‘Nurses Against Genocide’ protest ANA’s silence

“ANA your hands are red, 160 nurses dead. Silence is complicity. Our code compels us.” These are some of the chants by four defiant nurses who disrupted the American Nurses Association Member Assembly in Washington D.C., which began June 27. 

Washington, D.C., protest, June 28, 2024. Photo: Nurses Against Genocide

Holding a banner reading, “Nurses Against Genocide,” the nurse activists’ dyed their hands red to symbolize the blood of thousands of Gazan martyrs in the ongoing ethnic cleansing by the rogue settler-colonial state of Israel. They stood before the dais at the assembly and halted proceedings as ANA leadership, including President Jennifer Mensik-Kennedy, sat silently. 

The “160 nurses dead” referred to the nurses murdered in Gaza, along with hundreds of physicians, emergency responders and other health care workers. The Israeli Occupation Forces are responsible for the war crimes that have decimated the health care infrastructure of Gaza. Amid targeted bombing, sniper fire and destruction of valuable equipment and resources, the nurse heroes in Gaza remained with their patients. It cost them their lives. 

Campaigns by Health Care Workers for Palestine, Union Nurses for Palestine and Doctors Against Genocide have called upon the ANA and American Medical Association to end their silence and condemn publicly the atrocities committed by the IOF in Gaza and the West Bank against the Indigenous people of Palestine. 

Solidarity and ANA Code of Ethics

The ANA describes itself as the premier voice for the five million nurses in the U.S. Founded over 100 years ago, it continues to set standards of practice for U.S. nurses and has lobbied elected officials on issues from the Fair Pay Act of 1995 to present-day safe patient-nurse staffing ratios legislation. 

Registered nurses throughout the U.S. commit to the ANA code of ethics, vital to upholding the basic non-negotiable tenets of the nursing profession. This includes a commitment to society as a whole, as stated in the eighth provision of the ANA’s Nursing Code of Ethics, “Nurses should collaborate with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, health and the environment.” 

The International Council of Nurses, of which the ANA is a member, released a statement on the ongoing genocide in Gaza, calling on “all parties to urgently, and of paramount importance, find a way to provide safe access to medical and humanitarian aid and support for all people” and stating, “We are conscious not only of the health care needs of those who are directly affected by the conflict but also the pre-existing and on-going needs of people with long-term conditions.” 

The ANA has endorsed the ICN statement. However, nurses in the U.S. have an obligation to demand more, as the U.S. government is just as guilty of war crimes in Palestine as the state of Israel. It is imperative that nurses’ professional organizations and labor unions use their power to force a sea change in this country’s relationship with the Zionist state of Israel. 

The demonstration at the ANA Member Assembly voiced what many health care workers believe: Platitudes and concern will not stop the war machine. Now is the time for action against the entities that profit from the death and destruction caused by U.S. imperialism. 

Organizing the protest, passing a resolution

One of the organizers who participated in the action said: “We coordinated online from different states. All of us are full-time, working nurses who participate in activism regularly, including staging actions like this one. Not everyone could make it in person, but there were nurses from across the country who helped outline our goals, design and print the banner, develop our statements and decide when and where to stage our demonstration. 

“We couldn’t have done it without them. When we reached the ANA stage, there was only one nurse who stood and clapped in solidarity. That nurse went on to propose the motion that passed by a landslide. There have been nurses reaching out to thank us and say they weren’t brave enough to stand with us, so we really hope that other nurses feel inspired to speak up and follow suit.”

After delivering their message, the nurses left of their own accord, contrary to ANA reports that they were escorted out. As one of the protesting nurses explained: “We finished reading every single point on our list. We never expected to reach the end of the page; so to their [ANA leadership] credit, most of them sat there dumbfounded.”

Following the disruption at the assembly, members voted 80% in favor of a resolution recommending that the ANA Board of Directors “account, at least annually to the membership assembly, the direct and indirect investment streams and lobbying portfolios” and “develop a mechanism and process for ongoing transparency” in investments and lobbying that “prioritizes social justice.” 

The resolution calls for divestment from institutions and organizations that “enforce inequality and violence particularly against Black People and People of Color,” including but not restricted to defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, private prison corporations and detention facilities. 

The revolution against South African apartheid has taught us that draining the coffers of capitalist death machines is effective. Nurses have spoken up, saying that they are ready to begin dismantling the apartheid state of Israel and secure a free Palestine. There is much more to be done, and the bold action of nurse activists demonstrated that when they fight for their ethical professional rights, they win. 

Free Palestine!

Marie Kelly is a Registered Nurse from Pennsylvania with over 40 years as a working RN.

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