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19 Jan, 2019 13:06

‘Racist procedure’: Palestinians forced from bus & searched before entering Israeli hospital

‘Racist procedure’: Palestinians forced from bus & searched before entering Israeli hospital

An Israeli ‘apartheid hospital’ is drawing condemnation for making Palestinians exit a bus to be searched before entering its grounds, with thousands of activists demanding an end to the discriminatory policy.

Bus 18 stops outside the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and people suspected of being Palestinian must show their identification and get off the bus to go through a security check, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights has documented.

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Palestinian passengers who have no intention of entering the hospital but are simply taking the bus beyond that stop must disembark and wait to be picked up again when the bus leaves the grounds to continue on its route, according to complaints.

Video shared by Haaretz shows a security guard boarding the bus as a number of Palestinians get off before the the vehicle drives through.  

Over 2,500 activists from the Zizim organization have signed a complaint against the hospital and bus company, demanding "the abolition of racist discrimination at the gates of the hospital between Arab and Jewish passengers on route 18."

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel warned the hospital the practice reflects “a policy of profiling that attributes dangerousness and suspicion to an entire group of people based on their ethnicity or nationality.” A number of groups are planning to protest the procedure, Sicha Mekomit reports.  

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The hospital says the bus exit only applies to Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens or residents. However, a passenger named as Yehudit told Sicha Mekomit she witnessed several instances where Palestinians with blue ID cards (given to Palestinian-Israeli citizens and residents of East Jerusalem) were being told to get off the bus.

“Recently, a woman with a hijab and her husband were carrying a bouquet of flowers in their hands, and they had a blue identity card but they took them off the bus,” she said.

Barzilai Hospital says only those with a green ID card, identifying them as being from the West Bank and Gaza, must undergo a search of their belongings, including a metal detector sweep to check for weapons. “It is sheer audacity to accuse Barzilai Hospital of humiliation and racist discrimination,” it said of the criticism.

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“Doctors from the West Bank, who are accepted for a full residency, serve in the hospital and work side by side with doctors who are Israeli residents, including Israeli Arabs.” 

Some have questioned the need to search the commuters who must wait at the entrance if they are not allowed to travel into the hospital anyway. “There is sensitivity around hospitals, but it does not justify this behavior, you do a search, you see that everything is okay – let them in. If you're not going to let people in – why are you doing a search?” Hadas Ziv of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel) asked.

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Meanwhile, the bus company involved in running route 18 services said the security guard at the hospital is not their employee, that the buses are “subject to the instructions of [the hospital’s] security department and [are] obligated to act according to those instructions.”

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