Israel Shuts Palestinian Coronavirus Testing Clinic in East Jerusalem

Clinic in Silwan raided, activists arrested because kits were provided by the Palestinian Authority

Israeli police raided a coronavirus testing clinic in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and arrested its organizers on Tuesday night because the clinic was operated in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority.

According to the clinic’s managers, there is a shortage of coronavirus tests in Silwan, where doctors say there are 40 confirmed cases and where overcrowded living conditions could lead to a rapid spread of the virus.

The clinic was opened in a hall at one of the local mosques. It was closed on Tuesday night because to the end-of-Passover curfew, but police officers nonetheless arrived, questioned neighbors and arrested four activists who were involved in setting up the clinic.

The coronavirus tests were meant to be processed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. However, Israel prohibits any PA activity in Jerusalem and last month also prevented PA workers from disinfecting public spaces in the capital. In contrast, two weeks ago Israel allowed armed PA forces to respond to a violent dispute that took place in one of the Jerusalem neighborhoods that are beyond he separation barrier.

“You [Israeli authorities] are not helping us and are preventing us from getting help from others,” said one of the residents, Farhi Abu Diab. “For the first time, we have a common enemy, so let’s work together.”

Abu Diab said the Israeli government will respond after it’s too late, after the month of Ramadan, which he said will surely exacerbate the outbreak. “Instead of working together, [Israeli authorities] are bringing politics into this. I don’t care about who has jurisdiction. If something happens to my son I don’t care who tests him.”

On Monday, at the behest of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and health professionals, the Israeli Health Ministry opened a testing clinic in Silwan, but it is only accessible to members of the Clalit health maintenance organization.