Militant Journalism

Health care workers in Cleveland rally to demand institutional accountability

A crowd of at least 150 attended a rally on June 5 to demand that Cleveland’s local health care and educational institutions acknowledge the genocide in Palestine. Despite threats from both police and weather, health care workers and community allies from all around Northeast Ohio rallied in front of the Cleveland Clinic’s Samson Pavilion, much to the chagrin of Clinic administrators. 

Despite the peaceful protest, the Cleveland Clinic Police Department, that was exposed for its racist practices by ProPublica in 2020, moved in to physically push the demonstrators — including disabled folks, the elderly, children and babies as young as just a few months — off the lawn where they had assembled.

When the cops moved in, using bikes as riot shields and shoving people to the sidewalk, the organizers stood tall and strong. A group of dedicated activists placed themselves between the assembled crowd and the Clinic’s private enforcers. When the speeches from health care workers — some of whom had been treating patients in Rafah just weeks prior — were completed, the crowd took to the streets around the Clinic. As they marched, they chanted, sang and demanded the Clinic and the other institutions in the supposed “cultural center” of Cleveland do the bare minimum: call the genocide what it is.

Cleveland Clinic police use bikes to clear demonstrators from the lawn in front of the Cleveland Clinic’s Samson Pavilion. Liberation photo
Cleveland Clinic police use bikes to clear demonstrators from the lawn in front of the Cleveland Clinic’s Samson Pavilion. Liberation photo

Health care workers organize to condemn genocide

Workers at Cleveland’s major health care institutions have seen their colleagues in Gaza dealing with unimaginable conditions. Over the past eight months, they started organizing with each other, and connected with the nationwide movement in support of Palestine. These workers have raised their voices to pressure their hospital systems to recognize the genocide in Gaza, and condemn Israel’s crimes against their profession.

Pooja (who asked that only her first name be used), a surgical resident at MetroHealth, helped spearhead a coalition of health care workers across the major Cleveland campuses to make it clear to the public that they will not be complicit. “It’s.. about the moral injury we sustain by continuing to work in settings that uphold a culture of silence in the face of this genocide,” Pooja said.

Reports of Israel deliberately targeting health care workers and institutions is nothing new. Amnesty International reported back in 2014 during Israeli Operation “Protective Edge” that the Palestinian Ministry of Health was recording repeated attacks on clearly marked ambulances with lights flashing. Uniformed medics, doctors and medical staff were injured and killed as five hospitals and 34 clinics were bombed into closure.

This tactic has been taken to the extreme in the current Israeli offensive, resulting in the complete devastation of every single hospital in Gaza. In an interview with Sky News, Dr Haj-Hassan with Doctors Without Borders spoke of medical personnel at Al-Shifa hospital being given civilian clothes to go home in, as wearing scrubs “is sticking a target sticker on their back.”

Despite these transgressions, not a single one of Northeast Ohio’s health care institutions — University Hospitals, SUMA, MetroHealth and Cleveland Clinic — have spoken out against these flagrant violations of international law. Of course, these institutions have historically considered razing neighborhoods and displacing residents as just another cost of doing business, so their complicity with the Zionist regime is no surprise.

Liberation News spoke to a medical doctor (being quoted anonymously out of fear of retaliation) who found themselves at the end of their patience for the lack of action they saw from their peers. “Every dime going to Israel has caused immense suffering amongst my people,” they said. “I can’t believe I’m saying this after eight months. It’s time to commit.”

Under the banner of Cleveland Heathcare Workers for Palestine, this impassioned group of workers organized the June 5 rally and march, in front of the educational building accredited by Case Western Reserve University on the campus of Cleveland Clinic. The location was strategically chosen to take a stand against both the Clinic and CWRU, which represent two of the largest institutions in Cleveland and are ardently Zionist. These “eds and meds” institutions dominate the local economy, and so the city has historically allowed these behemoths to operate without scrutiny in exchange for employing more than 20% of the city’s population. 

Cleveland’s health care and educational organizations exploit their immunity from criticism to forge connections with Israeli entities without raising local concern. The collaboration of these corporations with the Zionist political project was institutionalized as the Ohio-Israel Chamber of Commerce in the late 1990s. The OICC continues to lobby these institutions to partner with Israeli firms today, propping up the pariah state with funding, research collaboration and a market for Israeli products. Some of these ventures, such as BioEnterprise, have folded among corruption scandals. But the relationships between the ruling class of Cleveland — all of whom have their hands in these “non-profit” corporations — and their Zionist counterparts continues to persist and grow.

But in the wake of the student solidarity encampment at CWRU, people are starting to ask questions. Case students demanded the University acknowledge the war crimes Israel is openly committing in Gaza, and for them to divest from Israeli institutions. As CWRU is deeply connected to University Hospital, MetroHealth and Cleveland Clinic, many of the concerns the students raised mirror what the health care workers are organizing over now. 

Pooja spoke to the frustration over the tacit acceptance of the Zionist influence over clinic culture. “Lack of accountability allows these sentiments to continue.” she said.

The doctor we spoke to directly calls their peers to action: “I won’t respectfully ask people to have energy and capacity. It’s a privilege that you get to pick and choose where you put this energy. I can’t. My people can’t. Commit. Show up. This will not end with Gaza. It is coming for all of us.”

Feature photo: Health care workers in Cleveland march near the Cleveland Clinic to demand their institutions acknowledge the genocide in Gaza. Liberation photo

Related Articles

Back to top button