The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been raging since the end of WWII and continues to be a thorny issue all over the world.
Dr. Fidaa Wishah recently found that out the hard way. She was just fired from her job at Phoenix Children’s Hospital of Arizona after making derogatory statements about Israel on Twitter. Some say the facility made the right decision by standing up to anti-Semitism, but Wishah’s supporters say she was fired for only sharing an unpopular opinion.
Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic government in control of the Gaza Strip, agreed to a cease-fire after 11 days of fighting back in May. The conflict was one of the worst in recent history. Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip with rockets, destroying tunnels used by Hamas’s militants. The fighting left 58,000 Palestinians displaced with dozens of buildings destroyed. Hundreds of people died during the unrest, including 230 Palestinians, 65 of which were children, and 12 Israelis.
The World Health Organization says at least 18 hospitals were damaged or destroyed in Palestine, including a prominent COVID-19 testing lab in the Gaza Strip, depriving hundreds of thousands of people of medical care.
The conflict elicited sympathy for the Palestinians around the world. While America has always been a fierce ally of Israel, more Americans are starting to recognize the struggles the Palestinians continue to face after decades of infighting.
A recent World Affairs poll shows while most Americans still have a favorable opinion of Israel, support for the Palestinians is on the rise.
That brings us to Dr. Fidaa Wishah, who used to work in radiology at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. On May 26th, she wrote on Facebook, “We will uncover your thirst to kill our Palestinian children…We sense your fear. The fear of your collapse. A state based on atrocity, inhumanity, racism and cannibalism never lasts long! Hey #israel … your end is coming sooner than you think.” She added that the Palestinians would “expose the #massacre and #genocide you #zionists are proud of.”
Cindy Saltzman, publisher of Arizona Jewish Life magazine, was one of the first to reach out to the hospital with her concerns, describing the post as anti-Semitic.
“If you swap out any other ethnic group or country, I think people will understand why it is so offensive,” Saltzman said of Wishah’s post, while adding that she would’ve shared her concerns even if the post was about a group that she’s not a part of.
The hospital responded on Twitter by saying that all the children in its care “receive hope, healing and the best possible health care, regardless of race, color, disability, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or national origin.”
The facility also commented on the state of Wishah’s employment, “After a thorough review of the facts related to this matter, this individual is no longer providing care at Phoenix Children’s.”
Before the facility made its announcement, Wishah said she had been placed on leave because of her social media posts and that she was being censored by “Zionists and Israelis who have concerns about me treating their kids differently.”
Records show that Wishah’s father was Jaber Wishah, the former leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist group. Jaber Wishah was convicted and sentenced by Israel to life in prison for attempting to kill a member of the Israel Defense Forces and planting a bomb.
Suing for Reinstatement
Azza Abuseif, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Arizona (CAIR), says the group, along with several other law firms, are representing Wishah in a wrongful termination case against the hospital.
“Her post on her personal Facebook page, while critical of the Israeli government, has intentionally been taken out of context to portray Dr. Wishah as anti-Semitic rather than what she has been known as her entire career, a civil rights advocate,” Abuseif said.
He also mentioned that Wishah has been a respected doctor since 2010 and that she’s spent the “vast majority” of her career as a pediatric physician.
“Despite caring for thousands of children, many of whom are Jewish, she has never been accused of discriminating against any of her patients or colleagues,” Abuseif said.
He also added that Wishah personally knows some of those that died or have been displaced during the latest Israel-Palestinian conflict and that she “understandably felt compelled to speak out against those same atrocities”.
“Dr. Wishah has not, and is not, calling for the end of the State of Israel,” Abuseif said. “She is calling for the Israeli government to change its brutal treatment of the Palestinian people. She believes that all Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in dignity, in peace, and free from oppression.”
He went on to condemn the hospital’s decision to fire Wishah as a “shameful and an attack on freedom of speech for all Americans.”
Saltzman, however, disagrees. She doesn’t see this as an issue of free speech. “I don’t think any minority or human being should have to be attacked in this way,” she said, referring to Wishah’s posts. “We’re appreciative they took action and investigated.”
State Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, also thanked the hospital for taking care of the issue by firing Wishah. She called Wishah’s posts “very despicable behavior from someone who takes the oath to help ALL,” and said, “I know I’m not the only one worried.”