ANTWERP, Belgium (JTA) – A Belgian physician who refused to treat a Jewish woman with a fractured rib suggested she visit Gaza to get rid of the pain.
The physician made the remark on Wednesday while manning a medical hotline in Flanders, Belgium’s Flemish region, whose capital, Antwerp, has a sizeable Orthodox Jewish population, the local Jewish monthly Joods Actueel reported Thursday.
The woman, Bertha Klein, had her son, who is American, call the hotline at 11 p.m.
“I’m not coming,” the doctor reportedly told the son and hung up. When the son called again, the doctor said: “Send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.” According to Joods Actueel, the doctor confirmed the exchange, saying he had an “emotional reaction.”
Health ministry officials were looking into the incident, according to the monthly’s online edition. According to Joods Actueel, the doctor knew the patient was Jewish because of Klein’s son’s American accent.
The family called a friend, Samuel Markowitz, who is an alderman of the Antwerp district council and a volunteer paramedic. He called the doctor to confirm the exchange, and also recorded their conversation.
Hershy Taffel, Bertha Klein’s grandson, filed a discrimination complaint with the police.
“It reminds me of what happened in Europe 70 years ago,” Taffel told Joods Actueel. “I never thought those days would once again be repeated.”
Michael Freilich, the editor-in-chief of Joods Actueel, said the incident is particularly alarming because it comes amid a string of incidents that have occurred since the start of Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza on July 8 and that involve boycotts against Jews in Belgium.
Among the other incidents: an Orthodox Jewish woman was refused service at a clothes store in Antwerp, and police removed a sign in French and Turkish from a café near Liege that said dogs were allowed but Zionists and Jews were not.