Senior Palestinian official with Covid-19 treated at Israeli hospital, despite a recent ban on “regular” Palestinians being treated in Israel

October 20, 2020 • 11:15 am

You may not know this, but Palestinians regularly seek and get medical treatment in Israeli hospitals, and are rarely refused entry into Israel for that.  For a Palestinian to avail themselves of the world-class health care available in Israel, they have to meet three conditions:

  1. The illness cannot be treated in one of the several Palestinian hospitals. This means that care is sought largely by those with cancer, eye diseases, and heart diseases, as well as organ failure.
  2. The patient must get permission from the Palestinian Authority to go to Israel for treatment.
  3. Israel must determine that the patient or those accompanying him/her are not a danger to Israel, i.e., they cannot be terrorists or be suspected of meeting with underground terrorists in Israel. This denial happens rarely. In fact, several years ago, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the terrorist organization Hamas, had his daughter treated for a serious condition in Israel. Although Ismail wasn’t allowed to accompany his daughter (Israel allows other relatives to go), she was treated and cured.

This practice has been going on even before Israel was a country, with the Jews treating their enemies. And, in fact, there is a lot of cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli doctors, with Palestinians training in Israeli hospitals and the two classes of doctors often becoming personal friends. (Would that this would extend to the groups as a whole!)

Now why does Israel do this, despite being characterized as an apartheid state? After all, it doesn’t have to treat Palestinians. Well, there are several possible reasons for this, and I don’t know which one is right; it’s probably a combination of these factors:

  1. It is part of the Jewish ethos to help those in need.
  2. It buys goodwill from the Palestinians, perhaps so negotiations can proceed. (I doubt that this is a major reason, since Palestine or treated leaders have never expressed gratitude for this care, nor has the principal in the present case (see below).
  3. It buys goodwill from the world. This may be a motive, but of course much of the world dislikes Israel no matter what Israelis do, and would not give the country credit for this medical policy. (Even Israel’s pro-gay policies are written off as “pinkwashing”: making Israel look good to the world.)
  4. It brings money to Israeli hospitals. The Palestinian Authority is charged for the medical care of Palestinians. While individuals don’t pay, Israel deducts the medical fees from the taxes it collects at ports for Palestine (the taxes are duties on goods imported into Palestine through Israel, and which Israel gives to Palestine).

I can’t tell you why this happens, but it certainly doesn’t paint Israel as a demonic state in this respect, even though there’s a common and false rumor in Palestine that Israelis harvest organs from dead Palestinians to transplant into rich Israelis (this is the modern version of the “blood libel“).

Since 1995, thousands of Palestinians have gone to Israeli hospitals for treatment. (In 2019, 20,000 permits were granted for this.) Then, this year, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of Palestine, stopped all this traffic. Why? He was angry because Israel began deducting from the money it transferred to Palestine the amount of money that Palestine budgets to reward the families to jailed terrorists in Israel (a substantial amount: millions of dollars per year in a policy called “pay for slay”. (Some of that money actually comes from the EU.) Another reason, raised later, was Israel’s statement that it was going to put 30% of the Jewish West Bank under Israeli jurisdiction.

Regardless of the reasons, the halting of medical traffic from Palestine to Israel has already led to several Palestinian deaths, including children dying of cancer. To make a political point, Palestine is willing to let its citizens die.

Except when the citizens are bigwigs.

Now, in exception to this policy, the secretary general of the PLO and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is in an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, where he was rushed by ambulance on Sunday suffering from coronavirus. Erekat had pre-existing conditions (a heart attack and a lung transplant—in the U.S.—in 2017). The BBC reports that Erekat is in critical condition, in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.

Like many Palestinian officials, Erekat has a long history of denouncing Israel, and has called it an “apartheid regime worse than that of South Africa.” Yet when he’s in trouble, he chose to be treated at an Israeli hospital—despite the fact that his fellow Palestinians are now denied the opportunity.

Why am I writing this? Though it does show the hypocrisy of Palestinian policy in allowing bigwigs to get world-class medical care while the average Palestinian cannot, I simply wanted to show that Israel will provide good medical care to the representatives of its enemies, and even the daughters of terrorists. You can say this is all for show, and I can’t prove you wrong, but 20,000 patients per year? At least these are not the actions of an “apartheid regime.” Israel is the Rodney Dangerfield of nations: it can’t get no respect.

I close with a quote from the BBC report:

The director of the Hadassah Medical Center, Prof Zeev Rothstein, said on Sunday: “Mr Erekat is receiving top-notch professional care like all serious corona patients at Hadassah, and the staff will do everything to assist his recovery.”

“At Hadassah, we treat every patient as if he were our only patient.”

Sources used in this report, beyond those cited above, are here, here, here, here, and here. Two are Western sources, and the others are Israeli or pro-Israel sources. I’ve tried hard to get the facts right, and will correct any errors I’ve made.

Erekat (photo from the BBC report):

h/t: Malgorzata

18 thoughts on “Senior Palestinian official with Covid-19 treated at Israeli hospital, despite a recent ban on “regular” Palestinians being treated in Israel

  1. “Even Israel’s pro-gay policies are written off as “pinkwashing”: making Israel look good to the world…”

    And their democracy, which allows representatives of all religions and ethnicities, is just “democracy-washing.” And their tolerance of all faiths and atheists and sexual orientations (rather than murdering apostates and anyone who isn’t heterosexual) is just “tolerance-washing.” Etc.

    “…there’s a common and false rumor in Palestine that Israelis harvest organs from dead Palestinians to transplant into rich Israelis…”

    Oh, this isn’t just a rumor in Palestine. One of my college professors stated this (among many other lies about Israel) as fact in my class with him. And it’s a rumor that I’ve seen in woke circles many times.

    It doesn’t matter what Israel does. The good things won’t be reported on, the bad will, the neutral will be slanted or lied about to make Israel look bad, and conspiracy theories will continue unabated. That’s just the way things are and, for some reason, this treatment seems to be exclusive to the world’s only safe haven for Jews.

  2. Of course this is not applicable to the State of Israel, but medical Drs are inclined to treat anybody in need.
    Eg. a doctor will treat gangsters, rapists and other criminals to the best of their ability. It is essential to the medical profession, I’d think. You never judge, but you treat the patient. Obviously, Israeli doctors are not different there.

    1. Except that the Israelis have a policy to bring people from outside their country in for medical treatment, and the government pays. And some of those people are relatives of terrorists and Israel’s enemies. I’m not sure this is the norm.

      1. I was talking about the inclination of medical doctors, which would reinforce reason 1.
        But yes, that is quite extraordinary. The government pays, although I understood from your post that they deduce it via the taxes the Palestine Authority levies.
        At any rate, I think such things happen only in very special cases, and then generally sponsored by NGO’s. The State of Israel supporting that is great, probably unique.
        I think the first three motivations are the most important.

        1. Yes, it was the norm until Palestinian Authority stopped it. Every Palestinian, both from Gaza and Judea and Samaria [called West Bank since 1950) who couldn’t be treated in Palestinian hospitals, and who got permission from Palestinian authorities, was admitted to Israeli hospitals. There were thousands upon thousands such patients (BTW, sometimes Palestinian authorities, especially Hamas, had to be bribed to give their permission). This never stopped even during Israeli fights with Gaza.

          There are Israeli NGO’s who are helping with transport of Palestinian patients from the border to the hospital. This didn’t stop even when one of the patients—who was supposed to visit an Israeli hospital for a check-up after the treatment—was discovered being outfitted in a suicide vest to detonate inside the hospital, which saved her life. Nor after a sister of a cancer patient who was accompanying her was discovered transporting explosives to a Hamas cell inside Israel. Nor after the father of a child with cancer who accompanied his sick child was discovered with many thousands of dollars for a Hamas terrorist cell inside Israel. Nor after some other similar incidents.

          Moreover, there is an Israeli NGO, “Save a Child’s Heart” which brings to Israel children with congenital heart diseases from all Arab countries and from Africa (of course, Palestinians as well) and operating on these children free of charge. It’s a long-standing action. Recently they operated on a baby who was a daughter of an African woman they operated on when the woman was a baby.

  3. You left out one other motivation Israel might have for aiding their enemy. Simple humanitarianism unrelated to religion. It’s the reason I would do similar work so I assume it is a widespread trait.

  4. It buys goodwill from the world.

    Unlikely. This was the first I’d ever heard of it and I’m a member of “the World”. You can’t buy goodwill if people don’t know about your good deeds.

    Why does there have to be a “reason” for their behaviour at all? Could it not just be that Israelis are human beings and it is a natural instinct of most humans to help people in need (as long as it doesn’t conflict with their own self interest).

  5. It seems to me that the same cognitive motivation for the “stealing Palestinian body parts” would be behind the ” why the hell should we thank you for this service”. That is to say, from the Palestinian POV, we paid for the hospital with the taxes the Israelis skim off from what is rightfully ours. That ‘miss the facts’ thinking is bad enough in countries that have nowhere near the history of conflict. This is as usual, pure conjecture on my part.
    And the obvious and a paradox, as a Palestinian, it’s not good for your health to be praising the Israelis.

  6. Treating non-Israelis happens also in different circumstances. In particular, the Galilee Medical Center has been treating Lebanese patients (while the border was open) and has had a program of treating victims of the Syrian civil war that can reach the Israeli border. They have treated civilians and soldiers, and have been going to great lengths to make sure their patients do not have Israeli products when returning to their country (for example, they purchased Egyptian crutches.)

    There is no need to try to second guess good deeds…. One can just hope that moral behavior becomes contagious and inspiring.

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