On February 27, The Globe and Mail published a lengthy article on its front page entitled: “In Gaza’s cancer wards, political gridlock stymies the health system caring for Palestinians,” highlighting the suffering that Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and those who are battling cancer, endure.
Written by International Correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe, the article sheds light on the complications that cancer patients in the Gaza Strip face when trying to navigate their poor healthcare system and the complex relations between Hamas, the terrorist group which rules Gaza, and Israel, where those seeking treatment are often sent.
VanderKlippe’s piece began with the case of 51-year-old Eyyad Abu Jalalah, suffering from prostate cancer, who has attempted to seek treatment in Israel, but has been unsuccessful due to cited security concerns, and as VanderKlippe writes, “is among the hundreds of Palestinians caught between metastasizing cells and rigid politics.”
The solution, however, is not so simple. As VanderKlippe acknowledges, Gaza is run by Hamas, and Israel thus possesses legitimate security concerns regarding Gazans who claim to enter Israel for treatment, but who do so for nefarious purposes. As this article notes, last year, Ahmad Abu al-Nour was arrested by Israeli intelligence and was accused of entering Israel on a medical pass, but in reality journeyed to Israel to scout new recruits for Hamas.
For some critics, the culprit is obvious: Israel.
VanderKlippe quotes the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which recently called on Israel to “immediately and unconditionally lift its closure and blockage of the Gaza Strip, which is the main obstacle to Palestinian patients’ access to medical care outside the Gaza Strip.”
But to place the blame entirely at Israel’s feet for the trials of everyday Palestinians suffering due to the lack of medical resources is a ridiculous oversimplification, in part because Israel already accepts a majority of Gazans who request a medical permit.
As pointed out by the World Health Organization (WHO) in July 2022, nearly two-thirds of Gaza patient permit applications were approved.
Clearly, the primary obstacle standing between Palestinians suffering from cancer and better treatment is not Israel, but the Hamas government in Gaza.
Since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 following a violent armed conflict with Fatah, another Palestinian faction tied to the Palestinian Authority, the Islamist group has ruled the small coastal enclave with an iron fist.
Hamas has also repeatedly used the strip as a launching pad for firing rockets at civilian targets in Israel, kicking off a number of armed conflicts between the group and the Jewish State. During war, Hamas intentionally places military targets inside densely-populated civilian areas, purposely situating its own population in harm’s way. A quick reminder: Hamas also regularly refuses Israeli medical aid.
Grotesquely, Hamas fighters have been seen on video jumping into ambulances with Palestinian children inside, using them as human shields and Palestinian hospitals have been used to store weapons, house terrorists and have been used as staging grounds and intelligence headquarters for launching attacks against Israel.
The international community has provided billions of dollars in international aid to Gaza in recent years which pays for Gaza’s infrastructure, hospitals and schools, but which also gets misdirected to Hamas and funds its terrorist activities. But that’s not the only source of revenue for the terror group; in 2022, an employee for the charity World Vision, was charged by Israeli officials for allegedly diverting tens of millions of dollars in donations to Hamas.
Despite receiving immense international aid, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have shown little interest in improving the lives of their people, and an obsessive focus on waging armed conflict with Israel. Hamas has launched attacks on Israel throughout its 16 years of rule, most recently in 2021, when it fired more than four thousand rockets into the Jewish State. Nearly 700 of these rockets fell short of their targets, falling into the Gaza Strip, maiming and slaughtering scores of Gazans.
While Israel accepts the large majority of medical permits for Gazans seeking treatment in Israel, there remain significant and potentially deadly threats emanating from Hamas. The biggest obstacle for Palestinians’ care, therefore, is not Israel, but Hamas, which not only actively provides Israel with the threats which necessitate security precautions, but also actively mismanages its own resources, preferring to direct funds away from the betterment of its own populace, and into funding never-ending conflict with Israel instead.
While VanderKlippe’s article did give some coverage and context to Israel’s security concerns, its limited focus on how Hamas has abused its power may give some readers the false impression that the Islamist terrorist group is not primarily responsible for its own people.
When not encumbered by Hamas’ deadly mission, Israel has repeatedly proven itself dedicated to helping provide medical treatment for others, including Palestinians. Notable examples include Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli charity providing free heart surgery to needy children or how Israeli doctors in northern Israel quietly treated countless Syrian civilians injured in their country’s civil war. Most famously, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, had his daughter admitted to an Israeli hospital for emergency medical treatment after she suffered complications from a routine procedure.
Make no mistake, for Israelis to save a life is like saving the world. Israel has every desire for anyone in Gaza seeking medical care to get the treatment they need, locally or abroad, but to tacitly depict Israel as being malevolent or of showing callous disregard for the plight of sick Palestinians is without foundation.
Furthermore, to pass the buck of responsibility solely on Israel’s doorstep is unwarranted. Aside from Hamas’ responsibility, what role and responsibility do neighbouring Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan have for their Palestinian brethren and what about the role and responsibility of the official representative body of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority? It’s paradoxical that Israel is pressured to vacate Gaza (which it unilaterally did in 2005) but is nonetheless told that it must maintain medical responsibility for Gaza residents.
By providing medical permits to the large majority of Palestinians seeking medical treatment, Israel has shown good faith under very difficult and dangerous circumstances. But for pressure to be put on Hamas to help its people receive adequate medical care, the news media must also identify Hamas, and not Israel, as the main culprit standing in the way between Palestinians and the medical treatment that they deserve and require.