Far-right MK says doctors can refuse treatment on religious grounds, causing uproar

Far-right MK says doctors can refuse treatment on religious grounds, causing uproar
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Orit Strock, a religious Zionist lawmaker set to become a minister in Israel’s new government, said Sunday that doctors should be allowed to refuse treatments that conflict with their religious beliefs, as long as another doctor agrees to provide the same treatment. .

Strock’s comments were dismissed as racist and discriminatory by many politicians from the outgoing coalition, while new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from his position. Netanyahu also denied that his coalition would allow legislation to that effect, although the newly formed coalition agreements would change the existing law against such discrimination.

Chairman of the Israeli Medical Association Prof. Zion Hagai insisted that doctors in Israel would oppose any attempt to allow the use of discriminatory methods in the treatment of patients.

“If a doctor is asked to prescribe any treatment to someone who violates his religious beliefs, you cannot force him to treat someone if there is another doctor who can do it,” Strock told Kahn public radio.

“Anti-discrimination laws are only fair and proper when they create a just, equal, open and inclusive society,” said Strock, who has been appointed minister for National Projects in the new government, with authority over the Department of Jewish Culture. until now it has been part of the Ministry of Education. “But there is a certain deviation where religious faith is trampled and we want to correct it.”

Strock was speaking in the general context of his party’s proposed legislation to allow businesses or private institutions to refuse services based on religious conscience for treatments that a doctor might have some religious objection to, such as fertility treatments for single women.

According to state broadcaster Kan, a clause in the coalition agreement between Likud and Religious Zionism states that laws will be passed by the new government to allow business owners to refuse service to customers if it violates their religious beliefs.

However, Netanyahu has denied that the coalition agreement envisages such a law.

Likud leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks with Religious Zionist party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich during a vote in the Knesset, December 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“MK Orit Strok’s words are unacceptable for me and my Likud colleagues. Coalition agreements do not allow discrimination against LGBT people or harm the right of any citizen to receive services in Israel. “Likud will guarantee that there will be no harm to LGBT people or any Israeli citizen,” Netanyahu said.

Despite Netanyahu’s denial, Kahn journalist Michael Shemesh he tweeted An image of a coalition agreement clause stating that anti-discrimination law “will be modified to prevent harm to a particular business that refrains from providing a service or product because of religious belief. It is a non-unique service or product that can be found in close proximity and at a similar price.”

According to Kahn, the clause appears in every coalition agreement between Likud and other parties in the incoming government, although so far only Likud and Agudat Yisrael, half of the United Torah Jewish faction, have signed an agreement.

The law, as it stands, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or other similar considerations by providers of public services or products, and anyone who does so should be fined.

According to Strock, the legislation he and Religious Zionism are pushing would allow such providers to refuse service if they feel it violates their religious beliefs if another similar service exists within a reasonable geographic range.

As an example, Strock cited a situation where a Christian wanted to have a Christmas party with a Christmas tree at a place owned by a devout Jew.

“I suppose an observant Jew wouldn’t want to do that because it goes against his religious beliefs…Jews throughout history have sacrificed their lives to avoid doing things like this. The law should not treat Jewish law as something less valuable,” he said.

“The state of Israel is the state of the Jewish people, a nation that gives its life for its religious beliefs. It is unacceptable that this country, which founded the country after 2,000 years of exile and sacrificed its life for the Torah, calls religious belief “discrimination”.

Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman at the Knesset Regulatory Committee meeting on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fellow Religious Zionist MK Simcha Rothman made similar comments on Sunday in support of Strock, arguing that if a hotel wanted to refuse service to gays on religious grounds, it would have the right to do so.

“A business owner can do whatever he wants in his business. I built the business and it owes nothing to anyone,” Rothman Kahn said.

“The law says that businesses cannot discriminate for various reasons. This bill [proposed by his party] It tries not to overturn the general prohibition on discrimination, but says that if there is a religious impediment to someone doing something, they will be allowed to avoid the service instead of forcing them to do something that is against their beliefs,” Rothman said.

When asked whether it would be permissible for a Jew to refuse service to Arabs based on his belief that Arabs should not live in the land of Israel, Rothman declined to answer. He also declined to say what mechanism would be put in place to determine whether a denial of service is based on a legitimate religious belief.

Strock and Rothman’s comments were criticized by many members of the incoming opposition and characterized as racist, homophobic and discriminatory.

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid condemned Strock’s remarks and blamed Netanyahu for fueling such sentiments, saying he was “leading us to a state of despair. [ruled by] Jewish law.”

MK Gilad Kariv from the Labor Party tweeted: “We should not be surprised by Orit Struck’s racist comments. This is his life lesson. Against the background of these disgraceful and dangerous comments, we should be outraged by the humility of Likud MKs.”

Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak said he did not believe Netanyahu’s denials and warned that the country was moving in a direction that would allow widespread discrimination.

We lived through the days of “No Jews” signs, and now we see these laws where business owners can decide who they want to sell to. There will be grocery stores that say “no women,” and tomorrow there will be another store that says “no Arabs,” Ben Barak predicted.

Haggai, cThe Israel Medical Association’s barber, in response to Strock’s comments, insisted that “doctors in Israel are committed to their medical oath and will not allow any person or law to change that fact.”

“We will not allow foreign or political considerations between doctors and patients. The health care system has always been an island of sanity, a symbol of coexistence, a beacon for Jews and Arabs working side by side, the value of equality,” Hagay tweeted.

“The oath of the Hebrew physician plainly says, “You shall help the sick because he is sick, whether he be a foreigner or a Gentile, a citizen, the lowly or the honorable.” In the prayer of Maimonides’ doctors, it is written: “I will only see a person in a sick person.” It has always been like this and will be like this forever.”

Hila Peer, chair of the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, also condemned the remarks, calling them and the proposed law “non-Jewish” and disgraceful.

“MKs Strock and Rothman want to celebrate LGBT people so that we can stay in our homes as in the dark days of humanity. We will not agree with this in any way,” Peer urged Netanyahu to oppose such legislation.

Responding to criticism, Shtruk said, “No one intends to discriminate against LGBT people because of their identity or identity. Neither in medical treatment nor otherwise. LGBT people deserve respect and love like everyone else.”

However, he insisted that “if there is a medical treatment that is against Jewish law, a religiously observant doctor will not be forced to do it, regardless of who the patient is.”

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