Approximately 50 healthcare workers gathered at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton to express their concerns about the Israeli focus on Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza and to call for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Holding a banner that read “Healthcare Workers Against Genocide,” doctors, nurses, EMS technicians, and others urged American medical groups to take a stronger stance against the siege of the region’s largest hospital. Israeli and U.S. officials believe that the hospital serves as a Hamas command center, but the healthcare workers argued that innocent civilians are suffering due to both the fighting and the lack of adequate medical care.
Dr. Amal Al-Shrouf, a pulmonologist from Paterson, spoke about the oppressive pressure within the medical community to remain silent in the face of atrocities. She questioned the ethical compass and duty of healthcare workers to the broader healthcare community. This gathering was the latest in a series of demonstrations and rallies across New Jersey since the conflict began.
The conflict started when well-armed Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,400 people, mostly civilians, including the elderly and children, according to survivor accounts. The Israeli military launched a counterattack that has resulted in an estimated death toll of 10,000 to 12,000 in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
The recent focus of the conflict has been the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, which Israeli troops entered this week. Israeli military officials claimed to have found weapons at the facility and showed journalists a shaft on the hospital grounds that they believed led to Hamas tunnels. However, definitive proof has yet to be established as troops had not entered the shaft as of Friday due to concerns of potential booby traps.
The healthcare workers at the gathering condemned the targeting of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. They expressed concerns that the forced evacuation of doctors, patients, and others at Al-Shifa hospital by the Israeli military would lead to more deaths and suffering. They held signs stating “Babies In Incubators Are Not A Target” to emphasize their message. Dr. Samir Zaina, a primary care physician from North Jersey, highlighted the challenges faced by medical professionals in Gaza, including low medical supplies, lack of oxygen, and medication shortages.
Dr. Al-Shrouf criticized the American Medical Association (AMA) for not going far enough in denouncing the violence and calling for a ceasefire. The AMA issued a statement on November 9 before the siege at Al-Shifa hospital, calling for “medical neutrality” in the conflict and condemning the military targeting of healthcare facilities and personnel. However, the healthcare workers believed that more action was necessary.
Some doctors at the event chose to remain anonymous due to fears of online harassment or workplace repercussions. However, Dr. Yasmine Elfarra, a resident, spoke openly about her experience of being questioned by hospital executives in New York for her critical Instagram posts about Israel. She disclosed that 10 members of her family in Gaza had either died or been severely injured in an explosion. Despite the pressure, she affirmed her commitment to treating all patients equally and fighting for the humanity and dignity of her people.
The healthcare workers’ gathering shed light on the ongoing conflict and the impact on innocent civilians in both Gaza and Israel. Their call for a ceasefire and stronger condemnation of the violence by medical groups aims to bring attention to the urgent need for humanitarian aid and protection of healthcare facilities in the region.