Editor’s View: Only drastic action, not words, can save Palestinians from being wiped from existence

Palestinians leave al-Karama neighbourhood in Gaza City as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues. Picture: Mahmud Hams / AFP

Palestinians leave al-Karama neighbourhood in Gaza City as the Israeli bombardment of Gaza continues. Picture: Mahmud Hams / AFP

Published Nov 21, 2023


I sat, fighting back tears listening to activist Dr Mads Gilbert speak about the inhumane attacks on healthcare workers in Palestine by Israel’s army.

The world-renowned physician, humanitarian and activist is in South Africa as part of his advocacy campaign in support of healthcare workers in Palestine who are suffering under Israel’s sustained war crimes committed against the people of Gaza and West Bank.

He told an impassioned story of his friend and medical colleague Dr Maysara al Rayyes, who was murdered along with his family by Israel earlier in November.

He was 28 years old.

Maysara al Rayyes had been working in hospitals in Gaza for years, choosing to stay and save lives. The apartment he lived in with his family was bombed on November 5. Eight members of his family were wiped out in one go.

Two days later, as his two surviving brothers tried to dig the bodies of their family members out of the rubble, the area was bombed again, and they too were killed.

Dr Al Rayyes is one of more than 200 healthcare workers killed among the nearly 12,000 Palestinians murdered by the Israeli Defence Force since October 7.

In what world is the targeting of healthcare workers not morally and ethically reprehensible? Among the 12,000 murdered, half of them are children.

And yet those who support Israel continue to defend the genocidal apartheid state’s right to defend itself in light of the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Are the doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff collateral damage? How can they be when Israel boasts that 90% of their strikes hit their intended targets.

That means only 600 of the 6,000 children killed were murdered unintentionally. That means 5,400 children were murdered on purpose; that 180 healthcare workers were murdered on purpose.

Prior to these war crimes committed by Israel these past five weeks, there were 34 partially functioning hospitals in Gaza.

“Partially functioning” because Israel has cut off fuel, water, food, and other supplies support to these hospitals. These are hospitals and other healthcare facilities that don’t only treat the war-wounded; they treat cancer, diabetes, mental health challenges. As of this week, as few as nine of them remain partially functional.

This, according to Dr Mads Gilbert is part of the psychological warfare Israel is waging on Palestine, because by removing Gaza and West Bank’s healthcare workers’ ability to provide life-saving care to injured, wounded, sick, and dying Palestinians, you are also killing hope.

The international political reaction to this crisis has been slow, but the tide is shifting. Israel’s ambassadors are being expelled from nations around the world. Missions and embassies are being shut. Ambassadors and diplomats to Israel are being recalled.

But the tangible actions to save Palestinian lives remain few and far between.

World-renowned Norwegian physician, humanitarian, and activist Dr Mads Gilbert held a press conference to update the South African media on the dire situation currently endured by the Palestinian Healthcare system. Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Dr Gilbert told us of a royal Jordanian aid mission, in defiance of the Israeli blockade of Palestine, to drop much needed medical supplies and life-saving food, water and fuel in Gaza. There are 45km of beach where international missions can enter Gaza and help save lives, he said.

He pleaded with the international community, and South Africa in particular, with our own understanding of oppressive apartheid regimes, to do something drastic and urgent to save Palestinian lives.

This is a man-made disaster, he said, the likes of which humanity has not seen in decades. Aid floods into countries in the wake of natural disasters, and yet, in the face of this dire humanitarian disaster of man-made origins and genocidal proportions, the world watches on as thousands of Palestinians are slaughtered and driven from their homes.

Israel continues to break international law, violate the Geneva Conventions, carry out war crimes with impunity, and will continue to do so until stopped.

Never forget that for evil to flourish, it only takes good people to stand by and do nothing.

Do something; lest Palestinians are wiped from existence before our eyes.