Gaza war: Vigil held in London for health workers, journalists slain by Israel
Dozens of people attended a vigil in central London on Friday evening, to mourn the hundreds of health workers and journalists killed in Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza and call for an immediate ceasefire.
The Health Workers for Palestine collective have been holding weekly vigils since mid-November, but this was the first to be held jointly with the Just Reporting Network, a new organisation formed by media workers alarmed by the media industry's coverage of Israel's assault on Gaza.
Braving London’s biting winter cold, attendees of the vigil in Whitehall held up signs bearing the names and occupations of some of the health workers and journalists killed since Israel began its intensive bombardment of Gaza on 7 October.
More than 21,500 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's onslaught, and tens of thousands more have been injured. Speakers at the vigil said that while the killing of health workers and journalists should draw outrage, so too should the loss of life of all other Palestinians.
More than 300 health workers have been killed in Gaza since the war began, and Gaza’s healthcare system has been decimated by the Israeli assault.
Hospitals, clinics and ambulances are routinely bombed, and supplies of even the most basic medicines and medical equipment have been depleted, with the deliveries needed to replenish them kept to a minimum due to a near-total siege on Gaza upheld by Israel and Egypt.
Among the health workers who attended the vigil was Rachel, a paediatric nurse working in London. She brought her young son with her to the event, and wore both a kuffiyeh and a tote bag emblazoned with a message from a campaign for fairer pay for NHS staff.
"To bear witness to something so horrific, so visual in this day and age… something that could be stopped, something that could be changed, something that started 75 years ago, it breaks my heart," she told The New Arab.
"This is really the only way that I can bear witness to it, be amongst others that are against it, be amongst others who are trying to stop this, change this, bring it to the world’s front step.
"We will not stand here and have this happen in our name."
Banners and signs listing the names of health workers and journalists either killed or missing lay on the ground, illuminated by candles.
According to the latest figures, some 106 journalists have been killed by Israel since the war began - 103 in Gaza, and three in Lebanon.
Some of these journalists were killed in strikes on their homes alongside their immediate family; others died while on duty. Press freedom groups and others have accused Israel of deliberately targeting journalists and their families.
Ahmed Madi, a journalist and founding member of the Just Reporting Network, read to the crowd and cameras the names of some of the journalists who have been killed in Gaza.
He told The New Arab that part of the reason why the network was formed was because of stories of "hostile" work environments for journalists who had voiced concern over their workplaces’ coverage of the war on Gaza, including the “underreporting and misreporting” of events.
Lamis Andoni, a Palestinian analyst, journalist and former war correspondent who has written for outlets including The New Arab, told the crowd at the vigil of the responsibility Western journalists and media organisations had towards the local journalists, fixers and stringers on whom they have so heavily relied on for coverage.
The bare minimum amid the brutal assault on Gaza would be for international news outlets to condemn the targeting of media workers in wartime, Andoni told The New Arab.
"It would not be that political for journalists and news organisation in the West to write or publish articles invoking the Geneva convention," she said, citing the international human law that says media workers covering should be treated as civilians during armed conflict.
Positioned in front of the Whitehall entrance to 10 Downing Street, speakers deplored the British government for its complicity in Israel's assault on Gaza through arms sales and military support, and for its failure to push for an immediate ceasefire.
Though health workers, journalists and other Palestinians have been killed in Israel's many previous bombing campaigns in Gaza, the scale of its ongoing "Swords of Iron" operation has been unprecedented, the vigil's speakers said.
"What’s different this time is that it is frankly a genocide," Dr Omar Abdel Mannan, a British-Egyptian paediatric neurologist and co-founder of Gaza Medic Voices told The New Arab.
"We’re seeing the complete annihilation of a people continuing unabated… we’re seeing a humanitarian crisis beyond anything that we’ve ever seen before."