Healthcare workers protest AMA’s silence on genocide in Gaza

Healthcare Workers for Palestine activists protested at a recent American Medical Association meeting, condemning the association’s silence on the genocide in Palestine

June 13, 2024 by Candice Choo-Kang
Activists during the protest in front of the AMA meeting, June 8, 2024. Photo: Candice Choo-Kang

On June 8, about 75 nurses, physicians, other health professionals, and students protested at the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates meeting in Chicago, demanding the AMA recognize the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. Protestors, some in white coats, chanted, “Every day the AMA stands still, another day that children are killed!” Delegates reportedly heard the chants while the meeting was underway.

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Dr. Gulrana Syed, a physician, told People’s Health Dispatch that the group is urging the “AMA [to] stand up for healthcare workers in Gaza, who are deliberately targeted [by violence]” and to protest “the [AMA’s] lack of care for mass casualties.” Dr. Chandra Hassan, who recently returned from a medical mission in Gaza, recalled intubating a child without anesthesia and described the severe lack of resources, including scalpels, for performing surgeries. Dr. Hassan also highlighted the AMA’s history of racism, citing its initial refusal to recognize apartheid in South Africa.

Before the protest, Healthcare Workers for Palestine organized an email campaign urging AMA delegates to support a resolution recognizing the genocide (resolution 603). Tessneem, a dental student, criticized the delegates’ responses as cruel. “It’s scary that these are our healthcare providers.” Some delegates’ responses compared Palestinian resistance to vermin, belittled the suffering of Palestinians, and described the genocide as “lies”.

Speakers questioned why the AMA provided millions of dollars to Ukrainian healthcare but remained silent on Palestine. Tessneem emphasized that Healthcare Workers for Palestine are merely asking for recognition and denouncement of the genocide, not financial aid. “We’re not even asking for them to send any money!” Another protestor said, “American institutions like the AMA serve the imperialist state’s interest by reinforcing imperialist narratives, beliefs, and core missions. This is why the AMA lined up behind Ukraine immediately but cannot even say the word Palestine.”

Read more: Hamas accepts UNSC ceasefire resolution, leaving the ball in Israel’s court

The rally concluded by reading of the names of the 534 healthcare workers killed by Israel in Gaza since October 7, followed by chants as AMA members left the meeting.

AMA delegates discussed the resolution, with advocates citing the AMA’s responsibility to global health and human rights, while opponents argued it was beyond the AMA’s purview.

On June 10, the AMA House of Delegates passed a resolution calling for “peace in Israel and Palestine in order to protect civilian lives and healthcare personnel.” One delegate suggested this was influenced by the US-backed United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolution passed earlier that day. Protestors criticized the resolution for not explicitly demanding a ceasefire. Emily Hacker, a Healthcare Workers for Palestine member and health policy analyst, described the resolution as “yet another example of the AMA sanitizing genocide so they can sleep better at night. Peace can’t be achieved when 2,000 pound bombs are being dropped on refugee camps.”

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