April 7 is World Health Day, and the World Health Organisation declared the theme for the day to be Save Lives: Make Hospitals Safe for Emergencies. In Gaza, health workers held a morning demonstration which some of my colleagues went on (I was in Faraheen for farming – a medium amount of shooting today).
I made it over to Al Quds Red Crescent for the World Health Day ceremonies, held in the damaged middle building of the hospital complex. The highlight of this was the announcement of the winner of Palestine’s short film competition on the above theme; third prize went to Mohammed Alruzzi’s “War without Rules” , second to Yousef Nateel’s “And 101!” , and we had the inside tip that the winner was Ramattan‘s Emad Badwan, with a 5 minute film entitled “One of…”
All the films obviously focussed on the Israeli attacks on hospitals and emergency workers, and the winning film included reference to medic Arafa’s killing, and the footage of medic Hassan’s shooting by an Israeli sniper that my colleague A took, and some voiceover by E who was there at the time. I hope it will be online soon so I can share it with you. Mohammed Alruzzi’s film included the following statement, something I guess we all vaguely know about…
Article 18 of the Geneva Convention (1949) states that civilian hospitals may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.
Reading that, watching these clips, a sort of speeded up version of 22 insane days in which I took a small part, with a powerful soundtrack added, brought home to me in a way that somehow hadn’t hit yet, just how ******* APPALLING those events were. Israel’s December and January attacks on Gaza didn’t surprise me. The flechette shells, the white phosphorous, the horrific violence of the soldiers towards civilians, this just all seemed the logical result of us allowing the occupation of Palestine to continue at all.
If the world’s governments let Israel break international law regularly, what would stop Israel continuing to do anything they want? What would teach the soldiers to look at Palestinians and see their fellow humans? They already daily fire live ammunition at civilians in both the West Bank and Gaza, as a normal thing. Doing it on a larger scale, why not?
I remember sitting on the hospital front porch in the early hours of January 15, smoking shisha with some of the other Red Crescent volunteers, knowing the Israeli army would be with us in the next few hours, knowing there was nowhere to go, and that even if there was, we wouldn’t go anyway. I remember Dr B saying, as hundreds of civilians arrived for shelter, that maybe it would be like the Israeli seige of the Church of the Nativity in 2002 – I don’t think we had enough food for that many people for even a day.
I remember standing beside the hospital window, hearing yet another ear splitting crash, then seeing a piece of burning bomb hit us, as I was on the phone to my father, and saying to him resignedly, “Sorry, I will have to hang up now and find a fire extinguisher.” Fighting the phosphorous fire as it was burning Al Quds, the craziness of having to twice evacuate a hospital, and nightly working alongside terrified medics who had carried the bodies of their colleagues and expected to be the next dead, it just all seemed sickeningly logical at the time. Today, somehow, the films allowed me to take a step back, to look from outside, as you’ve been looking.
After the ceremony, I went downstairs to look at the photographic exhibition which was also part of the World Health Day commemorations, and was startled to find that four photos from my collection, which I’d handed over to the Red Crescent, had been blown up and mounted to be part of the exhibition. So again, I found myself one step back, looking this time at literally exactly what I’d seen with my own eyes, what I’d paused for a few grudged seconds in the middle of the chaos to record, but not to think about. Thinking about it.
How did we let it happen? How did we? Why didn’t I march out of that hospital and over to the apartment across the street holding the Israeli snipers that shot Haneen and her father as they ran towards the “shelter” of Al Quds hospital and go up those stairs and JUST TAKE THOSE ******* GUNS OUT OF THEIR HANDS.