Nurse Wins Award, Gets Fired for Gaza Remark in Speech

NYC nurse Hesen Jabr, who was being honored for compassion, called war a genocide
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 30, 2024 4:04 AM CDT
Nurse Fired for Gaza Remark in Award Speech
Health care workers walk in and out of the entrance at NYU-Langone Hospital.   (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)

A nurse was fired by a New York City hospital after she referred to Israel's war in Gaza as a "genocide" during a speech accepting an award. Labor and delivery nurse Hesen Jabr, who is Palestinian American, was being honored by NYU Langone Health for her compassion in caring for mothers who had lost babies when she drew a link between her work and the suffering of mothers in Gaza, the AP reports. "It pains me to see the women from my country going through unimaginable losses themselves during the current genocide in Gaza," Jabr said, according to a video of the May 7 speech that she posted on social media. "This award is deeply personal to me for those reasons."

Jabr wrote on Instagram that she arrived at work on May 22 for her first shift back after receiving the award when she was summoned to a meeting with the hospital's president and vice president of nursing "to discuss how I 'put others at risk' and 'ruined the ceremony' and 'offended people' because a small part of my speech was a tribute towards the grieving mothers in my country." She wrote that after working most of her shift she was "dragged once again to an office" where she was read her termination letter and then escorted out of the building.

A spokesperson for NYU Langone, Steve Ritea, confirmed that Jabr was fired following her speech and said there had been "a previous incident as well." Jabr "was warned in December, following a previous incident, not to bring her views on this divisive and charged issue into the workplace," Ritea said. Jabr defended her speech in an interview with the New York Times and said talking about the war "was so relevant" given the nature of the award she had won. "It was an award for bereavement; it was for grieving mothers," she said.

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Jabr is not the first employee at the hospital, which was renamed from NYU Medical Center after a major donation from Republican Party donor Kenneth Langone, to be fired over comments about the Mideast conflict. A prominent researcher who directed the hospital's cancer center was fired after he posted anti-Hamas political cartoons including caricatures of Arab people. That researcher, biologist Benjamin Neel, has since filed suit against the hospital. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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