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 she was a Jew.
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, refused to treat 90-year-old Klein for pain from a fractured rib earlier this week while manning a medical hotline in the Antwerp region.
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 are Jewish but the doctor in question 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 clothes store in Antwerp informed a Jewish Orthodox woman he would not sell her or any other Jew any merchandise out of protest.
In another, the owners of a café near Liege placed a sign in Turkish and French that said that dogs were allowed into the café but Jews and Zionists were not.