An Arab doctor suffered moderate injuries to his hands on Friday while fending off a knife attack by a patient at his private clinic in Kiryat Malachi, a town of some 25,000 near Ashkelon on Israel’s southern coast. The suspected attacker is under arrest while police investigate the assault.
Surveillance footage from the clinic uploaded to Facebook on Saturday shows the doctor grappling with the knife-wielding assailant, pushing him back and then shutting the door on him.
The assault on the doctor, Hamdullah Badir of the Arab town of Kafr Qasim, is the latest example of violence against medical professionals in Israel, a phenomenon that the chairman of the Israel Medical Association, Zion Hagay, described earlier this year as “an epidemic.”
Incidents of violence have become so widespread that in May the staff at one hospital, Galilee Medical Center in the northern city Nahariya, held a partial strike in protest, only to be attacked during that time by the grieving relatives of a deceased patient.
In an interview with the Arab Israeli news outlet Arab 48, Badir gave his account of Friday’s attack.
“I was at my work when one of the people who had come with a relative for treatment at my clinic suddenly stood in front of me then took out a large knife and tried to stab me in the upper body,” he said.
Badir went on to describe his initial shock. “At first, I didn’t grasp what was happening, but then [I started] to defend myself without realizing it. I grabbed the knife — which almost amputated one of my fingers — then closed the door on him after a struggle between us.”
משטרת ישראל עצרה בשעות הלילה לחקירה תושב קרית מלאכי כבן 32, בחשד שתקף איש צוות רפואי במרכז רפואי פרטי בקרית מלאכי, ובחשד לשוד דוכן פיס שביצע ביום חמישי האחרון.החשוד, זמן קצר לאחר אירוע התקיפה שאירע בליל שבת, הסגיר עצמו לתחנת המשטרה. pic.twitter.com/2riNvHkXmR
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One finger on his right hand was cut to the nerve, while on his left hand several fingers were broken.
“I’m suffering from shock,” Badir said. “Every time I recall the details of the crime, it puts me in a difficult mental state. I will not return to work, as I’m overcome by fear,” he said.
The doctor said that it was “unbelievable” that he’d suffer such an attack after more than 20 years of dedicated medical service to the Kiryat Malachi community.
Arab Israelis are well-represented in the country’s healthcare sector. In 2021, Arab Israelis made up 48 percent of Israel’s new doctors, even though they make up only 21 percent of the general population.
Many Arab medical professionals say they face discrimination in the workplace, and Arab Israeli employees of the Clalit health service signed an open letter in 2019 claiming they were being systematically passed over for promotion.
Badir said he believed the response to the attack on him was muted because he was Arab and the attacker Jewish.
“Had the roles been reversed, had the attacker been Arab and the victim Jewish, everyone would have stood up and would not have sat back down,” he said.
Badir also expressed concerns about the increase in violence against medical professionals more generally.
“In the past, at hospitals and medical centers we would see scuffles, some screaming at most. But what we’re seeing today are repeated attacks on medical teams, a sign of worse things to come,” he said.
To deter would-be assailants, the Israel Medical Association has proposed legislative changes that would punish attacks on hospital workers with the same severity as attacks on police officers.