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Ethiopian-Israeli lawmaker’s rejection as blood donor has Knesset seeing red

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmakers called for an examination of Magen David Adom blood donation policies after an Ethiopia-born Knesset member was rejected as a donor.

Pnina Tamano-Shata of the Yesh Atid party tried to donate during a special blood drive Wednesday at the Knesset but was told she could not because she had “the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood,” according to Ynet, which first broke the story.

Tamano-Shata was told subsequently that she could donate but the blood would be frozen and never used.

“I am good enough to serve the state and in the Knesset,” Tamano-Shata told Ynet. “But for some reason to give blood I am not good enough. This is insulting.”

The Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee will meet in emergency session on Monday to discuss the issue.

Tamano-Shata has lived in Israel since she was 3 years old and served in the Israel Defense Forces. As a youth she protested the MDA practice of discarding Ethiopian blood donations, according to Ynet.

Eilat Shinar, MDA’s director of blood services, told Ynet that “the regulations of the Ministry of Health do not allow the use of a blood infusion from someone who was born or lived for more than a year in an HIV-prevalent country since 1977, including countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean islands.”

In the wake of Wednesday’s incident, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein banned further MDA blood drives at the parliament.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Tamano-Shata and said he would call for an investigation into the Health Ministry directives.

“There can be no differentiation between one blood and the other in the State of Israel,” Israeli President Shimon Peres told Ynet.

Health Minister Yael German told Ynet, “I find it absurd that in Israel of 2013, people of Ethiopian descent that came to Israel over 25 years ago can still not donate blood.”

 

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