Israeli politician wants Arabs and Jews split in maternity wards

Comments by Bezalel Smotrich, member of Jewish Home party, widely condemned

Israel’s minister of education Naftali Bennett condemns  party colleague Bezalel Smotricha’s remarks. Photograph: Nahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s minister of education Naftali Bennett condemns party colleague Bezalel Smotricha’s remarks. Photograph: Nahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

 

Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich from the far-right Jewish Home says he supports the segregation of Arab and Jewish mothers in maternity wards in Israeli hospitals.

Mr Smotrich, no stranger to controversial racist and homophobic statements, wrote on Twitter after an Israel radio report that hospitals put Arab and Jewish mothers in separate rooms when the mothers request segregation.

“My wife is truly no racist, but after giving birth she wants to rest rather than have a hafla [a celebratory feast often accompanied by music and dancing] like the Arabs have after their births. It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie in bed next to a woman who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby 20 years from now.”

In an Israel radio interview he declined to retract his Twitter comments. “Arabs are my enemies and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them,” he said.

Discrimination

Israeli hospitals have traditionally served as bastions of co-existence although there have been isolated cases of Jewish patients requesting not to be treated by Arab doctors.

The health ministry made it clear that it prohibits the division of patients in order to prevent discrimination. According to the ministry’s guidelines, there can be no separation between populations on the basis of religion, country of origin, ethnicity or any other distinction.

While the health ministry guidelines prohibit segregation, the radio report said hospitals will agree to requests from maternity patients for separation in obstetrics and gynecology departments.

The report named Shaare Tsedek and Hadassah hospitals in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv’s Ichilov and the Meir hospital in Kfar Saba as implementing de facto segregation even though all the hospitals denied having such a policy.

Some of the medical centres admitted that if the patient makes such a request, it is taken into consideration.

Israel radio stated that Soroka hospital in Beersheba and Haifa’s Rambam said that separation between patients in labour is not allowed.

Knesset member Ahmed Tibi of the predominantly Arab Joint List, who was a doctor before entering politics, urged the health ministry to conduct a fair and thorough investigation.

“This move strictly violates the cherished moral principle of equality, destroys justice that consists of rules common to all humanity, and represents a serious violation of basic human rights and values,” he said.