Monday, September 9, 2013

Israeli Health Care of Palestinians

Once again Israel is coming under attack from a foreign government financed NGO, this time claiming Israel is ignoring its humanitarian obligations with regard to the taking care of the health of the Palestinians.

In spite of the constant calls for Israel’s destruction and the culture of hatred and demonization that permeates Palestinian society at all levels, Israel is, in fact, meeting its humanitarian obligations in respect of the Palestinians, albeit under circumstances fraught with danger.

FACT - Israel Hospitals Took Care of Nearly 220,000 PA Arabs in 2012, including Suhila Abd el-Salam, the sister of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied her husband for treatment in Israel. Her husband was admitted to Bellinson Hospital, in Petach Tikvah, for immediate medical treatment following a serious heart condition. Haniyeh’s sister and her husband requested permission to travel to Israel to receive the necessary medical treatment because Gaza hospitals could not properly treat the condition. This was not the only time that a Gaza resident was treated in Israel.

FACT – in the same WHO report referred to by MAP, published in 2012, there is a description of the coordination and liaison efforts invested by Israel and COGAT to facilitate the entry of Palestinian patients from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. The key data presented in the report show that 91.5% of the applications which were filed, asking for medical treatment in Israel, were ultimately approved, 7.2% are pending security check and only 1.3% of the applications were rejected, demonstrating the importance and urgency ascribed to such applications by Israel.

FACT – there was a 10 percent increase in the number of Palestinian Authority Arabs who received treatment in Israeli hospitals in 2012. The total number of 219,464 patients, 21,270 of them children, includes the companions accompanying the patients in Israel.

FACT - 197,713 patients were treated in Israeli hospitals in 2011

FACT -  144,838 were treated in 2008.

FACT -  COGAT, a military unit which is responsible for implementing the Israeli Government’s policy in Judea and Samaria, stated, “The Civil Administration, through its health department (HDCA), works closely with the Palestinian Ministry of Health to support the medical needs of the Palestinian population throughout Judea and Samaria.” The HDCA manages all issues relating to Israeli-Palestinian healthcare coordination, primarily the transfer of Palestinian patients to hospitals in Israel.

FACT - The HDCA further works to enable professional medical training for Palestinian Authority Arabs by Israel through the encouragement of medical conferences and the training of Palestinian medical staff in Israeli hospitals. Training sessions take place several times a year, initiated by both the HDCA and the Palestinian Authority. In 2012, the Civil Administration paid $560,000 to send PA Arab doctors, nurses, and paramedics for training in Israel.

FACT - The Civil Administration has also set aside a budget to finance critical medical procedures for patients who are not covered by Palestinian or UNRWA health insurance and are not able to pay privately. 

FACT - during 2012, the Civil Administration financed life-saving medical treatments for 20 Palestinian children (marrow transplants, kidney transplants, purchase of a pump for P.N.T., prenatal diagnosis, impaired intestine surgery and baby obstruction) and more medical treatments worth more than 1,500,000 NIS per year.
FACT - in March this year, a 15-year-old boy in Gaza was transported to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot after suffering from severe burns and shrapnel injuries from an alleged rocket launching pad that was set up in Jabalya, a neighborhood in northern Gaza.

FACT - The Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Hanni Abadin, paid an unprecedented visit to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem at the beginning of this past May. Dr. Yuval Weiss, director of the hospital, reported that at any given moment there are some 60 Palestinian Authority medical personnel in training at the hospital. Dr. Abadin thanked Hadassah for the opportunity to visit and for its services, visited Arab children hospitalized at Hadassah and gave them gifts. The Civil Administration Health Department declared that it will continue in 2013 to cooperate closely with their PA counterparts and international organizations in Judea and Samaria to advance healthcare for the benefit of all residents in the region.

Why is it necessary to review all requests for medical treatment?

There is abuse of medical documentation by Palestinians

On several occasions, Gaza Palestinian patients have taken advantage of medical certificates giving them the right to travel to Israeli or West Bank hospitals, to prepare suicide or other attacks. A dossier of these plans has been published on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website in a report dated 20 January 2008 , entitled ‘Abuse of Humanitarian Policy for the Purpose of Terrorist Activity'. For instance:-

•  In June 2005, 21 year old Wafa Al-Biss was arrested at the Erez Crossing point out of Gaza with an explosive belt strapped to her body. She was an outpatient at Israel 's Soroka hospital, whose emergency unit had saved her life some months earlier following serious burns injuries she had suffered in an accident in her kitchen. Al-Biss confessed to planning to bomb the hospital during one of her outpatient appointments – a plan which prompted widespread outrage (see Briefing 146, quoted above)

•  In September 2004 Suhad Aslan, was sent by the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the Gaza Strip to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel , after she required medical treatment in the Al-Muqaddas hospital in Jerusalem . The plan had been for her to rendezvous with the bomb planners at the hospital who would instruct her where to go to carry out the attack. Israeli security personnel arrested her before the attack could be carried out
Such incidents compel the Israeli authorities carefully to check the requests of Palestinian patients seeking to enter Israel for hospital treatment. The bureaucracy and delays that regrettably result are entirely the responsibility of those who abuse the medical treatment route into Israel to plan terrorist attacks.

Israeli shuttle service to Jordan or Egypt for Palestinians denied entry
As a result of the security vetting procedures which Israel has no choice but to apply, 10%of Gaza Palestinians applying for permits to enter Israel have been refused entry (statement by head of COGAT, reported in Jerusalem Post, 1 April 2008 ).

It was also confirmed that all Palestinians who are denied entry into Israel are given the opportunity to take an Israeli shuttle to the Allenby Bridge and cross into Jordan , or else go down to the crossing with Egypt .

World Health Organisation accusations, and Israel 's refutation

In March 2008, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a report which accused Israel of being “inhumane” in its dealings with Gaza Palestinians who wish to enter Israel for medical treatment.

The WHO report was launched by the head of WHO in Gaza who relied upon five case studies of Palestinians allegedly allowed to die by Israel as a result of them being denied access to the country. The head of COGAT, responded the next day by holding a press conference (which was reported in the Jerusalem Post on 1 April 2008) where he demonstrated that all five of the Palestinians allegedly allowed to die had in fact received permits to enter Israel for medical treatment.

Press explained that two of the Palestinians cited by WHO had been treated in Israeli hospitals. The other three never used their permits due to what Press described as “internal Palestinian considerations”.

Why do the Palestinians or Hamas use the health of the citizens as a political tool?
               a) Hamas accused by the Palestinian health ministry of seizing fuel destined
                   for Gaza hospitals
Palestinian policies not only make it harder for Palestinians to access Israeli hospitals, but they even harm Palestinian hospitals. Hamas was recently accused of diverting fuel destined to be delivered to Gaza hospitals. The condemnation was issued not by Israel , but by the Palestinian health ministry :

“Members of Hamas in the Gaza Strip opened fire on Sunday 29 April on fuel trucks that were full of fuel destined for hospitals in the territory….”
(Press release by the Palestinian Health Ministry, and reported by AFP (Agence France Presse), 29 April 2008 )

               b) EU condemnation of Hamas for aggravating the humanitarian situation
The EU recently issued a statement (reported in the Jerusalem Post, 28 April 2008 ) condemning Hamas for its role in worsening the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in Gaza :-

“Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza have their share in aggravating the humanitarian situation, including through carrying out attacks on the crossing points… the EU president condemns such actions, which only lead to further suffering of the population…”

               c) Other Palestinian actions which damage the Palestinians in Gaza
Many other Palestinian actions harm the Palestinians of Gaza, including the cutting off or diversion of fuel supplies from Israel; the smuggling into Gaza of explosives under cover of EU humanitarian relief; and the use of hospitals and school premises in Gazan towns to assemble weapons, and launch missile and other attacks.

d) Hamas Prevents Arabs in Gaza from Medical Treatment in Israel
Hamas punishes Gaza's citizens for its row with Fatah by refusing to allow them to receive medical treatment in Israel.


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