US cuts $20m in funding for East Jerusalem hospitals

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. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2018

US cuts $20m in funding for East Jerusalem hospitals

  • Trump called for a review of US assistance to the Palestinians earlier this year.
  • Last month, the Trump administration said it would redirect $200 million in Palestinian economic support funds for programs in the West Bank and Gaza amid a deteriorating relationship with the Palestinian leadership.

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?”

Australia plans to censor extremist online content

Updated 26 August 2019

Australia plans to censor extremist online content

  • The country will create a 24/7 Crisis Coordination Center for monitoring and censorship
  • Australia earlier set up a task force with tech giants to address spread of extremist material online

SYDNEY: Australia plans to block websites to stop the spread of extreme content during “crisis events,” the country’s prime minister has said.
Speaking from the G7 in Biarritz Sunday, Scott Morrison said the measures were needed in response to the deadly attack on two New Zealand mosques in March.
The live-streamed murder of 51 worshippers “demonstrated how digital platforms and websites can be exploited to host extreme violent and terrorist content,” he said in a statement.
“That type of abhorrent material has no place in Australia, and we are doing everything we can to deny terrorists the opportunity to glorify their crimes, including taking action locally and globally.”
Under the measures, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner would work with companies to restrict access to domains propagating terrorist material.
A new 24/7 Crisis Coordination Center will be tasked with monitoring terror-related incidents and extremely violent events for censorship.
In the wake of the Christchurch attack, Australia set up a task force with global tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter to address the spread of extremist material online.
It is not yet clear how the measures will be enforced. Morrison has previously suggested that legislation may come if technology companies do not cooperate.