Not too long ago, there appeared an Op-Ed in the Daily Nexus entitled “False Body Count Numbers Disguise Political Agenda.” The author of this piece, Mr. Gluschankoff, cited the inferiority of Palestinian medical care to justify the number of deaths incurred by the Israeli army during their 2008 massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. I am not going to bother explaining why such a statement is implicitly racist; rather, I will move on to explain why Palestinians in Gaza do not have access to proper medical services.
You see, Gaza has been subjected to a siege imposed on Gazans by both the former Egyptian government (thus, Israel’s staunch support for its now-ousted dictator) as well as by the Israeli government; both Egypt and Israel “share” (a characterization not at all appropriate given that the Palestinians are completely left out of the equation) borders with Gaza. From 2005 until now — as well as during Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,400 Palestinians and injured around 5,000 — Gazans have been denied freedom of mobility to cross these borders. Medical equipment has also been barred from entering Gaza; in effect, infringing upon the right of Palestinians to maintain their hospitals and, thus, their health and livelihoods.
On Feb. 10 of this year, Israeli strikes destroyed a medical storage building as well as damaged a school in Gaza. This is just one instance of a consistent attempt on the part of the Israelis to hinder development and undermine the building of infrastructure in Palestine (Gaza included) to aid the well-being of those who are essentially living in an open-air prison facility. It is one of many instances that demonstrates the perpetuation of an environment where the needed resources to create self-sustainability and an economy on which they are able to thrive is denied to them. The Palestinians are unwanted, as their existence makes evident the nature of the Israeli state as a colonizing entity carrying out an ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people whose lands they have stolen.
As Laila el-Haddad puts it, “So long as those in power in Palestine are not willing collaborators in their own imprisonment, the consequences will be fierce: Institutions will be destroyed, development and prosperity will be blocked and the pretext will always be security.” To elaborate, Time magazine’s Tim McGirk reported that Israel was blocking medical aid from reaching Gaza and shed light on the case of Bassam al-Wahedi, who was in need of serious eye care. The equipment needed to conduct “complicated surgeries” was and continues to be barred from entering Gaza. Al-Wahedi was offered medical treatment by Israel if he agreed to work for the Israelis. Collaborate with us for two weeks, they told him, and we’ll get you the best Israeli doctor out there. If he refused to collaborate, he would be denied access. Al-Wahedi could not bring himself to collaborate with the Israeli state to aid his people’s oppression. He recounted that “his father, an ambulance driver, was clearing away wounded Palestinians after a battle when he was shot dead by an Israeli sniper.” This is yet another example as to why Palestinian medical services are “inferior” to those of their colonizer, the Israeli state.
The bombing of Palestinian hospitals by the Israeli Defense Force during Operation Cast Lead contributed to the lack of available medical care within Gaza; this should go without saying. Of course, all this contradicts the pretty portrait of the Israeli state painted by the various authors of the many pro-Israel pieces that have been published by the Nexus; there is an assumption within all these pieces that Palestinians are to be blamed for their suffering; that their suffering is somehow warranted by the fact that Israel is an ally of the U.S. and an example of “Western progress” and “civilization.” One of the founders of Zionist thought, Theodor Herzl, would have been proud. He, too, asserted that Israel would act as “a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.” It is telling to know that many supporters of Israel have followed the racist tradition of Zionism, as they use Eurocentric concepts of industrial “progress” and technological innovations to justify a massacre. God help us in a world where massacres are embraced as civil and ethnic cleansing is considered an act of progress.