US cuts $20m in funding for East Jerusalem hospitals

US cuts $20m in funding for East Jerusalem hospitals

AMMAN: The Trump administration on Friday slashed more than $20 million in funding for church-run hospitals in East Jerusalem despite having earlier promised that the medical centers would be exempt from massive US aid cuts to Palestinians.

The decision by the US executive will leave facilities such as the World Lutheran Federation’s August Victoria Hospital and St. John’s Eye hospital struggling to provide medical help to thousands of Palestinians.

Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, head of the Lutheran church in Jordan and Palestine, told Arab News that the decision by Washington ruined his day. 

“I woke up to this terrible news. We had been happy for a few months when we learned that our hospital would be exempt from the cuts to Palestinians,” he said.

 Azar said he had been shaken by the news. “The hospital has been on the edge and I am not sure how we can continue if this support is stopped suddenly.”

The hospital’s oncology department is the only high-quality facility serving Palestinians, he said. 

“We are the one place that Palestinians with cancer and other ailments come to. Patients will be hurt a lot by this decision, especially children who have special unit.”

Dan Shanit, an Israeli doctor involved in the establishment of the oncology department, described the US decision as inhuman.

“Defunding a cancer department or any other critical medical facility is inhuman and will not change anything,” he said.

Shanit, who worked for the Peres Peace center, told Arab news that the decision was irrational.

 “Imposing financial pressure on a medical facility for political purposes is unacceptable and idiotic,” he said. “The American administration is not acting rationally.”

The Israeli doctor said that if hospitals such as August Victoria were unable to treat serious cancer cases in east Jerusalem, patients would have no choice but to attend Israeli hospitals.

If the oncology department is closed, patients will be moved to the Israeli Hadash, Shanit said. 

“The problem is that Hadasah will be able to treat patients from Jerusalem but someone will have to cover the cost of all other Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. 

“I see it as a miserable situation that is ruining whatever hope is left of peace-building.”

 Howard Sumka, former head of the USAID mission in the West Bank and Gaza, said the US had been a long-time supporter of the East Jerusalem hospitals and had helped the facilities to provide high-level care not otherwise available to Palestinians.

The US administration is squeezing the most vulnerable Palestinians in a bid to force the Palestinian Authority to capitulate to Israeli and US demands for negotiations, he said.

“This sort of inhumane tactic hasn’t worked before,” he said. 

On his Twitter account, Sumka asked if the US effort to reset policy on Israel and Palestine was “a deft maneuver to shake up 25-plus years of feckless peace-making or a foolish gamble that will leave the Middle East in turmoil?”

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