Does Israel Violate Palestinian Health Rights as Claimed Today by the WHO?

Today’s meeting of the 73rd World Health Assembly, in numerous speeches, a resolution and a report, singled out Israel alone as an alleged violator of Palestinian health rights. As shown below, this accusation is false.

Despite the conflict, Israel has granted entry to tens of thousands of Palestinians who received top-level medical care at Israeli hospitals. Medical coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority dates back to 1995. According to statistics from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), in 2018 West Bank Palestinians received more than 20,000 permits for treatment in Israel.[1] A Knesset report published in 2017 found that from 2011 to 2015 more than 42,000 Palestinians had received medical treatment in Israel, with the numbers receiving treatment increasing by 37% during those years.[2]

Notably, Israel has continued to grant entry to residents of Gaza and the West Bank seeking medical treatment despite numerous cases where Palestinians abused the permits for terrorist purposes. In May 2019, Hamas operative Fadi Abu al-Subh entered Israel on a medical permit, intending to team up with other Hamas operatives and plan terrorist operations.[3] Prior to that, two sisters from Gaza, one of whom needed cancer treatment in Israel, took advantage of the medical permits to attempt to smuggle explosives into Israel using tubes labeled for medication.[4] There have been numerous other such cases.[5]

Contrary to what was said today at the World Health Assembly, Palestinians who have received treatment in Israel acknowledge the care they received. For example, a 2015 report by the Associated Press, “Palestinian patients find help in Israeli hospital,” told of Gaza brother and sister Ahmed and Hadeel Hamdan, teenagers who spend 12 hours a day connected to dialysis machines. “These contraptions — and their hopes for a better life — come from a surprising source: an Israeli hospital.” The teenagers were regular guests at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa since July 2012. “The hospital would not let them go back to Gaza until Hadeel was able to walk again after being incapacitated for a month,” reported AP. “I thank them very much because they exerted tireless effort, especially with the girl,” their mother, Manal, said.[6]

In another case, Palestinian teen Yusef Rabaya, who was bedridden and unable to stand due to a spinal deformity, received complex reconstructive surgery at Hadassah Hospital. His father praised the medical team “who saved my son.”[7] Palestinian writer Kamell Husseini, whose mother was a cancer patient at Hadassah hospital for many years wrote: “At Hadassah Hospital, cancer patients from Palestine and Israel still treat each other with humanity and respect, despite all of their differences.” He added: “I never felt discriminated against in my dealings with the Jewish doctors and nurses.”[8]

Despite this long history of cooperation that has benefited tens of thousands of Palestinians, in March 2019 the Palestinian Authority announced that it would cease medical referrals to Israeli hospitals, for political reasons. PA Health spokesperson Osama al-Najjar said this was a response to Israel’s decision to deduct $138 million (the amount the Palestinian Authority paid to terrorists in 2018) from tax revenues it collects for the PA. Therefore it is the PA, not Israel, that is currently obstructing Palestinians from receiving life-saving medical treatment in Israel. “These are young children who are dying,” said Dr. Raz Somech, director of pediatrics at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. “They desire treatment…and we are happy to give it. They must come.”[9]

Israel also coordinates with Palestinian medical professionals to provide training and assistance. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Israel transferred medical equipment and Israeli teams trained dozens of Palestinian doctors, nurses and medical personnel from Gaza.[10] Trainings took place at the Erez Border crossing, at Barzilai Medical Center in the Israeli city of Ashkelon and through conference calls. The training at the Erez Border crossing also included Palestinian doctors from the West Bank.[11] In January 2020, a group of nurses from the West Bank and Gaza completed a four-day medical simulation course at Sheba Medical Center. Since 2009, 150 Palestinian health professionals have completed these medical courses in this Israeli center.[12] Similarly, in September 2019, Assuta Hospital in Ashdod hosted a joint Israeli-Palestinian medical training to perform tracheotomies on small children in babies.[13] In some cases, Israeli doctors go to the Palestinian territories to treat patients. For example, Dr. Iyad Khamaysi of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, has visited Gaza to treat patients, train physicians and deliver medical equipment.[14]

 


 

[1] Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, Palestinians get more medical treatment permits in Israel in 2018 – report, Jerusalem Post (Feb. 12, 2019), https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/palestinians-get-more-medical-treatment-permits-in-israel-in-2018-report-580440.

[2] Data on Medical Treatment to Palestinians in Israeli hospitals, Knesset Research and Information Center (Jan. 2, 2017), https://fs.knesset.gov.il/globaldocs/MMM/302ae8cf-a7b3-e511-80d0-00155d0acb9e/2_302ae8cf-a7b3-e511-80d0-00155d0acb9e_11_10394.pdf.

[3] Gazan Operative of Hamas Received Medical Permits but Exploited Them for Terrorist Purposes, COGAT (July 3, 2019), https://www.gov.il/en/departments/news/hamas-operative-arrested-eng-060319.

[4] Judah Ari Gross, Gazan sisters accused of smuggling explosives as cancer medicine, Times of Israel (April 19, 2017), https://www.timesofisrael.com/gazan-sisters-accused-of-smuggling-explosives-in-cancer-medicine/#gs.gxhchs.

[5] Exploiting Israel’s humanitarian policies for terror activities, Israeli Security Agency, https://www.shabak.gov.il/SiteCollectionImages/english/TerrorInfo/%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%9C-%D7%9E%D7%93%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%98%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%90%D7%A0%D7%92%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%AA.pdf#page=4.

[6] Fares Akram, Palestinian patients find help in Israeli hospital, Associated Press (May 19, 2015), https://apnews.com/7d40f9aa5ce54e41a4fa555793f24ca1.

[7] Brian Blum, Israeli surgeon enables Palestinian teen to stand again, Israel 21c (Jan. 9, 2018), https://www.israel21c.org/israeli-surgeon-enables-palestinian-teen-to-stand-again/.

[8] Kamel Husseini, The Hadassah Model, Ynet (Nov. 12, 2011), https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4159504,00.html.

[9] Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, ‘Palestinian infants and children are dying,’ Jerusalem Post (Aug. 16, 2019), https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/palestinian-infants-and-children-are-dying-598771.

[10] Amid coronavirus pandemic, Gaza medics trained by Israeli teams – report, Times of Israel (April 11, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/amid-coronavirus-pandemic-gaza-medics-trained-by-israeli-teams-report/#gs.gxl9ej; Israelis and Palestinians Fight COVID-19 Together, IDF (July 8, 2020), https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/idfs-response-to-covid-19/israelis-and-palestinians-fight-covid-19-together/.

[11] Entsar Abu Jahal, Hamas quietly allows Gaza doctors to get COVID-19 training in Israel, AL-Monitor (April 26, 2020), https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/04/gaza-doctors-coronavirus-training-israel-ramallah.html.

[12] Adam Rasgon, Palestinian nurses from West Bank and Gaza hone their skills at Israeli hospitals, Times of Israel (Jan. 2, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-nurses-hone-their-skills-at-israeli-medical-institution/#gs.gxlovf.

[13] First Israeli-Palestinian Medical Conference of its Kind Held at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, COGAT (March 19, 2020), https://www.gov.il/en/departments/news/medicalconferenceinashdod260919.

[14] Sara Toth Stub, Crossing the Gaza Border for Care, US News and World Report (May 17, 2018), https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-05-17/medical-missions-to-gaza-reveal-collaboration-between-israelis-palestinians.

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