Skip To Content
Breaking News

Belgian Doctor Denies Refusing Treatment to Jewish Patient in Spat Over Israel War

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 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, was manning a medical hotline in the Antwerp region earlier this week when he refused to treat 90-year-old Klein 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 are Jewis,h 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 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 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.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.