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Israel: Hospital fires doctor for giving sweets to wounded Palestinian boy

Rights group calls the dismissal a 'racist, nationalist, and populist witch hunt'
A medical staff member uses a code to exit the coronavirus ward at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, in Jerusalem 31 January 2022 (Reuters)
A medical staff member exits the coronavirus ward at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Jerusalem, 31 January 2022 (Reuters)
By Ameer Makhoul in Haifa, Israel

A Palestinian doctor with Israeli citizenship was fired from his job after he gave sweets to a wounded Palestinian boy in police custody.

The doctor's family told Middle East Eye that the Israeli Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem dismissed Ahmad Mahajna on Sunday, following a weeks-long probe. 

The Tel Aviv-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said the termination was the result of "racist, nationalist, and populist witch hunt".

The probe was launched in late October after medical staff held a party in the hospital and gave leftover refreshments to all the patients in the hospital. 

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Among them was a 16-year-old Palestinian in police custody, who Mahajna and two other hospital staff gave some of the snacks to.

The boy was being treated for wounds he sustained after being shot by the Israeli police for allegedly stabbing an Israeli man in Jerusalem days earlier.  

The officers securing the patient complained to the hospital management who then issued a statement depicting Mahajna as a "terrorist sympathiser" and called him in for a hearing, according to PHR.  

"Letters of support from patients and colleagues, all describing him as a caring and dedicated physician, proved useless," PHR said on Twitter.  

Mahajna was officially dismissed on Sunday. 

'The hospital's conduct is a vile attempt to pacify those demanding the blood of the detained patient and the physician caring for him'

- Physicians for Human Rights 

"The hospital’s conduct is a vile attempt to pacify those demanding the blood of the detained patient and the physician caring for him," PHR added

"These actions have an influence on the medical staff, particularly Palestinian employees, and promote a culture of oppression and silencing."

Mahajna’s family condemned the dismissal and said they will raise it with European diplomats in Israel.

They told MEE the decision was made after the family came under an incitement campaign on social media, which targeted two of its members, lawyers Ruslan and Khaled Mahajna, who are related to Ahmad, for their work in representing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli courts. 

"We will inform ambassadors of the European Union of the racist and intimidating procedure and decision taken by the administration of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital," Ruslan Mahajna, Ahmad’s brother, told MEE.

"We call on European hospitals and medical centres to show solidarity with the doctor who has been vilified for no reason"

Discrimination against Palestinian doctors 

Ahmad, whose family was forcibly displaced to Umm al-Fahm in 1948, completed his medical studies at Germany’s Ulm University.

He returned to work in Israeli hospitals where Palestinian citizens have long complained of discriminatory treatment despite occupying almost 21 percent of physician jobs and 23 percent of nursing jobs in Israel.  

Two days before Mahajna gave sweets to the Palestinian boy, a top Israeli medical official expressed fear of the "Arab womb" and suggested fines on Palestinian mothers giving birth to five children to limit the Palestinian fertility rate in the country.

Gideon Sahar, director of the Department of Thoracic and Heart Surgery at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, was recorded on video referring to Palestinian citizens of Israel as the "most problematic population".

His comments caused an uproar among Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are the descendants of those expelled from their homes during the Nakba, or catastrophe, by Jewish militias in 1948.

Palestinian medical workers called his remarks "racist" and demanded his dismissal.

'[The current trends in Israeli society] view the presence of Arab Palestinians in important positions in hospitals as a matter of national security and a demographic threat' 

- Khaled Mahajna, lawyer and doctor's brother 

In 2016, far-right MP Bezalel Smotrich, who will likely become a senior minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, called for segregating Palestinian and Jewish mothers in hospitals. 

"It's only natural my wife would not want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might murder her baby in another 20 years," he tweeted at the time. 

Attorney Khaled Mahajna, Ahmad’s other brother, told MEE the dismissal was a part of institutional racism in Israel that has been emboldened by the recent far-right win in the parliamentary elections. 

He added the hospital "submitted" to pressure from what he called "orders from fascist gangs and threats from its militias". 

Earlier this month, far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties combined became the biggest joint-force in parliament raising fears over the safety of Palestinians within Israel and in occupied territories.

"The current trends in Israeli society are the product of an Israeli reality based on racism, occupation and settler-colonialism," Khaled said.

"They view the presence of Arab Palestinians in important positions in hospitals as a matter of national security and a demographic threat."

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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