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Israel's stance on breast cancer awareness month hypocritical, say Palestinians

When the Israeli military lit up its headquarters in pink, social media users highlighted the obstacles facing Palestinian cancer patients
The Marganit tower in Tel Aviv lit up pink in honour of breast cancer awareness month (Screengrab/Twitter)

The Israeli military has sparked controversy online after tweeting an image of its headquarters in Tel Aviv lit up in pink in honour of breast cancer awareness month.

The tweet, captioned “for those who are fighting, for those who have passed, and for those who have survived”, was deemed hypocritical by social media users, citing numerous incidents of medical negligence faced by Palestinian cancer patients at the hands of Israeli authorities. 

Many were quick to highlight the fact that many cancer patients in Gaza and the occupied West Bank are denied the travel permits they need in order to receive treatment. 

Others shared personal stories of their relatives who have struggled to receive treatment.

Due to the harsh Israeli blockade, women in Gaza suffering from breast cancer are unable to receive the treatment they need outside the enclave.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not available in Gaza’s hospitals, so cancer patients are forced to travel abroad for treatments.

Meanwhile, permits to reach the West Bank are hard to come by, and sometimes are not granted by Israel.

According to Gaza’s health ministry, breast cancer is the main cause of death amongst women who cannot access proper treatment. Between 130-150 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each month in the besieged enclave.

Breast cancer is also the most prevalent type of cancer among Palestinian women, accounting for 32 percent of cancer diagnoses in the West Bank and 18 percent of those in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli prison authorities have often been accused of medical negligence as their Palestinian patients die of cancer. 

In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report on the difficulties faced by Palestinians in Gaza needing cancer treatment.

According to WHO, “after being diagnosed with cancer, patients in Gaza may often have to wait for months before being able to receive treatment, [while] some patients are never able to secure the permits they need to access care”.

Breast cancer awareness month is an international health campaign organised by major breast cancer charities. It takes place annually every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research.

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