- The Guardian
- Issue #2080
On Monday 20 November, nurses at Westmead Hospital held a vigil for the Palestinians killed in the Israeli Defence Force bombings of hospitals in Gaza, with a focus on the killing of pregnant women and children in NICU, and nurses, midwives, doctors, with the nurses and midwives being women by a large majority. We are reminded that imperialism and settler-colonialism often make women and children the targets of their violence, as the types of violence done against them serve to dehumanise whole nations and as highly effective tools of genocide.
This vigil was also an important first step for nurses and midwives in Sydney to organise in their industry in solidarity with Palestine. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has called on workers and unions around the world to take action to support the Palestinian people, and nurses and midwives have an important role to play in that. In showing solidarity with healthcare workers and people in hospitals, especially pregnant women and children, the Nurses and Midwives Association can play an important part in pushing the Australian government to call for a ceasefire and to advance the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) campaign. This demonstration and similar demonstrations are a useful tool for mobilising nurses and midwives who wish to organise other nurses and midwives to advance a pro-Palestine position in their union, and to present to nurses, midwives, and patients entering and exiting the hospital the reality of life in Gaza under Israeli occupation.
While acknowledging the importance of this vigil as a first step in the industry, we must also not overstate its impact. It must be recognised as a launchpad for further organising, and must not be used as a justification to run ahead of the workers, who still need to be convinced that their union should take political action on this issue. I would urge nurses and midwives to ensure that alongside these demonstrations, they continue to talk to their comrades about Palestine and organise actions that they are willing to take. There have been calls across the Left to tell workers to go on wildcat strikes or take similar extreme measures, which will not be a successful strategy. Organising work has to build to that, taking workers from where they are now to where they need to be incrementally and at the workers’ pace.
It is very difficult for us to see the atrocities being committed in Gaza, and for the nurses and midwives the bombings of hospitals is particularly heart-wrenching, but to outpace the workers will prevent us from being able to organise workers effectively. If we are to stand in solidarity with nurses, midwives, doctors, pregnant women, and children in Gaza, we must be pragmatic. If nurses and midwives can continue the organising that they have been doing that resulted in this vigil, they can build a strong movement in their union and foster the appetite to take larger scale, more disruptive actions that will be even more impactful in creating change for Palestinians.