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‘Why do the sick people have to pay the price of political conflict?’: East Jerusalem hospitals respond to US funding cuts

Israel/Palestine
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The Palestinian Authority has allegedly pledged to remedy the budget deficit caused by the Trump administration’s announcement on Saturday that it would be cutting $25 million in aid to Palestinian hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem.

In a press conference on Monday, the Secretary General of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network Walid Namur told journalists that he received a call on Monday from the Palestinian Minister of Health saying that President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered $25 million from the PA’s general budget to go towards the hospital network.

“At the end of every tunnel, there is light. We saw that light today,” Namur told the crowd as he spoke of Monday’s phone call.

“This is very good news for us because it means we can continue serving our patients, and we can continue essential services that are otherwise unavailable in Gaza or the West Bank,” he said.

The $25 million budget, which is transferred from the US through USAID to five hospitals in East Jerusalem, was passed by congress for the current year as part of the country’s foreign aid budget.

Despite reported heavy lobbying by Christian groups in the US who support some of the affected hospitals, the administration moved forward with the cuts, saying the money would be put towards other “high priority projects” — a claim that the administration has made when announcing several devastating budget cuts to Palestinian agencies over the past months.

In the past, the funding has been put towards covering the costs of treatment for Palestinian patients who come from the occupied West Bank and Gaza for life saving treatments that are only available at the East Jerusalem hospitals.

Despite the promises of the PA to relieve the deficit cause by the US cuts, Namur said on Monday that the situation for the hospitals, which have been tangled in financial crises for years, is from from being on the safe side.

“Overall, the US decision puts the health of 5 million Palestinians at risk,” Namur said.

“This decision will create potentially catastrophic problems at the hospital, and will cause delays in lifesaving and other urgent treatments that are available to Palestinians only through the East Jerusalem Hospital Network.”

Namur went on to call on international donors to alleviate the financial crisis afflicting the hospitals, telling journalists that the network is working on plans to increase donor funding from outside the US.

“We ask the American government, why do the sick people in the hospital have to pay the price of political conflict?” Namur said, “we are humanitarian organizations and hospitals, and should be left out of political problems. We serve to treat sick people.”

The funding cuts to the hospitals drew heavy criticism from Palestinian officials, who have amped up their criticisms of the US government in recent months for what they call the Trump administration’s “political blackmail” of the Palestinians for refusing to engage in a US-led “peace process.”

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee member of the PLO released a statement saying the move “goes against the norms of human decency and morality.”

“The United States administration is threatening to cause serious instability and grave harm to thousands of Palestinian patients and their families from across the West Bank and Gaza Strip and hurting the livelihood of thousands of workers in the Palestinian healthcare sector in the occupied city,” she said.

Over the past year, particularly in recent months, the Trump administration has dealt a series of devastating blows to the Palestinian government, Palestinian refugees, and the agencies that support them.

The latest punitive measures taken by the Trump administration against the Palestinians saw the PLO office in Washington, DC, shuttered on Monday.

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About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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6 Responses

  1. Bennorius
    Bennorius
    September 11, 2018, 2:12 pm

    To stop funding services for the poorest and the most vulnerable, like ill people, who cannot afford to pay for cancer treatment, illustrates how inhumane and ignorant Trump and his administration is.

    As a medical professional I have witnessed first hand the vital role that UNRWA and the East Jerusalem hospitals (Makassed, Augusta Victoria, St John’s Eye Hospital) play in the lives of the Palestinian people. The cruelty of Trump and his team will not be forgotten. The stain of shame that marks them, will never wash.

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      September 11, 2018, 2:41 pm

      It also says a lot about the cruelty of the Israeli lobby. A lot of people think Israel has Jewish values but it doesn’t.
      What is really striking about Israel is that it gets others to pay for social services for the weakest sectors of East Jerusalem society. This does not happen in West Jerusalem. The city is not united. It is systematically divided.

      • prmargolis
        prmargolis
        September 11, 2018, 4:38 pm

        Last year, 180,000 Palestinian citizens entered Israel to receive treatment. I think this counts as “Jewish values.” https://www.standwithus.com/news/article.asp?id=1671

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        September 11, 2018, 11:57 pm

        The decent hospitals are all over in West Jerusalem , habibi. Same Zionist crap as everything else.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        September 12, 2018, 2:46 am

        “A lot of people think Israel has Jewish values but it doesn’t.”

        What are they, and who does have them?

      • Keith
        Keith
        September 12, 2018, 9:25 am

        ROHA- “What are they, and who does have them?”

        A strong case can be made that Israel as a Jewish state and Diaspora Zionist Jews reflect contemporary Jewish values which are similar to Classical (medieval) Jewish values. Likewise, the British and American empires could be said to reflect real world Christian values. After all, actions speak louder than words.

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