Israeli Apartheid in Covid Times

Palestine Update 439

Israeli Apartheid in Covid Times
Human Rights Watch has observed that Israel is legally obliged to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Reports suggest that Israel has already vaccinated well over 20 per cent of its citizens. That includes Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israel’s stubborn refusal to hand those rights to Palestinians in the same occupied territories is an unjust violation of its  duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention that oblige it to guarantee medical supplies, including to combat the spread of pandemics.

“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “Everyone in the same territory should have equitable access to the vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity.”

Israel had completed its vaccination drive to 2 million of all Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as residents of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967 by mid January all, except the people of Gaza Strip and the West Bank). In sheer arrogance and in the apartheid-racist spirit that typifies Israel’s rule over Palestinians, the Israel’s Health Minister publicly stated: “They (Palestinians) have to learn how to take care of themselves” and that he did not believe that “there’s anyone in this country, whatever his or her views might be, that can imagine that I would be taking a vaccine from the Israeli citizen, and, with all the good will, give it to our neighbors.”

In Israel’s political lectionary, vaccinating the Palestinians is a PA responsibility. This disregards the fact that the PA simply cannot afford it. Worse, it ignores the fact that the Fourth Geneva Convention obliges Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure the “medical supplies of the [occupied] population,” including “adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventative measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemic”” to “the fullest extent of the means available to it.” Israel remains the occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza under international humanitarian law, given the extent of its control over borders, the movement of people and goods, security, taxation, and registry of the population, among other areas.

Israeli authorities have the obligation to fully respect the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territory, including their right to health, using as a benchmark the rights they grant to Israeli citizens, as Human Rights Watch has set out. Israeli citizens, including settlers in the West Bank, are receiving vaccines at a stupendous rate. So why deny the Palestinians so completely?  Leaving the Palestinians unprotected and at risk of contracting Covid dangerously sounds like Israel’s inner desire and method of ethnic cleansing?

Please read and disseminate the reports that follow.

Ranjan Solomon

Covid-19 under Apartheid: Israel Manipulates Palestinian suffering
The Palestinian Authority was not expecting Israel to supply Palestinian hospitals with millions of vaccines as it hopes to receive two million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in February. Instead, the request made by PA official, Hussein al-Sheikh, Coordinator of Palestinian affairs with Israel, was a meager 10,000 doses to help protect Palestinian frontline workers. Still, the Israeli Health Ministry rejected the request.

According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, 1,629 Palestinians died and a total of 160,043 were infected with the deadly COVID-19 disease as of January 4. While such dismal numbers can also be found in many parts of the world, the Palestinian coronavirus crisis is compounded by the fact that Palestinians live under an Israeli military occupation, a state of apartheid and, as in the case of Gaza, an unrelenting siege. Worse still, starting early last year, the Israeli military conducted several operations in various parts of the occupied territories to crack down on Palestinian initiatives to provide free COVID-19 testing. According to the Palestinian rights group, Al Haq, as early as March 2020, several field clinics were shut down and medical equipment confiscated in the Palestinian town of Khirbet Ibziq in the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank. This pattern was repeated in East Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere in the following months.

There is no legal or moral justification for Israel’s action. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 asserts that an Occupying Power has the “duty of ensuring and maintaining … the medical and hospital establishments and services” with “particular reference” on taking the “preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” Even the Oslo Accords, despite their failure to address many crucial topics pertaining to the freedom of the Palestinian people, oblige both sides “to cooperate in combating epidemics and to assist each other in times of emergency,” the New York Times reported.

Israel to start vaccinating Palestinian prisoners

Israel has said will begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine in prisons, including among Palestinian detainees. The inclusion of Palestinian prisoners in the inoculation drive comes despite Tel Aviv’s wider refusal to immunize Palestinians in the occupied West Bank against the novel coronavirus Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told reporters on Thursday that the country would begin vaccinating inmates aged over 55 next week. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana had earlier called on officials to refrain from immunizing prisoners, saying that only prison guards should be administered the vaccine. Edelstein’s comments follow criticism of Ohana’s remarks by President Reuben Rivlin, who said refusing to vaccinate inmates would be “inconsistent” with Israeli values. More than 4,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons, according to official data. Israel’s immunization drive has been the subject of much discussion internationally, with many countries praising its speed and efficiency.

However, the government’s rejection of claims it has a responsibility to vaccinate Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip has prompted fierce condemnation from rights groups and activists. “More than 4.5 million Palestinians will remain unprotected and exposed to Covid-19, while Israeli citizens living near and among them – including the Israeli settler population – will be vaccinated. Morally and legally, this differential access to necessary health care in the midst of the worst global health crisis in a century is unacceptable,” the UN experts said in a statement. “We are particularly concerned about the deteriorating health situation in Gaza, which suffers from a 13-year-old blockade, serious water and electricity shortages, and endemic poverty and unemployment,” the statement continued.

Israel last week rejected pleas from the World Health Organization to make the COVID-19 jab available to Palestinian health workers at least,

Israel says vaccine equally available to all citizens. But is it the case?

Israeli authorities are failing to provide essential information on the vaccine in Arabic, to establish vaccine centers in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and to provide sufficient vaccines in Bedouin clinics in the Negev. These failures are “not a coincidence”, rights groups say. Israeli officials recently reached an agreement with the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, which will see hundreds of thousands of new vaccine doses arrive in Israel each week. If this plan holds up, Israel estimates that by March it will have vaccinated 5.2 million citizens against the coronavirus. The country has gone so far as to say that it will release data on its COVID-19 vaccine roll out in order to use a model for other countries on how to successfully inoculate their populations.

In the midst of the fanfare surrounding Israel’s vaccine campaign, Palestinian activists and rights groups have criticized Israel for not offering the vaccine to the millions of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Under Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is required as an occupier to “ensure the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics” — in this case, the COVID-19 vaccine.  Israel has deflected such criticisms, saying the obligation to vaccinate Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza lies in the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Meanwhile Israeli leaders insist that they are vaccinating all Israeli citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity, equally and fairly — including the state’s 2 million Palestinian citizens. But that just might not be true, human rights advocates have pointed out.

MoH: 20 deaths, 578 new COVID-19 cases during past 24 hours
The Minister of Health, Dr. May Al-Kaila on Sunday announced that the rate of recovery from the Corona virus in Palestine reached 91.8%, while the rate of active infections reached 7.1%, and the death rate was 1.1% of all infections. The daily COVID-19 report showed 20 deaths, 578 new cases, and 862 recoveries. 12 deaths were recorded in the West Bank “Bethlehem 1, Tulkarm 1, Qalqilya 2, Jenin 3, Ramallah 4, Hebron 1 ″, Gaza Strip 6 deaths, and two deaths in Jerusalem. It indicated that the new injuries were recorded as follows: “Tubas (22), Bethlehem (35), Nablus (47), Tulkarm (25), Salfit (17), the suburbs of Jerusalem (8), Qalqilya (8), Jericho and Al Aghwar. (3), Jenin (20), Ramallah and Al-Bireh (37), Hebron (28), ”Gaza Strip (212), and Jerusalem (116). It added that the new cases of recovery were divided according to the following: “Tubas (27), Bethlehem (41), Tulkarm (29), Salfit (19), Qalqilya (23), Jericho and the Jordan Valley (9), Jenin (21), Ramallah and Al-Bireh. (75), Hebron (32)”, Gaza Strip (360), Jerusalem (226). The Minister of Health indicated that there are 84 patients in the intensive care rooms, including 21 patients on artificial respirators.

Palestinian prisoner moved to hospital due to Covid 19 complication
Abdul Muizz Dhib Al-Jubeh, a Palestinian political prisoner in the Israeli prison of Rimon, was moved to Soroka Medical Center today due to health complications resulting from his coronavirus infection, today said the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS). Al-Jubeh, 59 years old who is serving a life sentence and an additional 20 years in prison, has been in prison since 2004 for resisting the Israeli occupation of his homeland. He is already suffering chronic diseases including diabetes, blood pressure and cardiac dysfunctions. PPS held the Israeli prison authorities fully responsible for the life of Al-Jubeh and the other sick prisoners in Israeli detention who are facing a greater risk of death due to the coronavirus outbreak in the prisons. So far, at least 250 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have tested positive for the disease.

Al-Jubeh is a father of two children, and is the second Palestinian prisoner to develop serious coronavirus symptoms that necessitate hospitalization. Basel Ajaj, a Palestinian prisoner from Tulkarm, is receiving intensive care at Soroka Medical Center due to contracting coronavirus. Palestinian officials and international organizations have repeatedly called on the Israeli occupation authorities to release the sick and elderly prisoners who are facing greater health risks due to the coronavirus outbreak.