Lurie on Palestinian health care

Lurie on Palestinian health care

The following is a version of khaver J. Zel Lurie’s column, written April 30, for the May 8 issue of the South Florida Jewish Journal:

Many of the patients in Hadassah’s two hospitals in Jerusalem are Palestinians. This is especially true of [the branch at] Mt. Scopus, which acts as a regional hospital for East Jerusalem. After all, one out of five citizens of Israel is an Arab…. [One should add] … the quarter million Palestinians in East Jerusalem who have the status of permanent residents of Israel with all Israeli health benefits.

During my 37 years as editor of the Hadassah Magazine I would visit the Jerusalem hospitals at least once a year. I was struck each year, not only by the Arabs in the waiting rooms, but by the growing number of ultra-Orthodox in their black hats and white shirts with fringes flapping at their sides. In the last municipal election, they elected an ultra-Orthodox mayor.

But my [previous] article … was not about Israeli Arabs and the health benefits that they enjoy, but about the breakdown of the health system in the West Bank and Gaza, with its four million Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel. As the occupying power, Israel has the legal and moral responsibility to maintain the health system in the West Bank and Gaza, as outlined by Dr. Richard Horton, editor of the British Medical Journal. There is also a practical reason. Good health has no frontiers. An epidemic would easily slip across the border despite the separation barrier.

Hadassah also cares for foreign Arabs

Hadassah has the well-deserved reputation of being the finest medical institution in the Middle East. It has cared for Saudi princes and princesses and wealthy Egyptians and Jordanians.

Palestinian hospitals in Nablus and Ramallah are not equipped to handle complicated operations. On past occasions, the Palestinian Authority has found the funds to send a patient to Hadassah. More commonly, the sick Palestinian makes a private deal with Hadassah. [But] When he does, the Israel army does not expedite his transfer to Hadassah. Take what happened at the Etzion District Coordinating Office on April l9. A father from Bethlehem, which is on Jerusalem’s border, had to travel south to Etzion to secure a permit to take his sick daughter to see a Hadassah specialist. He had an appointment for April 19 at 10 o’clock in the morning.

The previous day he took all his documents to Etzion. He was told that one day permits were not issued in advance and that he should return with his daughter early on April 19.

At 7.40 a.m. on April 19, the ‘Machsom Watch’ ladies arrived. They found the windows closed and a distraught father and child. They were told that the soldiers were at a meeting and the windows would not open until 8:30. When the windows opened at 8:30 the Mahsom ladies asked hat the father’s permit be expedited. They received an exceedingly rude reply.

The father from Bethlehem received his permit at 9:40 AM for a 10 o’clock appointment at Hadassah in Jerusalem. I hope that he was not delayed at the Bethlehem/Jerusalem checkpoint, that he did not receive a ticket for speeding, that the Hadassah specialist was able to see his daughter despite her late arrival, and that he was able to help her.

Too bad it’s fiction

“Exiles” by Richard North Patterson is a mystery thriller about a dovish prime minister of Israel who is assassinated by a cabal of Iranian agents and fundamentalist Orthodox settlers.

The plot is absolutely incredible, but it is beautifully written. It was recommended to me as … “the best book on the Israel-Palestine conflict.” It is hardly that. But I could see what attracted him in a speech the fictional prime minister addressed to the Palestinians:

An end to suffocating checkpoints, arbitrary arrests and petty humiliations. A negotiation of fair borders that provide for our security and your prosperity. A program of compensation to the descendants of Palestinian refugees. A dismantling of illegal settlements. An agreement that Jerusalem will be an open city, the capital of both of our nations. An effort to help build an economy that promises your young people something other than a martyr’s grave. And at last a country of your own.

He continued soberly: “I also offer you these truths. That we as Jews accept our share of responsibility for the violence that caused your grandparents to flee…That all of us – Palestinian and Jew – are responsible for who our children become. That it is our common responsibility to prevent them from making our land a common grave… And that you, the Palestinian people, must do your part by rejecting the witches brew of hatred and revenge offered by extremists like Hamas.”

Too bad, it’s all fiction. No Israeli prime minister is likely to match Israeli security with Palestinian aspirations and prosperity. Yitzhak Rabin was leaning toward peace … and he was assassinated by an Orthodox fanatic.

By | 2007-05-04T05:31:00-04:00 May 4th, 2007|Blog|0 Comments

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