Rough time for Israel’s spin doctors

The fantasy offered by COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, so fervently believed in by handshaking and hugging American and European officials, sure seems nice.

Palestinian farmers and Israeli merchants find unity and profit in growing guava with the helping hand of Israel’s euphemistically named Civil Administration, actually a military body. What sweet fruit springs forth from economic peace.

“Our main goal at the Agriculture Unit of the Civil Administration is to support and develop Palestinian agriculture,” Samir Muadi, the head of the unit, claims in a video recently tweeted by COGAT.

A spoonful of propaganda will help the collective punishment go down, COGAT’s social media strategy seems to be.

For every five or so tweets repackaging Israel’s economy-destroying movement restrictions as humanitarian facilitation, one open admission of a war crime or threat against Palestinian protesters’ lives.

“Where babies die alone”

It hasn’t been an easy time for COGAT.

The benevolent mask has been torn off as multiple international publications have reported on the death of a Palestinian child from Gaza who was forced to undergo medical treatment in Jerusalem without the company of either of her parents last month.

Aisha Lulu, 5, had brain cancer and required specialized treatment unavailable in Gaza. None of her relatives were given permission to accompany her to Jerusalem. Aisha eventually made her way with a friend of the family – a stranger to the traumatized little girl.

“Sick Gaza child caught in Israeli permit system dies alone,” an AP headline reads.

“A Jerusalem hospital where Palestinian babies die alone: Israeli blockade on Gaza means parents are separated from critically ill children,” according to The Guardian.

COGAT’s response was that the girl’s parents signed a waiver declining to accompany their daughter. It was “due to their own choice” that their child underwent life-saving treatment alone, treatment that was ultimately unsuccessful, according to COGAT.

Aisha’s parents reject the claim.

“Neither I nor her mother would leave our child alone to be treated somewhere far from us. This [statement] is a lie,” Aisha’s father Wassim told The Electronic Intifada.

The Israeli claim defies logic and relies for whatever credibility it seeks to have on racist stereotypes – a staple of Israeli propaganda – that Palestinian parents don’t care about their children as much as other people do. But what parents anywhere in the world would voluntarily send a seriously ill child to be treated far from home and all alone?

And since when has Israel cared about the well-being of Palestinian children?

Aisha’s is not an isolated case.

Hiba Swailam received permission to travel to Jerusalem “to give birth to gravely ill triplets two months early,” The Guardian reported this week.

The mother’s permit expired, forcing her return to Gaza.

“She was not there when her first child died at nine days old, or two weeks later when her second baby also died. She was informed by phone.”

The condition of one of the babies who died may have been improved by breastfeeding, according to doctors who treated the children.

“Human error” or calculated policy?

COGAT’s explanation for its cruel separation of a mother from her vulnerable newborn babies? “Human error in the application forms,” according to The Guardian.

The military body also blamed Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for the crisis in Gaza’s health sector, which is in fact overwhelmed by a staggering number of catastrophic injuries caused by Israel’s use of military weapons against unarmed demonstrators week after week.

COGAT also boasted that it is “active in the issuance of tens of thousands of permits for patients as well as in the issuance of permits for Palestinian physicians, who receive training at hospitals in Israel.”

But the numbers don’t lie.

The timely approval of patient permits has plummeted from more than 90 percent of applications submitted in 2012 to 61 percent last year, according to World Health Organization figures.

Fewer than half of all patient companion applications were approved in 2018.

Since the beginning of that year, “56 babies from Gaza were separated from their mothers and fathers, six of whom perished without a parent present,” The Guardian reports, citing Al-Makassed hospital in Jerusalem.

And in 2017, the World Health Organization documented that 54 Palestinians died waiting for Israeli permits to leave Gaza for medical treatment.

Most of them were cancer patients.

Families in the West Bank face similar restrictions.

“The separation of children from their families is so common that Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem provide tablets for them to make Skype calls,” The Guardian adds.

Children languish and die alone not because their parents declined to accompany them or because of human error. It’s calculated and cruel Israeli policy.

It’s the reality that COGAT hopes to twist with its social media propaganda.

No one should swallow those lies, especially those in a position to hold Israel to account for its crimes.




"Patients come from #Gaza to receive medical treatment in #Israel every day, but not all of those patients are always human."

COGAT's tweet in abbreviated form fully describes the apartheid regime's attitude toward Palestinians. Anyone who still thinks the BDS campaign is too radical (or even racist) should dwell on the facts presented in this article. These are wanton, deliberate crimes against humanity as an act of national policy. How can such cruelty be justified? A state built on these foundations deserves unstinting opposition. BDS is a principal tool in our struggle for justice. Let's use it daily, in new and creative ways.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.