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 wellbeing
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
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
Noor Aljawad is a second-year Middle East studies and feminist
studies double major.