New Israeli restrictions target Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem

Palestinian women wait at the Qalandiya checkpoint, September 2008. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)

As of Sunday, 2 November 2008, new Israeli army guidelines are in force, requiring Palestinian medical personnel from the West Bank who work in Jerusalem hospitals to come in only through the Qalandiya checkpoint in Ramallah. Medical personnel from the West Bank are prohibited from coming to work through other checkpoints, even if these are closer to where they live.

Since 2 November, many medical personnel who have been prevented by military authorities from going to work have contacted Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society. On Tuesday, 4 November, about 100 Palestinian medical personnel held a demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint to protest the new restrictions.

Requiring the estimated hundreds of Palestinian medical personnel to come to work via the Qalandiya checkpoint forces them to go through many checkpoints inside the West Bank, spend many hours on the road and waiting in long lines at Qalandiya, which is more crowded than any checkpoint in the West Bank. This, despite the fact that they carry documents authorizing them to travel to their workplaces.

Not only does this new regulation disrupt the schedules of these medical personnel, it delays them and makes them late for work, and it also disrupts the orderly operation of the hospitals in which they are employed, rather than making it easier for this segment of the work force that needs accessible, fast and unrestricted passage through the checkpoints.

This restriction is a part of the ongoing Israeli policy intended to weaken the connection between Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem and the population of the West Bank, in an attempt to harm their special status as Palestinian institutions operating in Jerusalem. Using bureaucratic methods and/or “security” arguments for political purposes is an attempt to deceive everyone involved as well as the international community, and in fact represents a change in the status quo in Jerusalem that Israel has committed itself to preserve.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society demand that this restriction be lifted immediately, and calls upon the Israeli medical community, and the international medical community, to intervene now in order to protect the right of Palestinian medical personnel to travel freely for their work.

This press release, which was released on 6 November 2008, has been edited for clarity.

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