Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Israel Blocks Medical Care for Gazans

Time Magazine published a story on the medical crisis unfolding in Gaza:

For the Palestinians, Erez is a chokepoint where only a lucky few can exit from Gaza, usually for medical emergencies. Bassam al-Wahedi, 26, a tall, soft-spoken journalist, was one of them. He had gone blind in one eye because of a retinal illness, and surgery at a Jerusalem hospital was his only hope of regaining sight in that eye. Since Gaza is denied all but basic humanitarian needs under an international boycott of Hamas, many complicated surgeries are no longer done there.

His eye bandaged, al-Wahedi set off through the innards of Erez's security maze. He fumbled along tunnels, steel doors that opened and slammed as he passed along, entered a strange cylinder that fired a whoosh of air at him before he finally reached a large hall with an Israeli soldier sitting inside a bulletproof glass booth. Al-Wahedi showed his permit, explaining that he was due in surgery at 3:30 pm that afternoon.

Next, says al Wahedi, three plainclothed Israelis with pistols and walkie-talkies led him past cages with growling dogs to a room where he was strip searched and interrogated by a man who identified himself as a captain in Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency. Al-Wahedi claims that his interrogator told him in fluent Arabic: "We want you to work for us." When al-Wahedi protested, saying he had nothing to do with the militants, the Shin Bet officer allegedly replied: "We issue the [medical] permits and we can cancel them. If you don't get operated on, you'll lose your sight. What good will you be?"

Read all of Time's article on Israel's barriers to Palestinian health care here >