Court: Let sick Hamas relatives from Gaza go to east Jerusalem hospital

The High Court ruled on Sunday that Defense Minister Liberman's decision contravened international humanitarian law as well as domestic law.

THE AUGUSTA VICTORIA church-hospital complex, in east Jerusalem on the southern side the Mount of Olives. (photo credit: URI ALONI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
THE AUGUSTA VICTORIA church-hospital complex, in east Jerusalem on the southern side the Mount of Olives.
The High Court of Justice has ordered the state to allow five female relatives of Hamas members to receive life-saving medical treatment in a hospital in east Jerusalem.
The women require medical treatment for cancer that is not available in Gaza. They applied to Israel for medical treatment at the Augusta Victoria and al-Makassed hospitals in east Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Authority said it will cover their expenses.
However, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman refused their request in an attempt to exert pressure on Hamas, to promote negotiations that would lead to the return of prisoners and bodies of soldiers.
The High Court ruled on Sunday that the decision contravenes international humanitarian law as well as domestic law because it was arbitrary, unreasonable and disproportionate, and constitutes collective punishment.
Put simply, the court said that Liberman had not bothered to review the women’s individual cases or to check if any of them presented any kind of security threat.
In fact, the court found that the state admitted when pressed that the women did not present any security threat whatsoever.
The human rights group Gisha and three other NGOs on the Left praised the decision while criticizing the state for making them file the petition to get the women medical care. In contrast, the right-leaning Movement for Governance and Democracy slammed the decision as undermining the state’s ability to conduct foreign affairs and pressure Hamas to get its prisoners and bodies of soldiers returned.
“The purpose of preventing [treatment] here does not relate to the applicant and does not give proper weight to her fate and the effect of the refusal on her health,” wrote Justice Uzi Vogelman in his decision.
Until Liberman’s move, prior High Court rulings had allowed the state to limit movement from Gaza to apply pressure on Hamas, but had prohibited blocking Gazans from coming to Israel or the West Bank for life-saving medical treatment unless there was a serious security concern.
While the state tried to convince the High Court to endorse a compromise in which the women would be allowed to get medical care in Jordan, Turkey or another foreign country, this suggestion was shot down as impractical.
The petitioners produced expert reports that indicated that travel to foreign countries, as opposed to a short drive from Gaza to east Jerusalem, would endanger the patients’ lives.
Fogelman was joined by justices Yitzhak Amit and Ofer Grosskopf.
Amit, interestingly, wrote in the judgment that the hospitals in question were Palestinian, despite the fact that they are located in areas in east Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. “The state is merely being requested not to prevent the petitioners from receiving medical treatment in a Palestinian hospital, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, in a place where Palestinian patients are treated from all areas of Judea and Samaria. Indeed, the two hospitals are in east Jerusalem.”
Grosskopf wrote that “the option of using a patient in desperate need of life-saving medical treatment as leverage – and when there is no claim that she herself is involved in activities against the State of Israel – is not compatible with the values of the State of Israel and cannot stand legally.
“This is a sweeping policy aimed at a group of an unknown number of critically ill patients, whose only crime is that they are first-degree relatives of Hamas members,” he added.