WATCH: Police assault wounded Palestinian patient, staff at J’lem hospital

Newly-released video shows Israeli security forces storming an East Jerusalem hospital in late July, as they tried to prevent doctors from bringing a wounded Palestinian into surgery.

A Palestinian man died on a gurney in a Jerusalem hospital last month, as Israeli police in full riot gear tried to prevent medical staff from wheeling him into the operating room for surgery. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights NGO, released footage of the incident that was recorded by the hospital’s security cameras.

The video shows armed Israeli police wearing helmets and military-style riot gear bursting into the emergency room at al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on July 21, shoving aside medical staff in order to grab the stretcher, even as the wounded man with an IV attached to his arm was lying on it, visibly bleeding and unconscious.

Muhammad Abu Ghanam, 20, from Jerusalem’s Abu Tur neighborhood, was taken by hospital in East Jerusalem on the afternoon of July 21. Abu Ghannam had joined a group of young Palestinian men as they demonstrated after noon prayers that day, in protest of the Israeli government having upset the status quo at al-Aqsa by erecting metal detectors at the entrance to the compound. Some of the young men threw stones in the direction of police.

According to several eyewitnesses, Abu Ghanam was about to toss a lit flare in the direction of security forces who were shooting tear gas canisters and foam-tipped bullets at the demonstrators. The eyewitnesses said the police were not standing close enough to be hint. Nonetheless, one of them shot Abu Ghanam in the chest with a live bullet. It entered his spinal cord.

Again according to eyewitnesses who spoke to B’Tselem researchers, police left Abu Ghanam bleeding on the pavement for five to 10 minutes. They refused to offer him first aid and then tried to prevent an ambulance from reaching him. Once medics finally succeeded in picking up Abu Ghanam, the police reportedly threw a stun grenade at the ambulance.

Al Makassed Hospital is in East Jerusalem. It serves Palestinian patients and is not under the auspices of the Israeli national health care system. Hadassah Hospital, one of the crown jewels of the Israeli national healthcare system (which also serves Palestinian patients), is just a few minutes’ drive away. But the idea of Israeli riot police rampaging through a Jewish Israeli hospital, weapons in their hands as they burst into one room after another, shoving aside hospital personnel, trying to break open doors, discharging pepper spray, violently forcing blood donors to leave the hospital, and tossing stun grenades at people who were visiting patients at the hospital — well, the idea is beyond absurd. It is utterly inconceivable.

And yet this is precisely what Israeli police did to Israeli identity card holders, in the city of Jerusalem, which the Israeli government says is the eternally united capital of the State of Israel. It bears pointing out that when reports were publicized of Syrian government security forces raiding hospitals and arresting wounded people, the world was outraged — and rightly so.

Palestinians in A-Tur, East Jerusalem retrieve the body of a slain Palestinian demonstrator from Makassed Hospital for burial, after he was shot and killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli closure of the Al-Aqsa compound, July 21, 2017. (Oren Ziv/
Palestinians in A-Tur, East Jerusalem retrieve the body of a slain Palestinian demonstrator from Makassed Hospital for burial, after he was shot and killed by Israeli forces during a demonstration against the Israeli closure of the Al-Aqsa compound, July 21, 2017. (Oren Ziv/

This incident is particularly egregious, but it is not without precedent. Israeli police often rampage through Makassed Hospital, behaving with brutality toward medical staff and patients. This is something that everyone who has been there knows. What’s new this time is the video, which is graphic and in color.

What are we to make of this footage, and of the many other reports of similar incidents that were not caught on camera? Clearly, Israeli police have been told, either explicitly or implicitly, that the norms of human behavior are at best niceties when it comes to dealing with Palestinian residents of Israel’s capital city.

Muhammad Abu Ghanem died on that gurney before surgeons could operate on him. Those police officers did not see a seriously wounded human being on his way to surgery. They did not see a person; they had completely dehumanized him.

An Israeli police spokesperson did not respond to +972 Magazine’s inquiry as to whether police have previously raided Israeli hospitals in this manner, or as to whether the security forces’ conduct — as seen in the video — conforms to the Israeli police’s standards and regulations. The spokesperson also did not respond to a question as to whether any of the officers involved in the incident are currently being investigated for their actions that day, or if any of them have been disciplined.

The police spokesperson did state that officers went to the hospital following reports of a gunshot victim, that they came to investigate and verify the circumstances of the shooting, and that stones were thrown at them as they arrived at the hospital. “[W]hen a request was made of the hospital administrator, he misled the officers and told them the wounded man had left the facility,” the spokesperson said.