The moral abyss: Israeli doctors call for the bombing of hospitals

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Even though the moral abyss of the war in Gaza seemed unable to deepen, it now appears to be a bottomless pit. About 100 doctors belonging to a group called Doctors for the Rights of Israeli Soldiers reportedly signed a letter last weekend saying it is an “obligation” for the military to target hospitals in Gaza that are allegedly used to to protect Hamas, and specifically call out the bombing of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.

The letter from the Israeli doctors said: “The people of Gaza saw fit to turn hospitals into terrorist nests to benefit from Western morality, they are the ones who brought destruction upon themselves… Attacking terrorist headquarters is the right and the duty of the Israeli army. ”

Doctors working in horrific and dangerous conditions in Gaza said in response: “We as doctors are ambassadors of peace. We save lives” and that “Israeli doctors who signed a letter promoting the bombing of hospitals with patients in them have betrayed their noble profession and bear responsibility.” They called on the World Health Organization and other health agencies to hold the signatories of the letter accountable.

It is difficult to overstate the severity of this tragic deviation from the most basic ethics of the medical profession. The letter from Israeli doctors represents a cold, calculated and blatant rejection of the entire basis of this ethic, namely our common humanity and a commitment to providing health care regardless of who needs it.

The Geneva Declaration is one of the oldest policies of the World Medical Association (WMA) and is known as the “modern Hippocratic Oath.” It was adopted by the 2nd General Assembly of the WMA in Geneva in September 1948, but remains one of the most consistent WMA documents, having undergone very few and careful revisions over the decades. The statement states, among other things:

As a member of the medical profession:

I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;

I will not allow considerations of age, illness or disability, religion, ethnicity, gender, nationality, political beliefs, race, sexual orientation, social status or any other factor to come between my duty and my patient;

Whether the Declaration is applied to an individual physician-patient relationship or more broadly to the provision and delivery of health care, the intent is clear: health care should not be denied on the basis of nationality or any other characteristic of identity.

We have heard many times since October 7 that “Israel has the right to defend itself” (with that right rarely cited in relation to Palestinians). It has become like a broken record as one massacre after another is heaped on Palestinian civilians, with even hospitals now being promoted as fair game.

And yet the constant repetition of the mantra of “self-defense” will never ensure that hospitals – full of the sick and injured, those struggling around the clock to care for them, and thousands of people with nowhere else to go – will never be bombed . legitimate. Civilians are not suddenly rendered non-human, irrelevant, or redundant simply based on whether some combatants use the same building. Their rights and needs remain unaffected. (This also sets aside the important question of whether the claims of hospitals housing Hamas fighters are all accurate, as such claims are easy to make but impossible for outside observers to verify.)

Beneath the attempts to justify the destruction of hospitals and the people within them lies the evil of racism. If the victims were anything but Palestinian – if they were, say, Australian or American – the idea of ​​killing or injuring hundreds of children and adults every day and terrorizing many thousands more would be unthinkable, regardless of the rationalizations offered. But the victims are Palestinians and so the rules, or at least the force with which the rules are applied, are different. Crimes against them are more easily tolerated (not even recognized as crimes), the right words about the need to comply with the rules of war are uttered, the weapons continue to flow to the aggressor state and the carnage continues.

Once we lose sight of the professional ethics designed to protect healthcare, even in times of war, we are on a very dark path. A small group of doctors in Israel are beckoning us to take this path. They do not reflect the many courageous and compelling Jewish voices calling for peace.

We must heed the call from doctors in Gaza to hold accountable members of the medical profession who actively incite attacks on hospitals. This call must be repeated and amplified at the highest levels, including in Australia.

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