Editorial |

The Disgrace of Hadassah

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Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.Credit: Shiran Granot

The story of Dr. Ahmed Mahajana ought to shock every Israeli, Jewish or Arab. The possibility that a person could be fired because of false allegations that had been spread about him is a red line that should not be crossed even under the steamroller pressure of racism and nationalism that is crushing democracy in Israel.

Dr. Mahajana is a cardiologist in Hadassah Ein Kerem’s cardiothoracic surgery ward. A couple of weeks ago a few media outlets carried a report that he had given food to a hospitalized terrorist who had carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem, and called him a “shahid,” or martyr. The report – which originated from police officers who were in the ward and didn’t like Mahajana’s attitude – was denied by Mahajana himself, two staff members who said that they were the ones who had distributed the food, on their own initiative, and by another doctor in the ward. All three maintained Mahajana hadn’t said “shahid” either, but had only inquired about the welfare of the patient. Later the journalists who had reported the story retracted it and apologized for the false information they had spread.

But Hadassah’s management isn’t interested in the facts. In a despicable atrocity that stains the institution more than the doctor, the summary of his pre-termination hearing stated that “with his acts and utterances Dr. Mahajana fundamentally and blatantly violated his obligations to Hadassah, including the duty of trust that stands at the basis of the work relations between the sides, and committed serious disciplinary violations... the required step is to terminate his employment in Hadassah, which is what it intends to do.”

In fact, it was Hadassah’s management that violated the trust between the sides and committed a serious offense, in rushing to accuse, judge and pronounce verdict on a person who had specialized in the hospital for four years. The Israel Medical Association was right to object to the dismissal, and stated in its letter of response that “a sufficient factual basis had not been submitted” at the hearing: “No witnesses on the doctor’s side were heard ... and the claims made against the doctor were not proved, as required... It’s not clear on what basis Hadassah believes the doctor did what he was alleged to have done.”

The answer is simple: Hadassah’s management caved in to the chauvinist sentiment, to the thriving racism and to the unbearable ease with which any Arab Israeli becomes a potential suspect. Instead of digging its heels into its shameful position, the hospital’s management would do well to apologize to Dr. Mahajana and announce his return to work right away.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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