On July 16, activists gathered outside Tampa General Hospital to denounce the hospital’s partnership with Israel and call for it to divest from the “Florida-Israel Business Accelerator.”
They also released an online petition “Denounce TGH for Israeli Partnership” signed by numerous local organizations such as Dream Defenders, CAIR Florida and Jewish Voice for Peace, for community members to sign.
FIBA is a Zionist business investment program to establish and grow Israeli tech businesses in Florida. According to its website, “actually accessing opportunities out of Israel is difficult, if not impossible, for most U.S. investors. FIBA breaks through the geographic, cultural and language barriers to connect great companies with great investors.”
Around 25 activists held signs and chanted slogans like “Hey hey ho ho, this medical apartheid’s got to go,” “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes” and “Resistance is justified when people are occupied!”
The call for TGH to divest from Israel grows out of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS is a global movement that aims to apply nonviolent political, economic and cultural pressure on Israel until it complies with international law.
Launched by 140 Palestinian organizations in 2005, BDS embraces a method of social change that has worked in apartheid South Africa, during the U.S. civil rights era and against fossil fuel companies. Since last month, the movement has received renewed attention after Ben & Jerry’s announced it would no longer sell ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and when Olympic athletes from Sudan, Algeria and Lebanon refused to compete against Israeli opponents in the Tokyo Olympics.
The three main demands of BDS are that Israel end the illegal occupation of Palestine, recognize the full equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect the right of over seven million Palestinian refugees to return to their land.
“We have the opportunity to change the future, a future that delegitimizes Israel as a viable business partner in the Tampa Bay Area, a partnership that approves the continuation of violence at the Palestinian people, in which they are medically neglected, in which their homes are bombed, in which their lives are taken away,” said Ayman Salhab, a Palestinian activist. “Today we stand firm. Say NO to Israel in the Tampa Bay Area. Does Tampa General Hospital stand on the side of health or does it stand on the side of genocide?”
Ali Abdel-Qader, a member of Party for Socialism and Liberation, spoke about why TGH’s partnership with Israel is a political decision that puts the hospital on the wrong side of history.
“We live in a country that is the only reason that Israel is able to oppress Palestinians. Ten million dollars a day the U.S. government gives to Israel to buy weapons to use against the Palestinians, and Tampa General Hospital has the nerve to say that their partnership with Israel is not political? Shame on them! No, my friends, this is political. If this was 1970 and they were partnering with apartheid South Africa, would that be political? Yes! Would we be out of line to demand that they stop supporting apartheid in South Africa? Of course not,” said Abdel-Qader.
This month, Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida announced that they were entering into a deeper alliance. Many students have become engaged in the fight as they continue to demand that USF divest from Israel. Taylor Cook, a member of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society, spoke about broader divestment demands being made of USF.
“We’re calling on USF to divest from the ongoing apartheid and genocide being committed by Zionist forces. We’re calling on USF to divest from companies like Boeing due to its provision of helicopters and other military aircraft used to commit war crimes against Palestinians; Caterpillar, for its supply of equipment used by the Israeli army to destroy Palestinian homes; Hewlett Packard, or HP, which provides technology for facial recognition and other software used to track Palestinians; G4S due to their involvement in Israeli prisons that inhumanely hold innocent Palestinians; and Lockheed Martin because of their supply of weapons to Israeli soldiers and various other war crimes,” said Cook.
Laith Abdel-Hader, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and a student nurse who is also Palestinian, spoke about why TGH’s partnership with FIBA is an insult to Palestinian health care workers in Tampa and in Palestine.
“This project reinforces the state of medical apartheid and genocide enacted by the Israeli government. Israel continues to suffocate the health care system in Gaza through a brutal blockade — similar to the American blockade on Cuba — which every country voted against except for Israel and America.
“Israel targets hospitals and health care workers, such as Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar who was murdered by an Israeli sniper while providing health care for injured protesters. And there are many other Palestinian health care workers that face difficulties or were murdered like Razan and Dr. Ayman Abu Al-Ouf who was killed in an Israeli airstrike.
“Israel also targeted the last-standing COVID-testing laboratory, so there are none left in Gaza and they can’t test people with COVID. And not only that, they bombed roads that lead from small towns in Gaza to hospitals in big cities. They shoot people at checkpoints and protests and they deny them medical care. If Tampa General Hospital really cares about their patients or about health care workers, then they will cut their ties with FIBA,” said Abdel-Hader.
Students for Justice in Palestine, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Tampa Bay SDS, and Tampa Bay Community Action Committee co-hosted the protest along with community members. They are planning more actions over the next several weeks.