Friday March 5th 2021
Israel has achieved the widest coronavirus vaccine coverage in proportion to its population, but while we congratulate them on this achievement, we should urge them to extend the vaccine to the whole of the population under their control regardless of ethnic or religious heritage.
The fact that there is a Palestinian government doesn’t absolve Israel from its duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention to facilitate relief schemes for the occupied population, including supply of medicines, and to ensure that the population as a whole receives vaccination in a timely way.
In any case it is in the Israeli government’s own interest to ensure that Palestinians living or working in Israel or in Israeli settlements or anywhere in the West Bank are protected from Covid-19. The coronavirus does not respect borders, nor does it discriminate on religious or ethnic lines.
Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have had almost no access to vaccines yet, whereas Israelis of all ages living in Palestine (ie settlers) have either had the vaccine or are being urged to have one now.
Israel has offered 5,000 doses for medical staff in the West Bank and Gaza, but that is a tiny amount for a population of 5 million. The Palestine Authority has ordered Russian Sputnik vaccines but only 5,000 doses have arrived so far. 2,000 of them were forwarded to Gaza only to be held up at an Israel checkpoint before being finally allowed into the Strip. The World Health Organisation COVAX scheme is expected to cover only 20% of the population and to take months to arrive. Another 20,000 Sputnik vaccines have now arrived in Gaza from the Emirates, courtesy of possible election contender Mohammed Dahlan.
The number of covid-19 cases in the West Bank and Gaza so far is 203,260 and the number of deaths is 2,216 as on 25-02-21. You can update this figure on: ochaopt.org/covid-19.
Here are five things the UK Government could do about it:
- help the Palestine Authority to procure enough doses of the vaccine to protect healthcare workers and the most vulnerable. The UK has 350 million doses on order for a population of 67 million.
- Urge the Israeli government to accede to the World Health Organisation’s request to provide extra medical staff in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
- Urge Israel to stop demolishing health-related buildings. During the pandemic the Israeli army has demolished a quarantine centre for people suspected of contracting coronavirus in Hebron, a Palestinian security checkpoint set up at the entrance of the city of Jenin to test for coronavirus and a first aid centre being built for Bedouin children in the Jordan Valley village of Ibzeek.
- Urge Israel to tell the government’s ambulance service Magen David Adom to issue Covid-19-related public health information not just in Hebrew but also in Arabic for the 20% of the Israeli population who are Palestinian citizens of Israel.
- Remind the Israeli government of its obligation under the international law on military occupations and, if humanitarian appeals fall on deaf ears, point out that they cannot control the virus in Israel without also controlling it in the West Bank and Gaza.