Over a dozen Israeli cardiologists who had been invited to a Dubai conference of the World Heart Federation – attended by 12,000 heart specialists last week – were denied a visa by authorities at the last minute.

Only a couple of Israelis – one from the Rabin Medical Center and the other from Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center – who had been invited to lecture at the conference were allowed to attend and did so.

The Jerusalem Post learned on Tuesday that the would-be participants – Jews and Arabs – paid $3,000 each for their flights, visas, hotels and attendance at the conference.

Dr. Abed Khaskia of the cardiology department at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba said he was told that only if someone else occupied his room would he get $500 back but that he would not be reimbursed for the rest of the money. He blamed the Geneva-based World Heart Federation, which he said had promised to send a visa two weeks before the event, for the problem.

There was no discrimination between Jewish and Arab Israelis, said Prof. Chaim Lotan, head of cardiology at Hadassah University Medical Center, who had been involved in negotiations with the federation but did not attend because the Israel Heart Society had its own conference here during the same week.

Lotan told the Post that he was promised the federation would do all it could to ensure that all Israelis – participants as well as lecturers – be given a visa to enter Dubai.

“Those who actually did attend did not have an easy time,” Lotan said. “They weren’t allowed to leave the hotel, and their visas were held during their visit. Apparently, the government of Dubai did not want Israelis there.”

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