Ramallah: Israeli hospitals and medical centres have been segregating Jewish and Palestinian women in their maternity wards, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday.

The station said that the Israeli Health Ministry has nothing to do with this separation measure which came at the request of the maternity patients, and the Israeli hospitals unquestionably complied with the request.

Israeli Radio said that only two medical centres — Soroko Medical Centre in Beer Al Saba’ (Beer Sheba) and Haifa’s Rambam Medical Centre — had announced that distinction between Jewish and Palestinian maternity patients is not permissible.

The Israeli Health Ministry elaborated the move by saying that it prohibits the division of patients in order to prevent discrimination. The ministry added that one of its key guidelines is that there can be no separation between populations on basis of religion, country of origin, ethnicity or any other distinction.

The ministry, however, did not make any move to force the Israeli hospitals and medical centres to suspend the separation of patients in the obstetrics and gynaecology departments.

Israel Radio listed hospitals and medical centres around Israel where distinction between patients occur and where those health facilities never denied accusations, but noted that if the patient makes such a request, it is taken into consideration like other appeals and implemented.

Israel claims to provide many services and child benefits before and after maternity leave that make raising a child more attractive to people who live there. Palestinian citizens of Israel fear that the discrimination against Palestinian women in labour had been designed to deprive them of their right to health services and other basic rights.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are those native Palestinians who were not forced to leave Palestine when the Israeli regime was established in Palestine in 1948. They lived under military rule for almost two decades but were then made citizens. Regime leaders claim that they enjoy equal rights as Jews but they often complain about systematic discrimination.

According to Israeli statistics on the eve of 2016, the Jewish population makes up 74,9 per cent while 20.7 per cent are Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. According to a report conducted by the Taub Centre for Social Policy Studies titled ‘Family Structure and Well-Being across Israel’s Diverse Population’, Israel has the highest birth rate in the developed world. As opposed to the international average of 1.7 children per woman, Israel’s rate stands at 3 children per woman.

Israel works on a national strategy to increase the Jewish population birth rate significantly to bring it almost on a par with the Palestinian birth rate (at the moment the fertility rate of a Palestinian woman in Israel is 3.3 children and for West Bank woman it is 4.3 children).

Addressing this issue, Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (Joint Arab List), urged the Israeli Health Ministry to conduct a fair and thorough investigation into the issue. “This move strictly violates the cherished moral principle of equality, destroys justice that consists of rules common to all humanity, and represents a serious violation of basic human rights and values,” he said. “We will never, however, give in to racism and we won’t stop until this move is defeated.”