Since Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip in 2007, only severely sick Palestinians have been allowed to seek medical attention elsewhere provided they receive authorisation and security clearances from the Israeli authorities.However, getting the special permit that allows patients to leave Gaza for medical treatment is a bureaucratic hassle and, many Gazans say, comes with strings attached. According to the Israeli organisation Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Palestinian patients are increasingly being asked to make an impossible choice: Either to become collaborators with the Israeli intelligence apparatus – or to remain in Gaza without medical treatment.
Al Jazeera spoke with Hadas Ziv, the director of PHR.
Al Jazeera: Your organisation has collected dozens of testimonies of patients who were pressured to collaborate with the Israeli General Security Services. How did you find out about this? A Palestinian will not easily admit he or she has been asked to become an informant.
Ziv: True; it is not a subject people talk about easily and it happened gradually. Our organisation tries to support Gazan patients who were prevented by the Israeli authorities from treatment in Israel, or from crossing Israel on their way to hospitals in the West Bank.
Instead of clear rejection or admittance, the Israelis started saying: “permit pending interrogation”. The permit became conditional – not so much on individual health conditions, but on the outcome of the interrogation at the Erez Crossing.