Knesset Tosses Out Blood Drive Paramedics for Barring Ethiopian MK From Donating

Health Ministry regulations forbid accepting blood donations from individuals thought to be at risk of being carriers of AIDS or other diseases, including those born in Africa.

A group of Magen David Adom paramedics who were conducting a blood drive in the Knesset on Wednesday were ejected from the House when they refused to take blood from MK Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid) because she is a native of Ethiopia.

The Magen David Adom team was in fact acting in accordance with Health Ministry regulations, which forbid accepting blood donations from individuals thought to be at risk of being carriers of AIDS or other diseases. These include people born in Africa, homosexual men, Israelis who lived in England, Ireland or Portugal for lengthy periods during the 1980s (when Mad Cow Disease was prevalent) and anyone who has recently returned from central Africa, Southeast Asia or the Caribbean islands. The MDA representatives showed Tamano-Shata a copy of the regulations.

Though the restrictions are not new, Tamano-Shata protested, reviving an issue that periodically causes controversy.

“I bear no anger toward those taking blood, who were doing their job,” Tamano-Shata said. “These are guidelines that come from higher up and do a painful injustice to an entire community.

“I made a contribution during my army service and I contribute as an MK, but apparently equality is violated when it comes to donating blood,” she continued. “This issue is of tremendous importance to me personally and it has concerned me from a young age. It’s about time to put an end to this ugly phenomenon.”

Several MKs from across the political spectrum were critical of the incident and expressed support for Tamano-Shata.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein was shocked when he heard what had occurred and ordered the blood drive in the Knesset stopped, pending further investigation.

“I’m shocked by these never-ending stories about blood donations,” Edelstein said. “I thought this was behind us, but it turns out I was wrong. This is an unacceptable phenomenon that has no place here.”

Likud MK Gila Gamliel, who, together with Tamano-Shata, represented Israel at the Nelson Mandela memorial event in South Africa ealier this week, hastened to file an urgent motion for the agenda, demanding a debate on the matter aim at cancelling the regulations.

“Only yesterday, Pnina and I together marked Mandela’s achievements in the struggle against racism,” Gamliel said. “I’m shocked to discover the degree to which the situation here is shameful and disgraceful. It’s upsetting to think that this is what Israeli reality looks like in 2013. It’s forbidden to discriminate.”

Tomer Appelbaum