Written by Jonathan Hoffman
(See important update at the bottom of this post.)
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan – a Labour MP and a medical doctor – has criticised Israel’s permit regime for those who accompany sick children out of Gaza for treatment in Israel and the West Bank. Her criticism came first on BBC Radio4 ‘Today’ on 31 May (segment starts at 1:45:36), then in a piece in the Independent (“We should not stand by while Palestinian healthcare is decided by Israel’s deeply flawed permit regime”, 8 June).
She also posted on Facebook on 5 June , see here:
Her untruthful comments on BBC R4 ‘Today’ have already been exposed by the excellent BBC Watch, see here and here. Clearly she was fed lies by her minders from Medical Aid for Palestinians (see below) and didn’t bother to verify them.
But the date of her ‘Independent’ piece – together with the two BBC Watch articles and other material – gave her ample time to correct her story. But she demonstrably failed. (The same applies to her letter to the UK Minister of Health, dated 4 June published in the ‘Independent’).
The worst allegation she makes is that a mother of triplets was forced by the permits system to return to Gaza, thus having to abandon her newborn babies and miss the tragic death of two of them. (In her BBC interview she said “…. the sad case was that the staff in the hospital had to tell the mother over the phone that her other two babies had died. Being a clinician myself I cannot imagine what that must be like but being a mother I cannot imagine the incomprehensible pain to hear that you cannot be with your children as they take their dying breath”).
The truth is that she was with her two baby boys when they died and returned to Gaza to bury them, leaving Shahd (her baby girl) in the care of the hospital (the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem).
As this article relates, the hospital repeatedly asked the Palestinian Authority to request a permit from COGAT so that Shahd’s mother/father could return to collect her – but without success (apparently one permit was received but it was faulty).
Eventually a permit was issued thanks to the intervention of Israeli TV Channel 13. You can see the TV programme here (our translations) – at 0:44 it is clear that the mother was NOT separated from the two babies when they died.
Blaming Israel for separating a Palestinian mother and her dying babies is vicious. It certainly fuels antisemitism and is arguably an example of it (IHRA: ‘Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such’). Unquestionably someone who is both an MP and a medical doctor and is well aware of the rise in antisemitism in the UK – much of it consisting of, and fueled by, incidents in her own Party! – has a responsibility to tell the truth about the highly sensitive subject of sick children in Gaza.
In her Indy op-ed, Allin-Kahn also mentioned a four-year-old girl undergoing chemotherapy who ‘was not permitted to have her mother accompany her’ (her grandmother was there instead). But she fails to identify a possible reason why a permit for the mother was denied or delayed: security considerations. (No name is given so it’s very difficult to check).
In truth in the entire Independent article she fails to mention why the permits regime is necessary: For security from terror.
This may well be because her visit was sponsored by Medical Aid for Palestinians, a UK-based charity which promotes distorted and false narratives and demonising rhetoric about Israel, under the guise of medical expertise and scientific fact. (Here I am challenging its Founder Dr Swee Ang in February 2017, regarding her promotion of a David Duke Video).
It is necessary because the system of medical accompaniers has been abused by terrorists. Last year the Shin Bet discovered that messages were carried from Hamas in Gaza to its terrorists in the PA areas in two ways: by Gazan businessmen with permits allowing them to travel to the West Bank and by Palestinians traveling from Gaza to hospitals in Israel. One of these couriers of death was 53-year-old Na’ama Mikdad, a mother of nine from Gaza who had been given a travel permit to accompany her sister who had cancer. The Israelis gave her the permit even though they knew she and her sister are the nieces of a Hamas military commander, Muhammad Abu Kuwaik.
Mikdad travelled to PA-controlled Bethlehem, where she met the terrorist Osweis Rajoub and handed him “trousers into which a cloth strip had been sewn on which instructions … had been written.” He had already been passed a phone to be used in planning the attacks. “With the phone and the instructions on how to use it, Rajoub began working with an explosives expert to create the bombs needed for the attacks,” the Shin Bet revealed.
Perhaps that is why the proportion of permits for accompaniers approved by the time of the hospital appointment has fallen (as Dr Allin-Khan points out) from 92% in 2012 to 61% in 2018. Even so, that does not mean (as the MP suggests) that 39% are refused – most of those are granted, but with a delay. The World Health Organisation publishes the data – here it is for the latest 12 months:
Only around 10% of applications are refused (for accompaniers of both children and adults – no breakdown is published).
And approval rates for older or female accompaniers are much higher than for younger or male accompaniers, simply because the terror risk is lower.
Finally, Dr Allin-Khan’s reporting of WHO data is inaccurate and misleading. She says that in 2018, 54 deaths occurred in Gaza after patients were ‘forced to miss scheduled medical appointments’. One, the data are for 2017, not 2018. Two, the deaths occurred while patients were awaiting permits – there is no indication of the likelihood of success of treatment and no evidence that Israel ‘forced’ a single patient to miss an appointment.
I refer anyone who thinks Dr Allin-Kahn simply made mistakes – with no malice towards Israel intended – to the Facebook post I reproduced above. Here it is again, with comments this time:
Of course many find it remarkable that Israel provides medical assistance for ANY patients from an area with a government sworn to its destruction. But not – it seems – Dr Allin-Khan.
Update, August 12th:
After following up with most of the key players in this controversy, we learned that, as Dr. Allin-Khan stated in her op-ed, the Palestinian women did in fact leave Jerusalem before her two babies died, and learned of their deaths whilst she was in Gaza. We apologise for the error.
However, we also confirmed that it was her decision to leave, and that the claim by Dr. Allin-Khan that she was forced to leave due to “the Israeli permit system” is, as we stated in this post, not true.
- Not a scoop: 448 days later, NY Times reports slur by Palestinian leader (CAMERA)
- BBC News coverage of terrorism in Israel – May 2019 (BBC Watch)
- Sky News Arabia’s Jerusalem: the sun shines, the wind blows and Jews ‘storm the mosque’ (UK Media Watch)