Doctors of death

March 9, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Human rights organizations: “The ISA (Shabak) summons sick patients to the Erez Crossing and detains them, preventing them from receiving medical treatment”

In a letter to the head of the Israeli ISA and the Attorney General the organizations list cases of patients who were told they could leave Gaza for medical care only to be arrested and transferred to Israeli detention facilities once at the crossing. “This is an illegitimate practice that takes advantage of the patients’ helplessness and turns medicine into a tool in the service of the security system”

The ISA takes advantage of patients’ helplessness and arrests them on their way to treatment, according to a letter sent today by the human rights organizations Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Adala and Al-Mizan – Center for Human Rights in Gaza. The letter said in at least three cases, two of which occurred recently, patients were arrested at Erez Crossing on their way to medical treatment.

The organizations’ letter to Attorney General Meni Mazuz and Head of ISA Yuval Diskin lists three cases in which patients were arrested and taken to Israeli detention facilities. The organizations demand the ISA stop exploiting the patients’ medical status: “These cases raise the concern that the patients were misled to believe they would be permitted to leave for medical care immediately or after undergoing questioning, but actually, when the patients arrived at the terminal, they were arrested and taken to prison in Israel.”

“There appears to be a deliberate policy of misleading patients while taking advantage of their medical needs, in order to tempt them to come into contact with security officials,” write the organizations in their letter. “We believe if the aforementioned method was indeed used, it constitutes a cynical and immoral exploitation of the medical system, of the patients’ sensitive medical status and of their suffering, in order to conduct arrests and investigations, and it must be stopped immediately.”

The organizations added: “We do not question Israel’s right to conduct security inspections of people who wish to enter it, but we wonder whether in the aforementioned cases this behavior was not part of an inquiry but an intentional act of deceit. This method turns medicine and the medical system into tools in the service of the defense system, by using access to medical care as bait to arrest people, and creating a dependency between the degree of the patient’s cooperation with the security system and his ability to be released from detention and receive access to medical care.”

The organizations demand the ISA immediately stop the detention policy described here in exploitation of the patients’ medical status and stop providing false or misleading information to patients as to the status of their exit applications.
For further information: Anat Litvin, PHR-Israel, 0547-322007,

Background on the three cases:

Ahmad ‘Asfour was invited to the St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem to receive a treatment that does not exist in Gaza. He arrived at the Erez Crossing on November 25, 2009, after his request for an exit permit was approved. When he got to the checkpoint he was arrested and taken to Shikma prison, where he is being held to this day. For two weeks he was prevented from meeting a lawyer and his family was given no information about his condition or the reasons for his arrest.

Mohamed Al-‘Atal was arrested on September 6, 2009 when he arrived for ISA questioning at the Erez Crossing, as part of the process of considering his application to leave for treatment at the St. John Hospital in Jerusalem. When he got to the checkpoint, before being questioned, he was handcuffed and blindfolded by two men in civilian clothes. He was transferred to the Shikma prison and interrogated for 18 days.

Mahmoud Al-Kafarneh, a cancer patient, needs treatments that are not available in Gaza because the Israeli security system does not approve bringing the appropriate machinery into Gaza, and was referred to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. On May 11, 2008 he was told to go to the Erez Crossing for questioning, after which there was a chance he could leave for his treatment. In fact, upon his arrival he was arrested and taken to Shikma prison for 20 days.