Hospital Forces Palestinians Off Bus Passing Through Its Grounds, Separating Them From Israelis

When public bus line 18 stops at the entrance to the Barzilai Medical Center, Palestinians have to get off and go through security checks, while Israeli passengers continue their journey uninterrupted

Line 18 entering Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, January 17, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

An Israeli hospital in the coastal city of Ashkelon is forcing Palestinians to get off public buses before allowing the vehicles into hospital grounds.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights have documented that Palestinians who take Dan Badarom’s line 18 have to get off the public bus at the entrance to the Barzilai Medical Center and undergo a security check. They are then picked back up when the bus exits the hospital to continue on its route.

Palestinians seen getting off the bus when it reaches the entrance to the hospital

>> Although illegal, separation between Jews and Arabs is rife at Israel’s hospitals

In a video from a trip on line 18 in recent days, the bus is seen stopping at the entrance gate to the hospital, a female security guard entering and then a number of Palestinian passengers exit the bus with the guard, who doesn’t check any other passengers.

In a conversation recorded with the bus driver, he explains the situation to one of the passengers: “These are Arabs who, like, work with a permit here, in Israel. They enter the hospital, it’s security. They are checked. They know they’ll be checked. She took them off and now I’ll pick them up.”

One of the security guards at the hospital can be heard saying: “They are from the [Palestinian] territories, they don’t have entry [permits], they don’t have work permits. They know the drill. If they hadn’t [stepped off the bus themselves], they would take them off.”

Dan and the Barzilai hospital confirmed the details, which were first reported by the Sicha Mekomit website (“Local Call”).

Dan Badarom said that it follows the instructions it receives from the hospital. “Our job as a company that operates public transportation in Israel is to carry passengers to their destination. At the same time and in this case, it should be made clear that the security guard does not work for the Dan Badarom company. In addition, on the part of the route where the bus enters Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, we are subject to the instructions of its security department and obligated to act according to those instructions.”

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel warned the hospital that this is illegal: “The proceedings described [from the testimonies] reflect a policy of profiling that attributes dangerousness and suspicion to an entire group of people based on their ethnicity or nationality.”

The Barzilai Medical Center told Haaretz that the rules concerning the matter were written in a cooperation with Dan Badarom. The hospital said that in the case of Israeli citizens and residents, no further security check is conducted. In the case of those with a “green ID card,” residents of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, the passenger is asked to accompany the security guard outside of the bus in order to conduct a security check of their belongings, including a check with a metal detector to ensure they are not carrying weapons or explosives.

The hospital added that the number 18 bus arrives at the hospital after taking on passengers at the marina: “Both the hospital and the police are aware that many foreign workers, some of whom are in Israel illegally, sleep in the marina,” the hospital said.

The number 18 bus in Ashkelon starts from the city’s marina and goes to the center of town. On its route, it passes through the Barzilai hospital.

“This is also according to the police procedures. It should be noted that only residents of the Palestinian territories with a permit to enter Israel are allowed to enter the hospital, while those in Israel illegally, without an entry permit, are not allowed to enter the hospital,” said a spokesman for Barzilai, adding: “The entire process is done with full respect for the person. It is sheer audacity to accuse Barzilai Hospital of humiliation and racist discrimination. Doctors from the West Bank, who are accepted for a full residency, serve in the hospital and work side by side with doctors who are Israeli residents, including Israeli Arabs.”

Physicians for Human Rights also sent a warning to the hospital about continuing the procedure, saying it could not hide behind the procedures of security agencies. “A medical institution is first and foremost obligated to the rules of medical ethics and respecting human dignity, and therefore is supposed to prevent any racist behavior within its gates,” the organization said. It called on the Health Ministry to tell the hospital that “security issues cannot and will not be used as an excuse for its commitment to medical ethics and ensuring equality.”