with clear genocidal intent having been stated.

Similar vigils took place last weekend in urban centres across five continents. The doctor from North Sydney further outlined that Netanyahu has denied his nation’s war machine is targeting hospitals and said that whilst she can’t say they’re being purposefully hit, they’re definitely being destroyed.

“We stand for healthcare to be given to the civilians of Gaza and to do that you need your doctors and your nurses and your midwives and all of your healthcare staff,” Saadi made clear, and she added that her group welcomes the government changing its tune, but it’s really “too little too late”.

Healthcare Workers for Palestine call out the names of their murdered colleagues in Gaza as they march
Healthcare Workers for Palestine call out the names of their murdered colleagues in Gaza as they march

The horror continues

PM Anthony Albanese issued a joint 13 December statement, along with his counterparts in Canada and New Zealand, that calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. But a common theme across a number of rallies in Sydney’s CBD over the weekend was that the ceasefire plea was lacking and insincere.

The US rained down upon the nation’s independent position though by calling on federal Labor to send a warship to assist it in the Middle East, specifically in the Red Sea to prevent Yemen’s Houthis from firing upon commercial ships as they pass through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait bound for Israel.

Albanese has told the press that Biden hasn’t summoned the nation but rather has requested our presence, as he would maintain. And as of Monday, government is continuing to consider whether to embroil us on the side of Netanyahu as he perpetrates multiple war crimes, including genocide.

As NSW healthcare workers were raising on Friday, the apartheid Israeli state has been killing off medical professionals and bombing and raiding hospitals. The storming of the Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, in relation to tunnels built by the Israelis, was an unfolding difficult to comprehend.

Gaza has been reeling under a 16-year goods and persons blockade and an occupation going back to 1967. Since early October, it’s had all water, power, goods, medicine and fuel supplies cut, and despite a weeklong truce ending a fortnight ago, only a trickle of goods are now being trucked in.

NSW Greens MLC Dr Amanda Cohn congratulates her colleagues on speaking out
NSW Greens MLC Dr Amanda Cohn congratulates her colleagues on speaking out

Speaking out regardless

“I am here today to say thank you to all of you,” NSW Greens MLC Dr Amanda Cohn told the healthcare worker vigil. The Albury GP explained that despite being Jewish and having had relatives in the Holocaust, she has still been condemned for speaking out on Gaza in NSW parliament.

“I was elected to the parliament only in March of this year,” she continued. “In NSW parliament it is possible to call someone like me antisemitic for taking a stance on human rights and peace.” And she then thanked her fellow healthcare workers for speaking out in the face of pressure not to.

“I’d like to say thank you today to all of you because I know what it is like to be a healthcare worker and take a stance. I know what it is like to be told to stay in your lane and not take a side; to not be political.”

Cohn added that workers in the public system get told not to speak out, which she outlined is because when such employees do speak their minds, they’re powerful, due to the fact that the community listens to those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

The Greens MLC further said that the nation has seen “just the tiniest bit of movement in Australian politics”, which is “too little too late”, but the only reason any change has occurred is that people, like the healthcare workers, have been showing up “on the streets week after week after week”.

Palestinian author Reem Burrows calls out the systematic dehumanisation of her people that has long been and continues to be occurring
Palestinian author Reem Burrows calls out the systematic dehumanisation of her people that has long been and continues to be occurring

“The living hell”

“Together we are here for this solemn vigil to commemorate all the innocent people who have been killed since October 7 in Gaza, including the healthcare workers and journalists,” said Palestinian Australian author Reem Burrows

The Sydney-based writer and consultant also thanked those who have been speaking out in support of the people of Gaza and the call for a Free Palestine, including the key role the Greens and some independents have been playing, in the midst of this, the worst humanitarian crisis of recent times.

“A couple of days ago, the UN announcement in support of the ceasefire was only the first step, and it is a tiny step. The Australian government is finally changing its language slowly as well,” she continued. “But still, that is not good enough.”

Burrows was born in the city of Haifa, where she spent her early life, within the newly established nation of Israel, where she, as a Palestinian child, experienced the erasure of her identity, as did all of her people “living within the 48 borders”.

The Palestinian woman further noted those of her people who are living on the West Bank “under the most brutal occupation regime we’ve seen in modern times”, as well as those Palestinians living as refugees throughout the Arab world.

And she then turned her attention to the “living hell” of Gaza and the targeting of healthcare workers. “Let’s have a look at that. This is not by accident. It is not that they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is because the healthcare workers are trying to save people.”

“And what do they do? They target them, and they’re killing them, one-by-one, so that the babies in the incubators can die; so that the injured can die” Burrows continued, calling out the rising death toll of Palestinian healthcare workers for what it is. “That’s what they’re doing right now.”

“And just when you think it’s not going to get any worse; it couldn’t get any worse, we’re hearing of actual massacres. We are hearing of bodies lined up and point-blank killing people who are hiding: innocent people, children, women,” she underscored, “our men.”

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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