ANTWERP, Belgium (JTA) — The Belgian physician who refused to treat a Jewish woman and suggested she go to Gaza apologized for doing “something stupid” but denied knowing that the woman was Jewish.
The Flemish doctor’s refusal to treat Bertha Klein earlier this week was reported Thursday by Joods Actueel, a Belgian Jewish monthly based in the city of Antwerp, which has approximately 20,000 Orthodox Jews.
According to the daily online edition of the newspaper, the physician, who was not named, was manning a medical hotline in the Antwerp region earlier this week when he refused to treat Klein, 90, for pain from a fractured rib.
Speaking to her son, Hershy Taffel, the doctor reportedly said, “Send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.”
Taffel said he believed the physician knew he and his mother were Jewish, but the doctor told the De Morgen daily, “I did something stupid, but I did not know the patient was Jewish or I would have never mentioned Gaza.”
He had been watching footage of Gaza before Taffel called, he said, and was “feeling emotional.”
The report did not say how the doctor’s emotional reaction to the Gaza fighting would otherwise explain his refusal to treat Klein.
The incident, which is the subject of a criminal investigation for discrimination and a medical ethics committee review, came on the heels of two other incidents in Belgium involving denial of service to Jews since the July 8 launch of the latest Israel-Hamas conflict.
In one incident, the owner of a clothing store in Antwerp informed an Orthodox Jewish woman he would not sell her or any other Jew any merchandise because of the Gaza war.
In another, the owners of a cafe near Liege placed a sign in Turkish and French that said that dogs were allowed into the cafe but Jews and Zionists were not.