‘Geneva Convention is Violated, Ceasefire Now!’ – Healthcare Workers in South Africa

Health workers in South Africa call for a ceasefire in Gaza. (Photo: Nurah Tape, Palestine Chronicle)

By Nurah Tape – The Palestine Chronicle  

South African healthcare workers have added their voice to the growing calls by the medical fraternity worldwide for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. 

Dr Samah El-Boraei, co-convenor for Healthcare Workers for Palestine – South Africa, told The Palestine Chronicle that the movement decided to “add its voice to the international vigils that have been happening weekly.”

“We call for a permanent ceasefire, we call for unrestricted humanitarian access, we call for the end to violence and the end to the murder of (over) 20,000 people and 8,000 children, men and women …,” El-Boraei said at a vigil in Cape Town on Friday.

The vigil included interfaith prayers as well as speakers highlighting the attacks on the healthcare system in Gaza, as well as the killings of doctors, journalists, and their families. 

“We have chosen to add our voices today because we are just in shock and horror that the Geneva Convention is being violated,” El-Boraei said.

“Nothing is being protected anymore, not journalists’ lives, not doctors’ lives, and these are war crimes that are happening, and this needs to stop,” the pediatrician added.

According to the United Nations, at least 312 healthcare workers and 112 journalists have been killed since Israel’s assault on Gaza began after October 7.

“We need a diplomatic end to protect both Palestinian and Israeli lives. We need a ceasefire, we need a permanent diplomatic solution,” stressed El-Boraei.

‘Journalism Can Change the World’

Pointing to a huge Palestinian flag laid out on the ground in front of her, with the names of slain journalists and medical workers, journalist Atiyyah Khan said the number of journalists killed is rising daily. 

Despite journalists being protected under international humanitarian law, Khan said “none of us believed this genocide would go on for this long, and would get worse every day, but it has.” 

“We also know that there’s no way this figure would stand if these were Western journalists,” she added. “In my entire life of working in this field, I’ve never seen such atrocities unfold against journalists in this blatant way.”

She lauded journalists such as Motaz Azaiza, Bisan Owda, and Wael Al Dahdouh for their commitment to telling the truth from the frontlines in Gaza.

“Every day, we have seen the world tune into the pages of Motaz, Bisan or Plestia (Al Alaqad) and hope they are still alive.”

She said, “we have seen Motaz daily walking through the rubble” and amidst devastation helping the wounded. Also, how Al Dahdouh “instead of going into despair” after burying his close family members – killed in an Israeli air raid – immediately went back to reporting. 

“Why?” asked Khan. “Because journalism has the ability to change the world, and it has.”

‘Hippocratic Oath Must Stir Your Conscience’

Adding his voice to those shared at the vigil, was Ebrahim Rasool, the former South African ambassador to the US.  

Rasool issued a challenge to the global health community saying, “If you do not have a faith foundation for your ethics and your integrity, then your Hippocratic oath must be the one that must stir your conscience.” 

He said every doctor, nurse, health worker and professional “must stand up and say this (genocide) cannot be allowed in our name.”

This, he added, “is the message that must reverberate from this gathering tonight.”

Rasool said “it is important that we must succeed” with South Africa’s referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an investigation into war crimes committed in Gaza. 

He said health care workers and journalists must be “the evidence gatherers” so that “South Africa and its allies” are not sent to the ICC “empty-handed.”

“Let health care workers not just sign death certificates…let us do the forensic work to find out whether that white phosphorous has been used and bring it as evidence,  let us bring the evidence of which bullets were used,… the nature of the bombs that have been killing…the fragments and the shrapnel that have maimed and killed people..”

At the very least, he said, “we don’t allow the ‘viricide’ – the death of truth – to triumph.”

He said the truth should be used as “our strategic scalpel to make sure that we can present this case, if not successfully, to the ICC, then at least to the world.”

 “Let us make sure that our anger is transformed,” he said.  

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Nurah Tape is a South Africa-based journalist. She is an editor with The Palestine Chronicle.

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