Israel Refusing to Let Gaza Volleyball Player in East Jerusalem for Knee Operation

Daoud Abu Hazima, 30, tore a ligament in his knee in 2014. If left untreated, the injury can end his career.

Jack Khoury
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Daoud Abu Hazima, bottom left, posing for a team photograph with the Palestinian volleyball team.
Daoud Abu Hazima, bottom left, posing for a team photograph with the Palestinian volleyball team.
Jack Khoury

Israel is not allowing a Palestinian volleyball player who used to play for the national team to leave the Gaza Strip for a knee operation.

Daoud Abu Hazima, 30, from the Jabalya refugee camp, played for the Palestinian volleyball team until he tore a ligament in his knee in 2014. This is a very common sports injury which, if left untreated, can end an athlete’s career. Abu Hazima has not played since sustaining the injury.

“There’s no doctor in the entire Gaza Strip who knows how to perform this kind of operation,” said Abu Hazima, who added that he received a referral from the Palestinian Health Ministry in 2016 to attend Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. He said the Shin Bet security service denied him permission to leave the Gaza Strip.

Abu Hazima said he submitted six applications to the Israeli authorities, all of which were denied for security reasons. The nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights, which also approached the Israeli authorities regarding Abu Hazima, was told the injury wasn’t life-threatening and, therefore, wasn’t urgent.

Abu Hazima said he has no security record. He says his condition is getting worse by the day, and fears that if he doesn’t receive treatment soon, he’ll be unable to play for the national team again.

“Sport is the only light in my life, and all I ask is the basic right to receive medical care and not to extinguish that light,” he said.

Abed Abu Shehada dealt with Abu Hazima’s case for Physicians for Human Rights. He said it “shows Israel’s complete control over the health of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Israel is the one that decides which medical situations it deems justified to receive treatment and which ones it does not, using various excuses – all of which breach the basic right of the residents of the Gaza Strip to health.”

The Shin Bet responded: “Abu Hazima entered Israel from the Gaza Strip a number of times in 2015, and in 2016 his entry to Israel was denied for security reasons. In the framework of an examination of his case, it was decided that in order to make an updated decision, he would have to be questioned. Based on the findings of this questioning, a decision will be made on his entry into Israel.”

Every year, dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are denied access to hospitals in Israel, East Jerusalem or the West Bank for security reasons.

Haaretz reported earlier this month on a protest by dozens of female cancer patients against Israel’s policy of preventing or delaying their departure from Gaza for treatment.