April 21, 2014
Palestinian doctors recently won a court case against the Ministry of Health, which had denied them access to exams necessary to obtain a medical licence for practicing as a doctor in East Jerusalem.
Israel’s policy of banning dozens of Jerusalem residents from working as doctors in the city is increasingly being criticized by Israelis, including leading physicians who say politics must not trump the right to health care. Critics say the issue is rooted in politics, not medical standards.
The doctors all graduated from Al-Quds, a university based in the West Bank (occupied territory), just outside Jerusalem. The problem is that this university also has branches in East Jerusalem, reason for the Israeli authorities to refuse to recognize Al-Quds as a foreign university, a status conferred on other West Bank institutions of higher learning. As a result, the Israel Health Ministry has not allowed Al-Quds medical school graduates to take the Israeli licensing exams that are open to graduates of foreign universities. Since Al-Quds is neither an Israeli university, the graduates cannot practice anywhere in Israel.
In 2011, a group of young doctors in East Jerusalem went to court. In early April, a local court ruled in favour of them and said the ministry must allow them to take the Israeli exams. Dr. Hani Abdeen, the dean of the Al-Quds medical school, said Israel’s refusal to accredit his graduates – particularly the Jerusalem residents – has exacerbated a brain drain. According to him, about 75 medical students graduate from Al-Quds each year, and of those about 30 to 40 percent move to the US, Europe and Arab countries seeking higher pay and advancement opportunities. Hopefully, many will stay if allowed to enter the Israeli system.