Saturday, February 14, 2009

Self-Made Woes for Palestinians

The New York Times reported on Palestinians Stop Paying Israeli Hospitals for Gaza and West Bank Patients on April 10, 2009. "Scores of Palestinian patients being treated in Israeli hospitals, a rare bright spot of coexistence here, are being sent home because the Palestinian Authority has stopped paying for their treatment, partly in anger over the war in Gaza."

The rationale?

The Palestinian health minister, Fathi Abu Moghli, said he was examining the entire referral procedure because he was tired of adding to what he called Israel’s “oil well,” meaning the payments for Palestinian patient care. In particular, he said, he had no desire to see the wounded from the Gaza war receive Israeli care.

“We already pay $7 million a month to Israeli hospitals,” he said in a telephone interview. “Since the first day of the Gaza aggression, I said that I will not send to my occupier my injured people in order for him to make propaganda at my expense, and then pay him for it.”

This led me to think of the harm arising from such a decision. I know first hand that Israeli hospitals treat Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and have done so for year. I also know that Arabs from other Middle Eastern countries frequently come to Israel (albeit anonymously) for treatment.

I wrote a letter to the Editor of The New York Times in response to the article. The letter was printed on February 14, 2009. Here's the text:

The Palestinian Authority’s decision to force the removal of Palestinian patients from Israeli hospitals is a sad one.

Israel’s major hospital centers — among them, Rabin Medical Center, Hadassah Hospital and Soroka Medical Center — are on a par with the finest institutions in the United States and provide a quality of care and treatment not found in the West Bank, Egypt or Jordan. They are leaders in robotic surgery, cancer research and treatment, organ transplantation, stem cell research and therapies, and have become world renowned for trauma care.

How is it in the interest of Palestinians to be treated as medically second-class patients by depriving them of the best treatment?

If there is to be coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, what better way to work toward that goal than through the trust created by the bond between doctor, nurse and patient? Given the chance to break down stereotypes held by Palestinians and Israelis about each other, why lose that opportunity?

Stephen M. Flatow
West Orange, N.J., Feb. 10, 2009

The writer is secretary of American Friends of Rabin Medical Center.

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