The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

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“Poor medical treatment” for prisoners in Israel

Ktziot prison in the Negev Desert, where Ahmed Tamimi and other Palestinian prisoners are held.
(Tamar Dressler/IRIN)

Ahmed Tamimi, a Palestinian serving life in an Israeli prison, needs a kidney transplant – but four years after his nephew Amin came forward as a donor, the Israeli authorities say that they will not pay for the operation.

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) medical chief, Alex Adler, told IRIN the IPS would not pay for the transplant because Tamimi does not need it urgently.

“I wish to emphasise that prisoners will receive every medical treatment when the situation is urgent or life threatening,” he said.

Tamimi, 46, was jailed in 1993 for killing an Israeli settler in the West Bank. His own background is also bloody – two of his brothers were killed by Israeli troops, as well as his wife’s father and sister.

His case has sparked controversy in Israel, where a judge and a member of the Israeli Knesset have opposed giving him the US $90,000 operation because he was convicted of killing an Israeli.

Overall, the 10,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel are not significantly discriminated against when it comes to medical care because all prisoners in Israel receive poor treatment regardless of background, claims NGO Physicians for Human Rights, Israel (PHR).

'Detainees a neglected population'

“The detainees in general are a neglected population. The worst off are migrant workers who cannot communicate with prison staff. Then come the Palestinians and then the Israelis. In Tamimi’s case the IPS is attempting to rid itself of responsibility for a very expensive operation,” said Anat Litvin, manager of PHR’s prisoners department.

Photo: Tom Spender/IRIN
Samaa Tamimi holds a photo of her husband Ahmed, who is in an Israeli prison and needs a $90,000 kidney transplant which the Israeli authorities do not want to pay for

Tamimi’s family was told an operation would cost them or the Palestinian Authority (PA) $90,000 – even though under Israeli law all prisoners are covered by health insurance no matter where they are from.

PHR took the case to the Tel Aviv District Civil Court, where prisoners’ appeals are heard – and in December 2005 Judge Noga Ohad delivered her verdict.

“Is someone who came to murder us entitled to get finance for a transplant from the small budget that exists to assist people for this procedure?” asked the judge, before ruling against Tamimi.

“It’s unthinkable that there should be a connection between what a prisoner is judged for and his medical services in prison,” said Litvin.

The Supreme Court overruled Judge Ohad, and Tamimi was referred to Beilinson Hospital near Tel Aviv last summer, where he will receive the tests to see if his nephew, Amin, is a good match for a donor.

Israel has one prisoner being held by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip whose condition is not known. He is said by his captors to be in good health and was last month reported to have received a new pair of glasses sent by his family.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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