Doctors Against Genocide is bringing medicine back to the side of humanity

Peoples Dispatch spoke to leaders in Doctors Against Genocide, who outlined the responsibilities of medical professionals in stopping the genocide in Gaza

May 29, 2024 by Natalia Marques
Members of Doctors Against Genocide with members of the anti-war organization CODEPINK at the People's Conference for Palestine (Photo via Jodie Evans/X)

At the People’s Conference for Palestine in Detroit, Peoples Dispatch spoke to two doctors with Doctors Against Genocide (DAG), which organizes those in the medical community in the US to form a powerful voice of opposition to the Israeli genocide in Gaza. Since its founding less than one year ago, DAG has engaged in a variety of organizing work, including marching in mass mobilizations, disrupting powerful healthcare officials, and testifying before the United Nations.

The goals of DAG have always been all-encompassing, with a hope that as “our resources and numbers grow we hope to combat genocides and injustices all around the world.” 

Dr. Nidal Jboor is the co-founder of Doctors Against Genocide, alongside Dr. Karameh Hawash-Kuemmerle. Dr. Jboor is a doctor of internal medicine and geriatrics working in Michigan. He is Palestinian-American, and migrated from Palestine to the US 24 years ago. His family remains in Palestine, in the West Bank.

Dr. Alaa Ali is a member of Doctors Against Genocide and a Palestinian-American physician working in Michigan, who specializes in urgent care, emergency medicine, and family medicine. He is from Gaza, and his family is originally from a village called Beit Daras, but was forcibly displaced in 1948.

Doctors Against Genocide attend the People’s Conference for Palestine (Photo: Palestinian Youth Movement)

Peoples Dispatch: What do you see as the responsibility of medical workers in the United States to stop the genocide in Gaza?

Dr. Nidal Jboor: We found that we, as health care professionals, can protect and save more lives by prevention. Preventing these mass atrocities, warning the international community and the politicians of these crimes before they escalate into the phases of mass murder. 

Because in medicine, prevention is key for us. That’s why we’ve developed vaccines. That’s why we screen for cancers before they happen, because if you intervene, you can save more lives.

We are treating genocide as a medical illness. It has all the signs and symptoms of any other illness. If we as a medical community can raise awareness through the community and through the public about the early signs of oppression, racism, injustice, and dehumanization, we can intervene early to solve these conflicts, to stop hate, and to protect vulnerable communities. The earlier we intervene, the more lives we save. 

Dr. Alaa Ali: We went to the leaders at the hospital, the CEOs, the medical directors. 

They might sympathize with you with words, but when it comes to actions, nobody is doing anything. I’m a member of the American Medical Association. We talked to them. I talked to them several times. I said, why do you have double standards? Why are you calling what’s going on in Ukraine a genocide and what’s going on in Gaza and Palestine a conflict? This is a double standard. As a medical association, you shouldn’t be taking a political side. You should be taking a humanitarian side. 

When you see all the hospitals in Gaza being bombed, you should stand up and say, this is enough. We cannot stand for that.

In June, there is a conference in Chicago for the American Medical Association. And we are preparing a huge protest for this organization that does not represent us as physicians. This organization is complicit in the genocide. 

There have been so many actions that they could have have done to stop this genocide, to stop what’s going on, to at least do the right thing.

And they haven’t done it. The influence of money is playing a role here. We cannot let that happen. We swore the oath, no harm for anyone, and this is what we have to stand up for. 

Unfortunately, my blood, my brother’s blood, is on Biden’s hands. 

We all looked up to Biden. We voted for him out of hope that he’s going to stand for what’s right. But when it came to the test, he failed it significantly. Everywhere in the world, they look at America as not only complicit in the genocide, but doing the genocide themselves. 

So my message to Biden and his administration is, President Biden, please, you are not just harming yourself and your reelection, but the whole country, the whole world.

PD: As a doctor, what has it been like to witness this genocide happening and unfolding since October 7? 

Dr. Alaa Ali: It’s actually one of the most terrifying and horrible things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. We as doctors, we swore the oath. 

We called this a genocide from day one because we are seeing what’s going on. We see the ethnic cleansing. We see the global starvation of the people. We see the bombing of the hospitals. We see the killing of babies in incubators. 

I’m not going to lie to you. There have been nights that I couldn’t even sleep, that the tears from the eyes were not just clear water, they were blood. 

We didn’t know what to do. We tried to talk to our politicians. They failed us. We tried to talk to our hospital administrations. They failed us. We tried to talk to our leaders in the local communities. They failed us.

And what all we are trying to tell them is, don’t kill people. Don’t kill children. Now, almost 20,000 children killed in this brutal barbaric genocide that’s happening. And my understanding is, we are, as humans, we are built to discuss our issues and solve them in a civilized manner. 

You know how much our country spent on war just after 9/11? More than 9 trillion dollars. Just imagine, with this amount of money, if we would spend only 10% on peace, I swear to God, there will be nobody who’s homeless. Nobody will starve. Nobody will have any problem with health care. We will have universal health care. Nobody will have to file bankruptcy because of hospital bills. 

But we’d rather spend our money on war and genocide, and supporting regimes that are killing people for no reason.

And this is where we stand here at Doctors Against Genocide. We stand against this genocide. It’s not just in Gaza. It’s not just in Palestine, anywhere. I have a reporter who asked me when I was in Washington, what if it was the other way around, if it was the Israelis who are being killed. I told him, I swear by God that I will be saying the same thing that I am right now. I am against any genocide for anybody.

And this is our role as humans, not just doctors. Being a doctor, you should be providing mercy to those people and those patients. 

I have family in Gaza, and I hate to talk about this because it brings very bad memories. But I have lost my brother. He’s the youngest among us. He didn’t even reach his 30s, and he was killed. Why was he killed? He went out to get water for his babies, and he was killed just looking for water. I have 127 members of my family killed. Cousins, remote cousins, uncles. Lots of people are being buried under the rubble.

Sitting here, trying to do anything for them, it has been difficult. 

PD: Can you speak to some of the broader goals of Doctors Against Genocide?

Dr. Nidal Jboor: I think the Western medicine is a colonizing medicine. In medical schools, they teach us a colonized medicine, to become just a technician to service the entitled Western communities. 

They do not teach us about justice, about human rights, about protecting the vulnerable communities that can never be healthy, that can never be safe as long as they are living this injustice. So our goal from this organization is to raise awareness about human rights, about justice, about equality, about ending oppression, ending occupations. We think we can save more lives doing this. 

We need to decolonize the education of medicine. They don’t teach us in medical schools much about the illnesses of the poor nations, about the illnesses of the homeless, about the illnesses of the Third World countries. The Western medicine is a colonized medicine. It’s very sophisticated, very expensive. It is now just directed to service the better-off nations of the world. And we think this has to stop.

We need to have our medicine that is socially conscious, that is justice oriented, and that is directed to the well-being of all people, all nations, all ethnicities.

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by the People’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and to subscribe to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.