No right to health: Abu Musa Jahalin’s story

Smuggled into Jerusalem so he could seek medical treatment, a hospital security guard tried to evict Abu Musa.

As Israel continues its harsh sanctions in the occupied Palestinian territories (Opt), including the boycott of Hamas and withholding of Palestinian tax monies, it also denies responsibility for those under its occupation. This criminal negligence under the Geneva Convention is all too obvious. Take the hospitals. Take Abu Musa Jahalin. Take today at Hadassah Mount Scopus Emergency Room. It was chaos.

The doctors aren’t coping. They can’t cope. They’re turning away people who don’t have money for treatment (most Palestinians don’t have work or income by now). They’re turning them away, sometimes to die. This is against the Hippocratic Oath: “Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice. I will keep them from harm and injustice. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.” Oh, pity the doctors of Hadassah Mount Scopus and Hadassah Ein Karem. More and more of them are volunteering on days off as volunteers with Physicians for Human Rights in the OPT. Putting fingers in dykes to stop the flood. Putting out small fires, as pyromaniacs run around with flamethrowers setting forests ablaze.

Abu Musa had to go back to his shack, under threat of demolition and ethnic transfer by the Wall and army (the very un-Civil Administration!), to find 20,000 shekels for treatment. If he does, he can go back and try to save his leg and life. Then he can start saving $15,000 for a back operation he hasn’t been able to afford for the past two years, without which he won’t get back on his legs — if one hasn’t had to be amputated by then. He’s only 52. His heart is starting to go. Wouldn’t yours?

Yet again, innocent civilians are caught up in megapolitics. Jimmy Carter, who knows the situation better than most and is the only person to have brokered an Arab-Israeli peace, says Israel’s current policy in the territories is “a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights.” In a separate passage in his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the former president says “Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.” Carter also aims at the “pro-Israel” lobby: “Because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned.”

Writing in The Forward, Jennifer Siegel quotes Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat leading House Democrat efforts to woo Jewish voters and donors. “The reason for the Palestinian plight is the Palestinians. Their leadership has no regard for the quality of life for their people and no capability of providing security or enforcing peace, and they have no one to blame but themselves,” he insists. Explain this to Abu Musa and look him in the eyes with his death sentence.

Abu Musa’s injuries stem from a severe beating at the hands of Israeli border police as they destroyed the housing of Abu Musa’s bedouin community.

Abu Musa was told long ago by an Israeli professor that he needed an operation on his back. He was badly beaten by Israeli Border Police, when homes - tin and cardboard shacks — were bulldozed on his hillside. Those shattered places in his body are returning now to haunt him. He hasn’t walked for months. All muscles in his legs have gone. He’s down to 36 kilos, a wasted shell. The wounds are going septic; amputation is a possibility. Not having money to stay in the emergency room, now he’s in sleepless pain in the tin hut on the hill. Makassed, a Palestinian hospital in Jerusalem, is so de-developed, so dried up, they say it’s dangerous.

Abu Musa is mukhtar (leader) of a group of Negev refugees dumped in the West Bank by Israel in the ’50s, when they were driven off their own land. As a West Bank ID holder, he can’t go home and certainly can’t be free in any way, even though freedom for Bedouin is their most sacred value. He can’t even go into nearby Jerusalem, to pray or work or seek a doctor or a hospital — an Israeli smuggled him in this time (a hospital security guard tried to evict him). Settlement expansion pushes his people into ever tighter ghettoes. The Wall slices through the area; a huge new police base occupies the next hill.

If we can’t raise the shekels Israel should be responsible for, as occupying power, thoughts of Abu Musa’s future are pure theory. And as for global warming warnings, they imply a need for specialists in desert survival, so a day will probably come when we’ll regret this folly of shortsightedness, as we deculture indigenous people and “civilize” them.

Please help.

Angela Godfrey-Goldstein is Action Advocacy Officer for The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an Israeli peace organisation.

Please email to help Abu Musa pay for his necessary treatment.