February 23, 2023. Many parents know what it’s like to have to leave a sick child – even when it’s just the flu, and when the child stays with his or her grandparents for just a few hours – it can be heart-breaking and nerve-wracking.
On Sunday morning, Gisha lawyers appeared at the Be’er Sheva District Court for a second hearing on seven-year-old B.’s petition to travel to receive medical treatment at Al Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem accompanied by at least one of his parents. Since he was just one-month-old, B. has suffered from an obscure lung disease. Other members of his extended family suffer from the condition as well, and some of them have died from it. Doctors in Gaza are at a loss for how to diagnose B.’s disease and do not know how to treat the debilitating seizures it causes.
As is the case with so many other Palestinian families, B.’s mother felt helpless against the bureaucracy of Israel’s permit regime. Her first application for a permit to accompany her son for treatment in Jerusalem never received a response from Israeli authorities, and B. missed his appointment at the hospital. After a new appointment was scheduled, B.’s mother was told her permit application was refused for “security reasons.” Her husband’s application was denied on the same grounds.
The court hearing in Be’er Sheva took place on Sunday at the very same time that the medical team in Jerusalem was expecting B. to arrive for his treatment. The state’s representative notified the court that the Israel Security Agency (ISA) would not, under any circumstances, allow the parents to exit Gaza with their son and that “if the treatment is important to the parents, it is their duty to allow other relatives to accompany the child rather than stubbornly insisting on taking him themselves.”
In this way, the universal need of any parent to be by his or her child’s side when sick and receiving medical care was used by the state to imply that B.’s parents aren’t prioritizing their child’s treatment. From Israel’s perspective, their desperate wish to accompany their young son on a trip to hospital is not only unreasonable, but also an indication that they do not really care about his treatment.
As it invariably does when ISA representatives attend court hearings, the court accepted the ISA’s position, ruling that B.’s parents will not be able to exit the Strip with him and must provide the names of other relatives for the ISA to decide if they may accompany the child instead. Gisha was forced to delete the petition, and B. missed his treatment yet again.
To read a testimony by B.’s mother, published by B’tselem in March 2023, click here.
Update from April 4, 2023: Since January, Israel has denied B.’s mother a permit to accompany her son to receive medical care in Jerusalem, delaying crucial treatment. This week, B.’s grandmother was finally granted a permit to accompany him to his next appointment. Again, a sick child will exit Gaza without his mother by his side.