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Palestinian in Lebanon denied medical treatment due to his nationality

Ibrahim Abdel Latif (Photo Credit: Dr. Marwa Abdel Lati)

In the United States and other free countries across the globe, any person who is born in that country is granted citizenship rights and basic human rights, such as access to healthcare. As the descendent of Sephardic Jewish refugees who fled the anti-Jewish violence that erupted in Greece in the period leading up to World War I, no one today in America would argue that I am not an American citizen but rather am a foreign Jewish refugee who should not receive equal access to medical treatment. However, the descendants of Palestinian refugees who live in Lebanon are not so fortunate.
The descendants of the Palestinian refugees who left their birth country during Israel’s War of Independence are still not granted Lebanese citizenship and basic human rights such as healthcare, despite the fact that all young Palestinians in Lebanon today were born and raised in the country for a couple of generations now. This reality has adversely affected the fate of Ibrahim Abdel Latif, a young man of Palestinian heritage in Lebanon who has been denied medical treatment merely because of where his grandparents came from.

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Marwa Abdel Latif, Ibrahim’s sister, she related that the plight of Palestinians in Lebanon is horrific and this reality adversely affects her brother: “My brother dropped a good paying job just so he can get hired at this new job of his to be legal and to qualify for some work compensation insurance as he struggled in previous companies to get health coverage and the pay is always much lower for Palestinians anyways than their Lebanese colleagues with similar qualifications. So to start with, my brother is a Palestinian and he knows that most Lebanese companies do not hire Palestinians as they are considered foreigners. Most companies have a rule for 10% foreigner, which includes all other nationalities other than Lebanese. So my brother finally qualified for insurance as the company he works with is very decent and good with Palestinians but that is a preference for the company rather than the country.”

Nevertheless, despite the fact that Ibrahim managed to get health insurance unlike most other Palestinians, when he was run over from behind by a truck and needed urgent medical treatment, the Lebanese hospitals did not want to help him unless he got 100% coverage and his health insurance plan only covered 40%: “Lebanese hospitals usually do not allow you in unless you pay upfront or you have connections. My family does not belong to any organization or religious groups or any political party as we were raised to act independently of any party to assure ourselves that we are not blinded by their morals. The insurance was refusing to pay because the hospital is expensive to their standards but we had no choice of the hospital as the Red Cross took him there as it was the closest to the location of the accident and the other hospitals refused to take him in unless he redid all the paperwork and pay the entire coverage.”

Ibrahim’s family attempted to get local Lebanese charities to help them due to their situation and all of them refused to help them: “My family tried to reach out to many organizations, who simply insulted my parents and sisters. After they heard they are Palestinian, they pretty much told them that there is no help here for Palestinians. Only Lebanese should have access. We tried to call news reporters and they said that they don’t focus on Palestinian issues. My family is half Lebanese and we are just really hurt. It feels like my own blood has turned against me. I am a proud Lebanese Palestinian and I feel for both nations but seriously, this should be about human decency.”

“Palestinians are completely isolated and treated like a disease,” she stressed. “I think this really needs to change.” Dr. Abdul Latif is American educated and married an American so she lives in the US but until this, she was quiet about these issues in order to respect her family: “My family is living there and they are always worried so I kept my mouth shut. But I am done with this. Enough is enough. Something has to change.”

Dr. Abdel Latif emphasized that what her brother has endured is a good glimpse of the daily struggles of Palestinians in Lebanon: “I feel bad for the Lebanese but it is still not ok. My brother was about to get kicked out of the hospital because the insurance was refusing to pay. My parents are elderly and my dad was stopping them from throwing him outside with opened wounds and lungs bleeding in a tube into a bottle.” Dr. Abdul Latif claimed that the hospitals in Lebanon discriminate against the poor so much that they would even throw out a Lebanese person in a similar condition but the Lebanese got one advantage that a Palestinian does not: “The Lebanese belong to parties and commonly a call from an official could save someone’s life. But I don’t even know how to fix all of this. The Palestinians in the camps try to donate whatever they have which is very little to help each other out.”

Dr. Abdel Latif emphasized that Ibrahim is one of the best guys she knows and she proclaimed that she is not merely saying this because he is her brother. She stressed that he is super intelligent and hard-working, overcoming numerous obstacles in a hostile atmosphere where many turn to radical Islam in order to make it where he is today as an electric assistant engineer. In an area where others turned to terrorism, he chose to try and make a humble living, never giving up hope in improving the plight of himself and his family through civil and humane means. The banks denied him the option of buying a home for he did not earn enough money but he still never gave up his strong work ethic and his aspirations: “I wanted to help him come here because he has experience and is hard-working and a good guy but I could not. It is too much.”

Dr. Abdel Latif started a GoFundMe campaign to help save her brother’s life. So far, she has raised about $5,000 but is still $10,000 short of what she needs to save his life. Due to the social media campaign she started and the fact she started to raise some of the money, the Lebanese started to treat her brother but she is still waiting for them to operate on him. She asks every person with a heart to donate in order to help save her brother’s life.

In order to help save Ibrahim’s life, click here!

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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