We will always be fourth-class citizens in Israel

This time, Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinian citizens was expressed via the denial of infant health care.

A VIEW of the front of the shuttered Khwaled clinic (photo credit: MATI MILSTEIN)
A VIEW of the front of the shuttered Khwaled clinic
(photo credit: MATI MILSTEIN)
The Supreme Court has just denied the mothers, infants, and young children in my community access to essential healthcare.
Israel makes Palestinian citizens feel unwanted. It doesn’t matter how “loyal” we are to the state, we always remain fourth-class citizens. This never changes and it always hurts.
I was born and grew up in Khwaled, a small rural village just outside Haifa. When in August 2017 the state closed our Tipat Halav clinic, which serves some 1,500 residents of our village and the neighboring village of Ras Ali – 667 women and children – it had a tremendous negative impact on us.
Some of our women haven’t had their babies vaccinated because they don’t have anywhere to go. Many mothers and pregnant women can’t get to more distant clinics because they don’t have cars and public transportation here is extremely limited, or non-existent. Before the closure, women from Ras Ali would have to walk five kilometers to get to our clinic. I would drive along the road and see mothers walking with their babies in their arms. I’d pick them up and take them to our clinic.
I’m 32. On a personal level, this situation takes me back to when I was a kid and walked three kilometers to school. There was no school bus and we’d have to walk in the rain and in the heat. I suffered from this as a child, and the women who had to walk from Ras Ali suffered even when there was a clinic in Khwaled. Now they have to deal with even more and travel to even further locations. Israel says that women from Khwaled and Ras Ali are able to receive health care in a clinic in Ibtin but this has proven to be wrong: among those women who are able to make the journey, a number of them have been turned away and denied care.
Both our villages have some of the highest rates of at-risk children and youth in the country. These early childhood health services are essential to our survival, literally.
Our local Tipat Halav nurse would make house calls to encourage women to come in and have their babies vaccinated, but this doesn’t happen in other clinics.
One Ras Ali resident testified to the court that her infant son had to be hospitalized in Haifa because they were unable to access the more distant clinic in Ibtin.
I am also experiencing the closure of the clinic within the context of a very difficult personal situation: Israeli authorities demolished our house in 1980. We were the only family in Khwaled to suffer such a fate. For my father, this was a serious blow and he was hospitalized.
Because of the demolition, I actually lived in a shack until 10th grade. So this closure now really brings me back to that period of physical hardship and it has touched me deeply on both a practical and an emotional level.
Put simply, Israel is not providing our mothers, our mothers-to-be, and our children with health care.
Last August, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of both our villages and
The Galilee Society demanding that the Health Ministry revoke its decision to close our clinic.
The ministry claimed we can obtain health care in other locations, like Ibtin, but as we’ve learned this is not the case. Adalah clarified to the Supreme Court that the law dictates that health care must be easily accessible, and located within reasonable distance. But as long as our clinic remains closed, this won’t be the case and the Health Ministry will be in violation of the law.
I studied in university and now I work in my village as a social worker. I try to increase my people’s awareness of their rights, but Israel always makes us feel unwanted. This discrimination, repeatedly reinforced in different ways, makes you feel helpless.
This time, Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinian citizens was expressed via the denial of infant health care. The children are our next generation and they need to receive education and proper health care. But to my dismay, this simply doesn’t happen. The weak are made even weaker.
The author is a social worker from Khwaled involved in the legal struggle to reopen her village’s Tipat Halav clinic.